Marvel has built one of the most financially successful and narratively ambitious cinematic universes through 20 films over the span of 10 years. We can all agree that when we first saw “Iron Man” in 2008, no one would have expected the Marvel Cinematic Universe to reach this point. Ten years later, Marvel has been able to make “Black Panther” a box office hit, and the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa, the son of T’Chaka, played by John Kani, the former king of Wakanda. “Black Panther” sees T’Challa take the throne after the passing of his father. The transition of power goes smoothly until he is challenged by Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, a radical that believes that Wakanda can be a violent source of change.
Wakanda feels more realistic than the regular world we see in any other Marvel movie and thanks can be given to the great costume design that is centered in African culture. Costume designer Ruth E. Carter told the New York Times that the textiles were produced in Ghana despite the fact that most of the African fabrics are produced in Holland. Carter also used traditional Zulu headdresses and Lesotho blankets as references when designing.
The instrumental score by Ludwig Göransson was also just as meticulously researched and crafted. Immediately after reading the script, Göransson traveled to West Africa to study and even record cultural drumming that would end up in the final film. In an interview with Slash Film, Göransson said, “the only way I can score this movie is to go to Africa and do my research and immerse myself in the culture.” The nation of Wakanda is rooted in its culture but is futuristic at the same time. This is still a superhero movie after all.
The decision was made to also work hip hop beats into the score which provided a great driving force during action sequences. There was an entire album soundtrack, “Black Panther: The Album,” produced by rapper Kendrick Lamar to accompany the release of the film.
Much like the movie itself, the album did well commercially, placing #1 on the Billboard 200 for three weeks and garnering awards recognition. It received a Best Rap Performance Grammy for “King’s Dead” and a Best Original Song Oscar nomination for “All the Stars.”
Director Ryan Coogler really brings a great vision to the action. When Erik Killmonger challenges the throne, he must enter a one-on-one fist fight with T’Challa. This is where Coogler’s previous work on the boxing movie “Creed” comes into play, the camera stays close to the opponents and every blow is felt by viewers.
Friends of mine have said that “Black Panther inspires hope” for the future of diversity in the film industry, and I couldn’t agree more.
It is a rare superhero movie that can work for everyone, not just people who have seen every single Marvel film. If you are not someone who contributed to the $1.3 billion worldwide gross, I would still recommend that you pull it up on Netflix.