The Spokesman

Buzz Over Black Panther is Brewing

Brandon Tejeras, Outreach Editor

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There’s still way too much time until Avengers: Infinity War. I understand that it opens this May, but that’s an eternity in a Marvel superfan’s eyes. As we eagerly await the celestial showdown between the forces of good and evil, one movie will give us some semblance of satisfaction. That movie is Black Panther.

Portrayed by Chadwick Boseman (think James Brown in Get on Up and Jackie Robinson in 42), T’Challa/Black Panther debuted on Team Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War. Lording over as king of the secluded nation of Wakanda, and wielding the most valuable material in the universe, T’Challa juggles the responsibilities to the world as Black Panther and presiding over an entire nation undergoing fierce inner turmoil as King T’Challa.

After returning to Wakanda following the events of Civil War and the death of his father, the former king, he must hold his country together and bring it into the complexities of world affairs.

While holding everything together back home, another threat looms on the horizon that threatens to take the valuable metal Vibranium (one of Wakanda’s precious resources) for their own nefarious purposes. This new threat is none other than Black Panther’s main comic book nemesis Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). First featured in Avengers: Age of Ultron as a black-market arms dealer in South Africa, the one-armed menace teams up with a new foe by the name of Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). These two hope to break the back of the Wakandan nation and destroy the world order by way of Vibranium.

T’Challa and his allies must join together to stave off these two enemies and maintain the neutrality of the Wakandan people. If you thought that these movies don’t intersect and set up future events, you may not have been watching Marvel closely enough. Black Panther is sure to be chock full of adventure and the perfect launching pad into the epic showdown over the fate of the Earth in Avengers: Infinity War.

I had the honor of interviewing Eamon Morris and Joseph Beaird, two experts in all things Marvel and major fans of the Marvel Universe.

When asked about whether or not the movie will live up the hype, the two were definitely torn. “The movie isn’t going to be whitewashed like other superhero movies, so I think it will certainly live up to the hype, and deliver a stellar movie,” commented Morris.

Beaird, however, has some fears about the movie. “It’s going to be much different than any other Marvel movie to come before,” Beaird said. Although it is a step in a different direction for Marvel and the whole movie industry, he added, “It’s about time Marvel made a movie about one of their coolest superheroes. I mean who wouldn’t want to see a movie about a cooler Batman?”

The comparison is certainly warranted. Black Panther is trained in numerous martial arts and has wealth and resources at disposal. Not to forget, he has that awesome superhero suit to top off his superhero persona. So, he definitely is Marvel’s own version of Batman.

While the movie isn’t released to audiences until February 16th, some hopes and reservations abound. As many movies from Marvel Studios tie into future installments, Beaird hopes that “they will somehow tie the Soul Stone possibly residing in Wakanda which will explain the Outriders (the monsters in the Infinity War trailer) raid in Avengers: Infinity War.” While I agree with Beaird’s hopes for more insight to Infinity War, Morris brought up how the producers and directors wanted something original and not confined to planned future movies.

As this film is one of the first original stories in the Marvel Universe in a long time, many have reservations about how this movie will deliver. “Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, seems a little out of place,” said Beaird. “Every other actor seems to be fully incorporated in the Wakandan world with their accents and movements, but he just seems like an outsider. He just doesn’t play the part of an insider wanting the throne for himself.”

Just being a Marvel movie before the release of Infinity War isn’t the only reason why it’s getting so much buzz in the news and among fans. Black Panther strikes a chord with those who delve into pop culture and want to see more African-American led superhero movies on the big screen.

Morris pointed out a common trend in recent Marvel movies in that they discreetly campaign for social change.  Such is the example with Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of Mystique. Despite the fact Mystique is typically portrayed in practical attire for her adventures and the X-Men universe over-sexualized her character, she is revealed to be a fiercely independent woman who looks out for the unfortunate and can always be counted on to follow through with the greater good.

Another more current example is the recent Wonder Woman movie from the DC universe. Princess Diana is revealed to be another independent woman who is the symbol of girl power everywhere. Black Panther is no different than these two in their addressing social change. This movie shows how black superheroes are no different than their white counterparts. They can hold their own in a blockbuster movie and give audiences something to think about concerning the treatment of marginalized everywhere.

The typical white male superhero we’ve been seeing since the dawn of super-cinema has worn thin. Those in Hollywood responded accordingly with movies like Wonder Woman and Black Panther to increase representation. Movies like Iron Man and Batman consistently feature the white male stereotype seen throughout the superhero genre, so Black Panther is put in a unique position to change things up. Both Beaird and Morris agreed that the mostly black cast was paying respect to accurate comic book portrayals. “It makes the viewing experience for all audience members much more enjoyable and natural, and doesn’t fall prey to the ‘white-savior’ idea,” said Morris.

The Guardian accurately noted in an article that “Marvel continues to introduce black superheroes in its movies, but only in secondary roles.” This continual exposure was typical of blockbuster movies like the film Iron Man where the titular character has an African-American sidekick named Rhodey (War Machine).

But, now something is different. There is a considerable difference in how minorities are portrayed in these movies, and one contributor to The Guardian picked up on it. “I think what happened in our society revealed that we weren’t as far along as we thought, so people are really hungry to move it along, to evolve us faster. And a lot of art comes out of that.” America is leading those in Hollywood to push for more minority-led movies.

Whether you are a Marvel fan or not, there is much to be excited about when it comes to the newest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther. This movie is sure to be both an action-packed, record-breaking Marvel masterpiece as well as a source of inspiration to other Hollywood activists to push the boundaries of what a movie can be and can represent.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Buzz Over Black Panther is Brewing”

  1. Ryan Lee on February 15th, 2018 2:55 pm

    While it is certainly commendable that there is social progress in the movie industry, I personally am excited to see a superhero movie that legitimately understands the core of their characters. To me, the race of the main character won’t matter if the execution of the film is solid and tells a gripping story. Iron Man and Batman (Burton’s and Nolan’s films) told interesting stories so I would not care that it continued the Hollywood trend of a white lead. I would never consider them “different” than black superheroes, as I have already seen other solid black-led superhero outings in media such as Blade or Luke Cage, which included captivating storylines that kept me reeled in. I am glad Marvel greenlit this movie and absolutely hyped for it, yet I am not as excited that the main buzz around Black Panther is that it’s a “strong black superhero movie,” instead of a “strong superhero movie.” Nevertheless, that is just my opinion about the piece, and I really appreciate the article here Brandon, keep it up!

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