Note: This review of Black Panther reveals no spoilers.
If the bard, William Shakespeare wrote the plot for a superhero movie it would have been similar to Black Panther. Less than a movie about a person with superpowers, Black Panther is about political intrigue and someone trying to remove a king from his rightful place on the throne, the basic plot of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, and Richard II. However do not fear superhero fans, the script is not in iambic pentameter, nor is it in 16th century English. Black Panther is a different kind of superhero movie, in theme and in its politics, but it is a superhero movie.
The movie begins by explaining that centuries ago, five African tribes went to war over a meteorite containing vibranium. One warrior ingested a “heart-shaped herb” that was affected by the metal and gained superhuman abilities. He became the first “Black Panther” and united all tribes (except the Jabari Tribe who declined) to form the nation of Wakanda. Over time, the Wakandans used the vibranium to develop technology more advanced than anything we see in the modern, western world and they isolate themselves from the world by posing as a Third World country.
As we know from Captian America Civil War, Wakanda king T’Chaka is killed while making a speech at the UN, leaving his son T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman)to take over. What follows is a political struggle between three camps; one follows T’Challa’s father’s philosophy of complete isolation, a second suggests using Wakanda’s advanced technology to contribute to the world, and the third wants to use the Wakanda technology to rule over white people.
T’Challa starts in his father’s camp– he is afraid that Wakanda will be revealed for the rich paradise it truly is. Allowing outsiders to know the true Wakanda would invite the greed and violence from the outside world and eventually ruin the Wakandian paradise. But T’Challa is struggling internally because he is not as cold-hearted as his dad. He sees the poverty, human trafficking, and other injustices throughout the world and knows his country could help solve them— but does he dare?
T’Challa becomes the Black Panther often in the movie, but it’s usually tied to his responsibility as King, his desire to protect his kingdom, and ultimately to fight for his rightful place on the throne…