‘Black Panther’ brings relevance and new ideas to stagnant genre

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‘Black Panther’ brings relevance and new ideas to stagnant genre

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Khanlin Rodgers, Culture editor

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“Black Panther”, director Ryan Coogler’s Marvel debut, breaks from the traditional mold of superhero films and establishes a convincing fantasy/sci-fi universe that’s brimming with cultural pride and reflects on today’s social and political landscape.

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Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa, the newly-crowned king of the fictional African country, Wakanda. Along with the throne come the superhuman powers of the Black Panther.

T’Challa’s ability to wield his new power is soon tested when underground arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) resurfaces after stealing precious vibranium from Wakanda.

T’Challa’s sets out track down the criminal and recover what was stolen with the help of his allies Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).

Their task becomes more complicated as a mysterious new enemy begins to move against the Black Panther and the threat of Wakanda’s secret wealth and technology being revealed to the rest of the world becomes imminent.

At this point, the film exhibits a sense of purpose and self-awareness that we have yet to see in the the Marvel cinematic universe.

T’Challa is tasked with deciding whether to use his country’s vibranium-fueled science and technology to help oppressed people around the world, or to keep it a secret and ensure the prosperity of his people. In this case, the oppressed groups are people of color who have been marginalized and disenfranchised because of colonialism.

Coogler’s decision to tie in real-world events gives audiences something to relate to (whether the emotional response is positive or negative) and give the consequences of T’Challa’s decision more weight.

It also makes the mythical kingdom feel less like a fantasy and more like a “what if?” What if Africa had never been colonized? What if it had been able to develop on its own without the interference of outsiders? How would it function and be viewed today?

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Make no mistake: this is still an action film. Aside from delivering its own political message, the movie still treats audiences with beautiful imagery, stunts and set pieces that look like they’re straight out a James Bond movie.

Costume designer Ruth E. Carter creates “Star Wars”-esque African attire that is a stark departure from the multicolored spandex we’re used to seeing in Marvel movies. The overall experience is still just as entertaining.

“Black Panther” is an important film. Its willingness to take a critical look at the reality we live in and present the audience with new ideas make it considerably more relevant and impactful than other movies of the same genre. It still maintains its identity as a superhero movie and doesn’t sacrifice the quirks that have made comics and their characters so popular.

“Black Panther” is one of many superhero films in a market saturated with comic-based films, but its fresh take on an old formula feels like a new start for both the cinematic universe, and our own.