By CHRISTINA QUACH
While T’Challa is the one on the throne, it is the women who truly rule.
Black Panther premiered on Feb. 16, making it one of the most pre-sold movies ever with expectations of taking first place in the box office with its official release.
After his father’s death, T’Challa returns to Wakanda—a hidden wealthy tech-utopia and assumes his role as both the new king and the Black Panther. He is soon faced with a powerful enemy that puts both the fate of his country and the world at risk.
Despite the potential to be better, Black Panther manages to change the game in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with its extremely empowering female leads and magnificent soundtrack.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of Black Panther is that the female characters are full of charisma. They have their own arch and, at times, even gain the audience’s attention more than T’Challa himself—a feat rarely seen in Marvel movies as most of the female characters are subsidiary to the male hero. To put bluntly, they are scene stealers, but in the best way possible.
This is seen with the Dora Milaje, who are fierce female warriors that protect Wakanda. They are powerful, brave, spunky and have stunning uniforms. However, rather than portraying them as sex symbols, Marvel does not follow modern beauty standards with the Dora Milaje, yet they are still seen as equals to men. They even manage to overpower them. Often times, many superhero movies show women in skimpy outfits just to sell tickets or portray them as another damsel in distress, but the women in Black Panther are of all colors and sizes with the primary goal of doing what is best for Wakanda. The diversity of the Dora Milaje empowers women of all ages to not be ashamed of who they are.
For instance, Okoye goes undercover and wears a wig over her signature shaved head. She is visibly uncomfortable, but as soon as she begins fighting, she throws the wig off her head and continues to dominate. This scene is symbolic as it shows she does not like hiding her true self. It leaves a message that resonates deeply within the audience: putting on a disguise is not worth it, rather, removing it and testing what it means to truly fit in is.
Additionally, the film avoids cliches by creating fascinating character developments. For instance, throughout the film, it is hard to view Erik Killmonger as a villain, because his motives make him seem more like an anti-hero (a person who has heroic thoughts, but uses antagonistic means to help the world).Killmonger wants to use Wakanda’s wealth to help empower black people around the world against the constant prejudice they receive. The battle between T’Challa and Killmonger aligns with issues we face in today’s society: national self-interest vs. global assistance. T’Challa is torn between keeping Wakanda secluded or assisting third-world nations, because of tradition while Killmonger believes that a black uprising is best for Wakanda. As Black Panther uncovers more secrets, they both finally realize what is truly best, not for their nation, but for the rest of the world.
Moreover, while this may not seem as important, the film’s soundtrack really helps the audience stay at the edge of their seats. The already suspenseful and action-packed moments are heightened when the music plays and makes the movie even better.
However, the potential for Black Panther is dampened, because of Wakanda’s isolated nature. Other than Wakanda, the film takes us to Busan, South Korea and that had audience members holding their breath. The movie reaches a peak of excitement and thrill before it quickly depletes. Also, the main issue in the movie— personal interest or the benefit of the entire world—is undermined. If the film had featured other nations and their underlying struggles, it would have created a better lasting impact on why Killmonger’s desire to help the world had been so controversial.
All in all, Black Panther manages to become one of the best original superhero movies in the MCU not because of the strong male lead, but because of the women who help make both the movie and the world better.