In Black Panther, the fictional African nation of Wakanda is secretly one of the world’s most technologically advanced societies. It is led by a king who also acts as a costumed superhero, granted power by a magic herb and a technologically-advanced catsuit. Chadwick Bosman plays T’Challa, who is already the Black Panther but must now assume the full responsibilities of king in the wake of his father’s recent death. While the premise is fantastical the movie addresses weighty cultural issues: it questions the values of isolationism, the complications that arise when we fail to seek best of others because of the problems it may cause us, and what it means to be a good leader. There is also a clear message that if we aren’t careful to have compassion in our dealings we can play a part in creating our own enemies. All of this cultural critique is embedded in a compelling storyline full of visually stunning action and complex characters with complicated motives. This is especially true of the villain Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, who might be the most fully-realized comic book movie antagonist since Heath Ledger played The Joker.
Black Panther is a fun, culturally savvy movie that is both critical of society and hopeful about its future. It uses all the tropes of the comic book movies that saturate the blockbuster market to offer up an empowering and positive portrayal of African culture. It will likely serve as a cultural touchstone for years to come.
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