Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Critic’s Corner: Social Commentary Through Cinema

Social commentary in the new Marvel Studios film “Black Panther” offers an added level of significance that is as relevant now as it has ever been. The highly anticipated new superhero installment is a solid entry in the Avengers series, with a highly praised soundtrack and talented cast.

The film focuses on T’Challa, young king of the African nation Wakanda, and his struggle do what he sees as right while still looking after his country’s best interests. Not to mention his alter ego is the Black Panther, a supernaturally nimble and athletic warrior with an impenetrable suit of armor armed with gadgets the likes of which Batman and James Bond would envy.

Many of the best Marvel films focus on some sort of relevant issue. In “Captain America: Civil War”, for example, the Avengers were forced to deal with the fallout of their epic battles in terms of the fatalities and collateral damage they had indirectly caused. It gave the film so much realism because it focused on a difficult issue that had good arguments coming from conflicting sides.

Similarly, Black Panther focuses on how breaking barriers can be necessary to create a better future.

Wakanda, home to the fictional metal vibranium, has harvested the dynamic metal to power incredible technological advances like flying hover-cars and tangible holograms. However, for fear of being colonized or attacked for its resources, Wakanda has remained hidden from the world since its inception.

Eric Killmonger, the films’ villain (Michael B. Jordan), resents how Wakanda has not shared their technology, as he believes doing so would lead to worldwide revolutions in which black people are able to assert themselves in a white dominated world. It is easy to sympathize with his revolutionary ideas and understand the source of his rage, blurring the lines between right and wrong.

These sophisticated geopolitical concepts are what differentiate Black Panther from past films in that these topics currently dominate the focus of our nation.

Many political storylines as of late focus on division within the United States. President Trump, for example, wishes to keep refugees out in favor of protecting American citizens. Though some agree, many Americans still feel there is a moral obligation to help since we are able to.

Both sides have their own opinions. But what this film shows through T’Challa’s journey of maturation is that it takes cooperation and understanding to create solutions to complex problems. While racism and stereotyping runs rampant in our nation, it is refreshing to see a film teach unity in a way that does not come off as preachy or forced.

Marvel should be commended for spotlighting racial disparity and calling it out for what it is. Releasing the film during Black History Month was a very perceptive move by the studio as well.

The predominantly-black cast is filled with fantastic actors. Chadwick Boseman offers a great performance as T’Challa and displays a broad range of emotion. At times his character remains an astute, noble leader while at others he taps into his more playful, nonchalant side. Most importantly, we are able to see the incredible inner struggles he endures to navigate past his nation’s imperfect history to create a better future for all the world, not just his own slice of it.

It is clear that Michael B. Jordan is having a blast playing Killmonger, who brings a constant ferocity and sense of unpredictability to every scene he is in. His charisma coupled with his understandable motives make him an imposing yet sympathetic antagonist.

Danai Gurira of Walking Dead fame brings a fierce presence as Okoye, T’Challa’s more than capable bodyguard. Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s younger sister, is a delight whose boisterous energy effectively lights up the screen. It is inspiring to see these strong female characters serve as key contributors to T’Challa’s reign.

“Black Panther: The Album”, which contains music based on the film executively produced by Kendrick Lamar, currently sits at number two on the iTunes charts and been praised by fans for its unique blend of hip hop mixed with African tribal influences.

Per usual, Marvel breaks out all of the stops when it comes to visual effects. Seeing the Black Panther in action, ripping through car roofs whilst deflecting incoming bullets, is quite a spectacle. Additionally, the set design for the futuristic capital city of Wakanda is impressive, giving the film an added sense of spectacle.

As the intense plotline unravels, T’challa learns that working in cooperation with others is the best way to move past crises. Perhaps, the current political climate is indicative that many folks have something to learn from movies like “Black Panther”. Or at the very least, they may find some enjoyment listening to the soundtrack.

The editor may be reached at
[email protected]

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