With the slew of superhero movies we have been getting, plus the television series, cartoons, and any video games that can keep us up at night, it can be easy to be caught up in superhero fatigue. Marvel Studios have upped their ante and are now on average releasing two films a year. Additionally, there are some exciting prospects on the television front, INHUMANS, Marvel’s IMAX/ABC lovechild is definitely one I plan on living to see as IMAX forays into the television game. Shows like Netflix’s IRON FIST and DEFENDERS are basically fangirl trigger words at this point. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2, SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING, THOR:RAGNAROK are the films slated for next year alone. With all these stimuli, it is easy to forget why we are excited about these characters- what it is that sparks an interest and why the stories are important. Amongst all these upcoming films, there is one that I believe we must all take a moment to collectively freak out about- BLACK PANTHER.

Read: Invading Inhumans

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Origins

Black Panther’s segue into the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been absolutely seamless. His first appearance in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR had T’Challa at odds with Steve Rogers. In pursuit of capturing Bucky Barnes we were introduced to the crux of Black Panther’s character. He is in the early stages of taking on the mantel as Black Panther, having just lost his father, King T’Chaka, he has the added responsibility of becoming a ruler. With Wakanda entering the world stage we witness a series of transitions all around for the kingdom and T’Challa. With change comes growth, within CIVIL WAR we were given a unique insight to a character in the sense we got to see one evolve under the backdrop of a global superhero conflict. T’Challa is forced to adapt, to learn how to harness the immense power and skills his tradition, history, and character have given him. He goes from a heartbroken son seeking revenge and redemption to someone with, dare I say it, perspective. CIVIL WAR left him with strength, patience, intelligence and integrity, all the qualities of a great leader. With the upcoming BLACK PANTHER film, we do not need to repeat the typical origin story hoopla. As well executed as they usually are, for the first time we already know the origin of the character. We can now delve straight into the aftermath, the stories, conflict, and adventure of a new world.

Wakanda

Wakanda alone is an interesting case study. Due to a meteorite striking the nation way back when, the nation has been blessed with an abundance of Vibranium, a natural resource that is coveted throughout the globe. Known as the strongest substance in the Marvel Universe, Vibranium poses Wakanda with a unique leverage over the modern world. This resource has allowed Wakandans to attain technological and scientific advances far further and more sustainable than their developed world counterparts. Consequently, such valuable resources make Wakanda vulnerable to outsiders who may seek to attain such power. As seen with prominent Black Panther villain Ulysses Klaue. For this reason, Wakanda for the longest time has remained isolated. This has allowed them to study Vibranium, to construct highly impenetrable computer systems, advanced medicine, and permitted the nation to develop free of the intervention of imperialism and colonialism. As a powerhouse state that is highly innovative, there is a distinctive duality to how it is run. Religion, tradition, and cultural values are heavily embedded into the system. The monarch alone exists based on the Panther God instilling strength and agility amongst T’Challa’s ancestors. This blend of church and state in an afrofuturistic society is a promising next step for the MCU to explore.

READ: Afrofuturism and the Phenomenon of Black Panther

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With all of its distinctive features, Wakanda poses new opportunities for the MCU. For the first time, we are exposed to a nation that is outside of our scope. Conflicts have occurred beyond the United States, and we have seen our heroes ‘resolve’ disputes across the globe in films like AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and throughout the universe in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. However, we have yet to be given an introspective look at a realm from the inside out. We have yet to be fully confronted with a nation, people or culture that is not ours, where the priorities and advantages are different. In doing so we get to understand the interplay between the political, social, and economic powers that we may have never seen. Black Panther is the perfect character to introduce this avenue of storytelling. He is simultaneously a leader, in both a political and religious sense, as well as the embodiment of the capabilities of Wakanda.

Listen: The Origin of Black Panther

The Cast

Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordon, Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Dana Guirira and of course Chadwick Boseman. If any of these names don’t mean anything to you, you have got to watch more movies and television. If this much talent had assembled for any other film, there would most definitely be Oscar buzz surrounding it- ignoring the typical #OscarSoWhite controversy. We have already seen Chadwick Boseman play the titular character of Black Panther in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. By now, you should have an opinion on him. Boseman is surrounded by such prominent actors, both veteran as well as newcomers who showcase such potential, that it is inconceivable to bypass them.

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Beginning with perhaps one of the most recognized names across generations, Forest Whitaker will play a character called Zuri. Zuri was an ally to T’Challa’s father in the comics. With the death of T’Chaka, Zuri became an advisor to T’Challa as he ascended the throne. Forest Whitaker is proven talent within the industry, as well as an individual newly familiar with world building franchises- as we will see in the upcoming ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY. He has received an Academy Award for his role in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, as well as critical acclaim in films such as Lee Daniel’s THE BUTLER. All we know to be true is that no matter the role, Whitaker has the capability to make it great, to be a powerful force and fully embody a character. As Zuri, we do not know what direction the film will go with the character. We can speculate that Zuri will help T’Challa transition, as he did in the comics, and be a supportive voice and authoritative figure within a militaristic, political, and personal context. However, the mere presence of Whitaker should be an indicator as to how successful BLACK PANTHER will be.

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In contrast to Whitaker, another Academy Award winner to look out for is Lupita Nyong’o. An absolute stunner in her own right, she is one of the most prominent burgeoning actresses we have seen in a while. Known for her breakout role in 12 YEARS A SLAVE, plus her role as Chewbacca’s number one fan, Maz Kanata in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, Nyong’o is the one who tipped this film from “it’s going to be great” to “OhMyGodEveryoneInTheWorldHasToSeeThisFilmIDon’tCareIfYouDon’tLikeSuperheroes-You’reAllWatchingThisI’llEvenBuyYourTicketsPleaseWatchItNowSoYouCanLoveItToo.” That being said, little is known about the character she is playing, Nakia. In the comics, Nakia is a part of the Dora Milaje, an order of women sanctioned to act as trusted servants, bodyguards, and potential wives to the King of Wakanda. This personal guard to the King is a way to ensure peace and cooperation amongst various tribes. Though a component of the comics, it is unclear how much the Dora Milaje will factor into BLACK PANTHER, or whether Nakia will be faithful to the source material or molded into something new. Either way, we have had few opportunities to see Nyong’o perform, what we have seen has inspired nothing but trust in her ability to grasp a character and illustrate them on screen.

Michael B. Jordan, not to be confused with the basketball player, is an actor to be reckoned with. Ignoring his misstep as Johnny Storm in FANTASTIC FOUR (let’s not talk about it), Jordan has redeemed himself through heartwrenching films such as FRUITVALE STATION and CREED. Both of which were conveniently directed by BLACK PANTHER director Ryan Coogler. Jordan will play Erik Killmonger, an antagonist who was exiled by T’Chakka and now holds a deep resentment towards the monarch. It is worth noting that we have yet to witness Jordan as a villain of sorts. Most of his prominent roles have been as protagonists or supporting characters, he even played Cyborg in the animated feature JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX. To see Jordan as a bad guy for once, with a director who has a proven history of bringing out the best in him only heightens the potential this film has to offer.

Read: Fant4tastic: The Black Johnny Storm Controversy

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Moving on with female powerhouses, it would be a disservice to omit one of the most recent casting choices. Angela Bassett is known for roles in films such as MALCOLM X, BOYS N THE HOOD, NOTORIOUS, CHI-RAQ, THE ROSA PARKS STORY, STRANGE DAYS, WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, BETTY AND CORRETTA, and let’s not forget her in the tv series AMERICAN HORROR STORY. Bassett has garnered recognition for directing films such as WHITNEY and for the way she completely seeps into the characters she portrays. The stories she has helped craft share a common thread for she has proven time and again her willingness to explore unchartered territory and her ability to adapt. It would make sense to cast her as Ramonda, the wife of T’Chakka and step-mother to the Black Panther. Bassett has garnered so much praise for this role not only because of her proven record as both powerful, nurturing, and complex women but because of the significance she brings to the film. BLACK PANTHER is already shaping up to be one of the most diverse films in the superhero genre, with one of the strongest cast. In the wake of a divisive climate, where heroes hold so much more responsibility than ever before, and there is backlash over the treatment of characters like Black Widow and Mockingbird, underrepresentation in comics, film, television, and toys, we need a movie that is inclusive. We deserve powerful characters that are outside our sphere, a story that does not follow the typical Marvel origin story format, and one that encourages thoughts we do not consider. The casting of Angela Bassett is the nail in the coffin that confirms that this film will be a force to be reckoned with. Bassett brings with her not only the acting chops that warrant acclaim but an affirmation that BLACK PANTHER will add a new layer to the MCU and introduce complexities we have never considered.

Read: Black Panther Casts New Talent

Ryan Coogler

Need I say more, Ryan Coogler has had two stand-out films, CREED and FRUITVALE STATION. Both starring Michael B. Jordan in a titular role. Coogler has co-written and directed both films and has received widespread acclaim from audiences and critics alike. Despite his thin repertoire, his films have become some of the most powerful and commanding in recent memory. He has even been awarded with a spot on Time Magazines 10 Most Influential People list. BLACK PANTHER will be Coogler’s progression into the superhero genre. However, when we break down the spirit of the character, the world he lives in and the conflicts that surround him they are in line with Coogler’s capabilities as both a writer and a director.  Coogler has the ability and understanding to construct personal struggle intertwined with an overreaching goal, he can pull powerful scenes from has cast and has a proven knack for distilling politically charged moments in a way that is accessible and resonates with our common humanity. These characteristics are just a glimpse of what we have already seen. BLACK PANTHER could really illustrate those qualities as a director as well as amplify that of which we have yet to witness.

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We must point out that the diversity this film offers is probably one of the most blatant reasons people are excited. Coogler is a phenomenal director, at the same time he can be a polarizing one when it comes to diversity and racial tensions. The films in the MCU have had such strong stories, characters, and direction, however, that is not to say they are perfect. There are numerous discrepancies and areas of improvement in the MCU. One of them is creating a more inclusive environment and introducing diverse characters to the dialogue. Because BLACK PANTHER is a clearly ‘black film’ it is going to incite the kind of political discourse and backlash that LUKE CAGE did (maybe even more so cause having a King as a titular character means you might have to talk politics). LUKE CAGE brought forth the socioeconomic tensions of Harlem, he embodied a community with its pros and cons whilst fostering a story of change and self-determination. DOCTOR STRANGE started with the introduction of mysticism and incorporating eastern influences and characters. Introducing diverse people and ideas is important. Not only because of the opportunities in storytelling but because they will resonate with all kinds of people. They will remind audiences that they are not alone, and incite change and a conversation. Ask anyone who loves Luke Cage why they care about the character. Ask the same for Spider-Man or Jessica Jones, Tony Stark or Captain Marvel. I guarantee people want you to ask, to share the struggles, joy and adventure a story can represent and why we look up to them. Coogler has skillfully embodied some of those struggles in his previous works. Given the cast and the source material, there is no question that he can shape BLACK PANTHER into something truly phenomenal.

There are endless reasons to be excited about a film. We can appreciate an actor or actress, we can hope to see a villain, or curious about the society and the imagery, how they’ll portray it a certain way and why? We can be looking for role models for our kids, or curious to see the technology they will utilize, or if the film will remain faithful to the comic. These are just some considerations as to why BLACK PANTHER has the potential to be a Marvel stand-out. Moving towards a new realm with BLACK PANTHER, with such zeal whilst inspiring so much excitement and dialogue is only encouraging for the MCU, for it reminds us that Marvel’s not done. That there are still ideas, stories, and people who are interested in showcasing our characters in a new reality.

Listen: Street Justice- Socioeconomics, Race, and Politics in Comics- All Negro Comics, Luke Cage, Black Panther, and Batwing

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