In Photos

In photos: ‘Black Panther’, the first Marvel film with an African superhero

‘Black Panther’, which is set in the fictional kingdom Wakanda, offers a visual palette distinctly different from traditional Marvel movies.

In 2008, Marvel Studios released Iron Man (2008) as the first in a series of global blockbusters based on popular comic book heroes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, popular known as the MCU, has produced 17 films so far. On February 16, the 18th MCU entry, Black Panther will be released. Directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), the movie is the first to feature a black superhero. Chadwick Boseman, best known for his acclaimed turn as the rhythm and blues singer James Brown in the 2014 film Get on Up, does the honours.

Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.
Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.

Black Panther is the name adopted by King T’Challa of the futuristic African kingdom of Wakanda. The character, created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, made his first appearance in issue 52 of Fantastic Four in 1966. After featuring in several Marvel comics, including The Avengers, for years, he had his first solo run in issue five and onward in the Jungle Action series. The costume worn by Black Panther in the film has been inspired by the latest interpretation of the character by writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Brian Stelfreeze.

Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.
Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.

Black Panther is of historical importance – he is the first superhero of African descent in mainstream American comics. Black Panther/T’Challa first appeared in a supporting role in the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War. The character, in the words of producer Kevin Feige, became a part of that film because of the need of a “third party” who was not a part of The Avengers and thus could have a different perspective on the fight between Captain America and Iron Man.

Coogler’s Black Panther follows the character upon his return to Wakanda after the events of Captain America: Civil War.

Play
Black Panther, from page to screen.

Following the death of his father T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa becomes the rightful heir to the throne, but his ascendancy is challenged by enemies outside Wakanda, such as Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), and within the kingdom such as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B Jordan). Speaking to Rolling Stone magazine, Coogler said that through the film, he is trying to ask and answer the question: “What does [it] truly mean to be African?”

Coogler said, “The MCU has set itself in the real world as much as possible – so what does it mean for T’Challa to move around as this black man in a movie reality that tries to be a real world?”

Michael B Jordan in Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.
Michael B Jordan in Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.

Black Panther is Jordan’s third outing with Coogler. He has played the lead roles in his previous two films. As Killmonger, Jordan plays a former American black-ops soldier from Wakanda who returns to his homeland to challenge T’Challa. Jordan compared his character’s relationship with T’Challa as the one between Magneto and Professor X in an interview with MTV. Killmonger’s distinctive tribal marks that form a raised pattern on his chest and torso are inspired by the scar tattoos of the Mursi and Surma tribes of Ethiopia. Corey Calliet, who trained Jordan for his role in Creed where the actor played a boxer, has guided him in Black Panther too.

Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.
Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.

Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, 2013) stars as Nakia, a spy and fighter for the Dora Milaje, the all-female special forces of Wakanda who serve as T’Challa’s bodyguards. In the comics, Nakia is hopelessly in love with T’Challa and is jealous of his lovers. She later becomes a villain under the aegis of Killmonger. In an interview with Collider, Nyong’o described her character as a “war dog” dedicated to the service of Wakanda above everything else. For her role, she had to train in a variety of fighting styles that includes judo, ju-jitsu, silat and Filipino martial arts.

Lupita Nyong'o in Black Panther. Image credit: Marvel Studios.
Lupita Nyong'o in Black Panther. Image credit: Marvel Studios.

The other Academy Award-winning actor in the cast is Forest Whitaker. Whitaker and Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett play Zuri and Ramonda respectively. They are elders of the society of Wakanda. While Ramonda is T’Challa’s mother, Zuri is a spiritual figure described by Coogler as “Black Panther’s version of Obi-Wan Kenobi [the Star Wars character]”.

Other cast members include Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister Shuri, Danai Gurira as Dora Milaje’s head Okoye, Daniel Kaluuya (who has scored an Oscar nod in the Best Actor category this year for his work in Get Out) as T’Challa’s best friend W’Kabi, and Winston Duke as M’Baku, a tribal leader in Wakanda who is conflicted about challenging T’Challa for the throne or helping him defending the kingdom from Killmonger.

Forest Whitaker in Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.
Forest Whitaker in Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.

Martin Freeman reprises his role as Central Intelligence Agency member and T’Challa’s ally Everett K Ross. He was first introduced in Captain America: Civil War. Andy Serkis’s character Ulysses Klaue is an outsider to Wakanda with evil designs of his own. Boseman called Klaue the “Osama bin Laden of the movie” in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Calling Wakanda an “isolationist society”, Boseman elaborated, “Klaue has entered that space and knows more about it than anybody else. Because of that, he is a threat.”

Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis in Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.
Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis in Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.

Black Panther had its premiere in Los Angeles on January 29. Reactions were predominantly positive, with Twitter being abuzz about the film’s powerful portrayal of black women. “Black Panther is a love letter about blackness to a world that often ghettoises it without realising that it is on black blacks that the planet revolves,” The Los Angeles Times critic Tre’vell Anderson wrote. Indiewire’s David Ehrlich, meanwhile, lauded the film for being the first MCU feature to have an “actual sense of identity and history and musicality”.

Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.
Black Panther. Courtesy Marvel Studios.

India has been one of the prime markets for MCU’s films. Eight of the 20 highest-grossing Hollywood films in India are based on Marvel characters. The last MCU film to be released in India, Thor: Ragnarok (2017), earned Rs 76 crore, largely possible because of the release of the Hindi-dubbed version.

Black Panther is also being released in Hindi. Manoj Muntashir, who earlier wrote the Hindi dialogue for the Baahubali films, has recreated Black Panther’s otherworldly charm in Hindi.

Play
Black Panther in Hindi.

The movie might have come out earlier if Hollywood actor Wesley Snipes had had his way. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, Snipes reveals being approached by Marvel in the mid-1990s for a possible adaptation. “I think Black Panther spoke to me because he was noble, and he was the antithesis of the stereotypes presented and portrayed about Africans, African history and the great kingdoms of Africa,” Snipes told the publication. “It had cultural significance, social significance. It was something that the black community and the white community hadn’t seen before.”

The obstacles includes Marvel’s poor clout at the time – it hadn’t yet been acquired by Disney – and the fruitless hunt for a suitable screenwriter and director. Among the names suggested were Mario Van Peebles and John Singleton.

“Ultimately, we couldn’t find the right combination of script and director and, also at the time, we were so far ahead of the game in the thinking, the technology wasn’t there to do what they had already created in the comic book,” Snipes said in the interview. Instead, he went on to play Blade, the vampire hunter character from the Marvel comic books and the “first hit film based on a Marvel property”, Hollywood Reporter noted.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

When did we start parenting our parents?

As our parents grow older, our ‘adulting’ skills are tested like never before.

From answering every homework question to killing every monster under the bed, from soothing every wound with care to crushing anxiety by just the sound of their voice - parents understandably seemed like invincible, know-it-all superheroes all our childhood. It’s no wonder then that reality hits all of a sudden, the first time a parent falls and suffers a slip disc, or wears a thick pair of spectacles to read a restaurant menu - our parents are growing old, and older. It’s a slow process as our parents turn from superheroes to...human.

And just as slow to evolve are the dynamics of our relationship with them. Once upon a time, a peck on the cheek was a frequent ritual. As were handmade birthday cards every year from the artistically inclined, or declaring parents as ‘My Hero’ in school essays. Every parent-child duo could boast of an affectionate ritual - movie nights, cooking Sundays, reading favourite books together etc. The changed dynamic is indeed the most visible in the way we express our affection.

The affection is now expressed in more mature, more subtle ways - ways that mimics that of our own parents’ a lot. When did we start parenting our parents? Was it the first time we offered to foot the electricity bill, or drove them to the doctor, or dragged them along on a much-needed morning walk? Little did we know those innocent acts were but a start of a gradual role reversal.

In adulthood, children’s affection for their parents takes on a sense of responsibility. It includes everything from teaching them how to use smartphones effectively and contributing to family finances to tracking doctor’s appointments and ensuring medicine compliance. Worry and concern, though evidence of love, tend to largely replace old-fashioned patterns of affection between parents and children as the latter grow up.

It’s something that can be easily rectified, though. Start at the simplest - the old-fashioned peck on the cheek. When was the last time you gave your mom or dad a peck on the cheek like a spontaneous five-year-old - for no reason at all? Young parents can take their own children’s behaviour available as inspiration.

As young parents come to understand the responsibilities associated with caring for their parents, they also come to realise that they wouldn’t want their children to go through the same challenges. Creating a safe and secure environment for your family can help you strike a balance between the loving child in you and the caring, responsible adult that you are. A good life insurance plan can help families deal with unforeseen health crises by providing protection against financial loss. Having assurance of a measure of financial security for family can help ease financial tensions considerably, leaving you to focus on being a caring, affectionate child. Moreover,you can eliminate some of the worry for your children when they grow up – as the video below shows.

Play

To learn more about life insurance plans available for your family, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.