Black Panther boasts the hallmarks of any Marvel Cinematic Universe installment: souped-up superhero suits, eye-popping effects, colorful production designs, etc.
But the groundbreaking film, Marvel’s first to feature a predominantly black cast, also carries themes that closely mirror today’s heated real-world political climate, from Black Lives Matter to Trumpian immigration policies.
At the core of the story, for instance, is the cloistered African nation of Wakanda, whose leaders (including the titular crimefighter, played by Chadwick Boseman) are forced to come to terms with its role in the world. Should the wealthy realm accept refugees from neighboring countries or use its vast resources to aid the underprivileged across the globe?
The film, directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), also speaks directly to the mistreatment of America’s black population, which fuels the motivations of its central antagonist, a battle-scarred mercenary named Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).
These elements have critics declaring Black Panther is Marvel’s “most political movie yet,” and Coogler and cast certainly don’t disagree.
“It probably is,” Boseman told Yahoo Entertainment at the film’s Los Angeles press day (watch above). “I think Marvel’s movies have some sort of sociopolitical issues that they tackle. What is Captain America? A sense of our patriotism and what it means to be American maintained through a timeless hero.”
Jordan noted the timeliness — and timelessness of the film’s story. “I think it says a lot. It’s so crazy because we started writing this movie like two and a half years ago. And you watch the film and you would think we made it last week. It’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to.”
Coogler says the film is inherently political because its protagonist, otherwise known as T’Challa, is a politician. He’s the king, after all. “If it wasn’t [political], we would be doing our jobs wrong,” he said.
Winston Duke, who plays the imposing Jabari warrior M’baku, argued it would’ve been impossible not to make the film socially relevant. “A movie with African-American leads is going to be political statement in itself. Being a black male in the society that we live in today is a political act. Every day I walk around is a political act. So this movie, no matter what it did, would’ve been a political act.”
Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead), who costars as Okoye, head of T’Challa’s all-female Dora Milaje bodyguards, holds Wakanda up as example for real-world governments to follow. “What’s great about Wakanda is it portrays true progress,” she said. “It portrays how true progress can really look. And we see a breakthrough where there’s realization made, and adjustments made, for the better of many, and how you function in true global citizenship.”
Black Panther opens Friday.
Watch the trailer:
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