By Bram Medelli
The latest Marvel hero T’Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther) roars from his African nation to the cinemas. Black Panther was officially released last week, revealing Wakanda, to the world, a country of the Marvel Comics universe. As the music group Run The Jewels announced in the first teaser trailer, T’Challa was about to “step into the spotlight”. Preceded by an amazing album produced by Kendrick Lamar and created by Creed director Ryan Coogler, the hype around the film was real.
Even after having seen it twice, I can still go for a third round. The action scenes were stunning and, as we are used to from Marvel, the jokes were on point. They might have been a bit late with the “WHAT ARE THOOOOSE?!” meme, however, seeing as the social media platform Vine that promoted the meme was discontinued over a year ago. Apart from the meme game, everything else in Wakanda is much more advanced than any other country in the Marvel Universe. The Afro-futurist world which T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) inhabits was created by Hannah Beachler, production designer of the film. On a $30 million art budget, she travelled to South Africa to get ideas on how to represent the diverse cultures of Wakanda. Cutting edge architect Zaha Hadid was a big inspiration for the buildings seen in the film (1).
On top of that, the film’s soundtrack was nothing short of amazing. Ludwig Göransson, Childish Gambino’s record producer, created a score that accentuated the overall atmosphere of the scenes throughout the film. Göransson stated that he felt extreme pressure to represent African music in his score. Despite him being “a Swedish guy from one of the coldest countries in the world” (2), his soundtrack was a success. Especially the theme of opponent Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) was praised online (3). Click on the link below to check it out.
Perhaps the reason for such a successful soundtrack is the fact that Killmonger was Marvel’s best villain to date. After the vaguely motivated villains from Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy, Jordan got the chance to present to the audiences a mighty antagonist to king T’Challa. After Jordan takes centre stage, it is easy to forget that Ulysses Klaue was primarily the main baddy. Killmonger’s character grew up in Oakland, the same place as director Coogler spent the first part of his youth. After seeing others like him suffer from racism and discovering Wakanda’s existence in his father’s notebook, Killmonger’s mission became to help black people around the world by conquering the colonisers. His noble cause is what made him such a tragic character.
Killmonger’s ideology clashed head-on with that of T’Challa, who opposed fighting, unless it was to protect Wakanda. Juxtaposing isolationism against a responsibility to aid those in need is a very relevant question in this age of refugees. Many countries are wondering whether, and how, to offer their help. Letting in people that flee their home countries can bring along problems, as one of T’Challa’s advisors remarked, but this false dichotomy is later solved by bringing help to the areas that need it, such as Oakland. The king of Wakanda’s touching speech at the UN in the mid-credits scene announced that “in times of crises the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers”. It is a statement that echoes through all our hearts as we hear too much about building walls and too little about building bridges.
Bram Medelli, Class of 2018, is a Theatre & Media and Philosophy Major (yeah very useful) from near Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
Featured image: Wallpapersden.com