Synopsis: T’Challa begins his reign as King of Wakanda. He faces a coup and outsiders stealing the country’s most valuable resource. He’s also a cat, sort of.
After years of melanin-challenged superheroes and guys mutated with spider and ant DNA, audiences finally get a hero of color who transforms into something much more appealing than a creepy crawlie; a big cat.
Chadwick Boseman is the Black Panther, aka T’Challa, King of Wakanda. Chad-Bo conveys regal charisma as the star. T’Challa has ascended to the throne after the assassination of his father, T’Chaka. Wakanda is in Africa and seen by the world as a
developing nation, known for ‘textiles, shepherds and cool outfits.’ (More on the cool outfits later.) What the outside world doesn’t know is that Wakanda is prosperous and technologically advanced. The Wakandans are the beneficiaries of meteorite-deposited vibranium, which has all sorts of energy-producing properties. It also seems that their aircraft and trains are made from it. It also –somehow– lends itself to advanced medical technologies. Hopefully it doesn’t turn out to be like asbestos or radium. Anyway, it’s valuable and the Wakandans are keeping quiet about it. They must be great secret keepers. Unlike just about everybody else in the world.
Vibranium has another property that won’t be found in other boring elements, like aluminum and sulfur. It can turn you into a cat. But only if you consume the herb that grows from the soil where the meteorite crashed. That makes sense. It’s some sort of mystical catnip.
Now if I got to spend a day with a Marvel Universe character, I would definitely choose to spend it with Black Panther/ T’Challa because: I like cats, he has a great accent and I would really want to visit Wakanda.
Wakanda is enveloped with some sort of cloak, outside of which Wakandan shepherds mull about with their sheep, pranking everybody with their humble ways. Inside the cloak, Wakanda is full of magnificent natural beauty and a space age-y metropolis. T’Challa is devoted to serving his country with the help of his wise mother (Angela Bassett as Ramonda), tech genius kid sister (Letitia Wright as Shuri) and ex-girlfriend (Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia). He strolls through his kingdom looking fine in long suit jackets and artfully draped wraps. Monorails whisk about and bazaars are full of shoppers perusing traditional clothing and wares. T’Challa presides over a utopia! What could go wrong? Plenty.
Some American guy named Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) steals some vibranium and challenges T’Challa for the throne. His soldier background and big muscles let us know that he’s really tough. But what really shows his toughness, is that he has purposely scarred patterns onto his whole body. This also lets us know that he is a psycho. And the fact that his name is Killmonger.
The movie is full of fights, car chases and lots of plot elements that stretch back to T’Challa’s dad’s youth. Also, Andy Serkis plays a bad guy who wants vibranium. Don’t be too distracted by Gollum, you’ll need to concentrate on how T’Challa will handle trouble in paradise. I kept hoping that he’d spend large parts of the movie as an actual Black Panther. You know, climbing trees, cutely grooming himself– cat stuff! Alas, he wears a BP suit that looks like it was designed by Edna Mode of ‘The Incredibles’ fame.
At one point, T’Challa, while trying to regain stolen vibranium, meets up with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman as a CIA agent) at a casino. Martial arts and car racing ensues. I think the action takes place in Seoul. No matter, I wanted them to go back to Wakanda, land of mighty waterfalls and flying cars. I also had my eye on a hat I saw in the marketplace.
But I began to wonder… how could a closed economy be so prosperous? Wakandans only trade minimally, to keep up their front of poverty. If they have a relatively small population, there wouldn’t be economies of scale. In other words, everything at the Wakandan bazaars would be out of my price range. Also, it seems like the only jobs are: decoy shepherd, market salesperson or warrior. And warrior seems sort of pointless since not only is the kingdom isolationist, but the bulk of the country is literally hidden! Making the hours of military training with conscripted rhinos a waste of human resources. Also, let the rhinos free. I’m sure the soldiers could use vibranium militarized segways.
Oh, two other job options: scientist or doctor. But they seem to need only one of each and T’Challa’s sister acts as both. Perhaps vibranium robots do the rest of the work and the citizens all have a universal basic income. Currency would be made of –let me guess– vibranium.
Whatever the case, Wakandans seem quite content and purposeful due not to binge watching shows or binge eating (like in other prosperous countries) but due to devotion to traditional ways. Some of which involves consuming the mystical catnip and watching ritual fights at a mighty waterfall. Which is probably a sacred place. I definitely think that Wakanda has a bright future for tourism…if T’Challa can defend his throne. And as soon as scientists have established that vibranium exposure is not deleterious to one’s longevity, I will book my flight to Wakanda.
Cut to the Chase: Appealing cast and introduction to the BP story
Comedy Gold: The Jabari tribe’s leader, when he hosts T’Challa’s family