I am going to to talk about my favourite marvel character, focusing on his character development and his storyline. How and why he differs from every other super hero. And what really makes him worthy of being the great Black Panther.
My interpretation will only be based on movies since I’ve never read Black Panther comics or have ever seen him in animation. None the less, the late Chadwick Boseman didn’t really stop us from understanding Black Panther.
Black Panther remains my all time favourite solo hero movie. Before that it was Iron-man. There is something about tiny character details which makes glimpse of T’Challa more impactful.
Let’s get started.
T’Challa is first introduced at UN conference to ratify Sokovia accord’s in Vienna. T’Chakka, his father and T’Challa are shown to have a different vibe with them. Both having the aura of a King. The down to earth nature of T’Challa is seen in the scene where he has the last conversation with his father. He has deep respect in his eyes for the king of his nation but most importantly he has respect and love for his father.
While T’Chaka addresses the UN, T’Challa keeps his guard up and looks out to protect his father. He spots a suspicious van and almost immediately tells everyone to get down and lunges across the room towards his father. This lunge could have gotten him killed but still he does so without giving any second thoughts. This moment shows how he has undying love and devotion towards his father.
Every single action of his and words spoken are a precise representation of his beliefs. They solidify his position as a king. He is firm towards his belief’s as well as what is right and wrong.
Helmut Zemo creates a chaos in civil war and intelligently uses Avengers against their own selves using that to single handedly bringing the team down. T’Challa believes that Bucky Barnes, the Winter Solider is responsible and he would make sure that his father gets justice.
It is not a form of revenge. T’Challa has no interest in standing aside while watching the normal human police let the supposed super solider, perpetrator get away.
When Zemo unleashes Winter Solider, we can immediately see why T’Challa is Black Panther. T’Challa has a swift, quick reflexes, the agility of a panther, has quick recovery and follow through. He appears before Winter Solider after receiving a blow from his super strength. It is unclear to me if T’Challa has already taken the herb.
He wears his Black Panther suit and joins hands with Tony in stopping Captain America help Bucky out. While everyone is playing fetch, Natasha intentionally tasers Black Panther for slowing him down and letting the two escape.
When Black Panther comes to full circle with the story of why his father was killed. He makes a decision. After he finds out all this facade was orchestrated by Zemo. He doesn’t immediately kill him but instead takes the high road.
Vengeance has consumed you. It’s consuming them. I’m done letting it consume me. Justice will come soon enough.
– Black Panther
He chooses not to kill him and prevents Zemo from taking his own life. In this very moment we know he is worth of being a King. He keeps his emotions at bay and let’s justice get delivered by doing the right thing. If we take everyone in this movie and compare side by side, every hero dealt with trauma and loss of their loved one, Peter Parker, Tony Stark, Wanda, Thor… they all succumb to their emotions when their loved one is hurt. They get clouded and confused. Even Captain America does wrong to Tony on so many levels. The point is T’Challa that he learns quickly by observing. He doesn’t let his anger or grief get the best of him.
He later helps Barnes heal and provides him with his own Vibranium arm. He goes one step further ahead in every bit of his decision whether made in grief or in stress he comes out calm and collected. He never chose violence unless he has no choice left, he is guarded and doesn’t stop himself from showing his vulnerable side. When he loses his father almost immediately we can see his vulnerability. He maintains his composure and respect. T’Challa understands the meaning of standing up for the whole nation, he hates diplomacy but in his very nature he lifts people up. He creates strong bonds and respect due to his actions. He not only protects his own but also people whom he has just met. He isn’t shaken one bit even though he deals with the trauma of losing his father, right in front of his own eyes. The strength of Black Panther may be perceived in his agility but I think it is in his intelligence, emotional as well as intellect.
In act of III if we look at the storyline.
Becoming the Black Panther
T’Challa goes to rescue Nakia and invite her for his coronation ceremony for becoming the King of Wakanda. It is evident that she is his ex girlfriend, Nakia belongs to another tribe and she works as a war dog. Working in several places ensuring safety of their people across the globe. If you pay closer attention to the poster one can tell that T’Challa is majorly influenced by powerful women in his life. He respects and loves his family, his mother. He has a playful brother sister relationship with Shuri his sister. Okoye, the general of Dora Milaje protects T’Challa and royal blood from any danger. And lastly Nakia the woman T’Challa loves. T’Challa is not having one bit of arrogance in him. He believes in helping his nation. His righteousness doesn’t stem from his father as we know what happens midway of the movie. After apprehending Zemo, T’Challa returns home in his Royal Talon Fighter. This aircraft is beautiful in itself.
From the walk to talk he is a king even before receiving the title. He has a different relationship with Shuri and Okoye, Okoye who knows T’Challa too well doesn’t stop herself from revealing his vulnerability which even Shuri knows. Shuri and T’Challa share a banter of siblings. T’Challa goes through a combat ritual which solidifies the position of Black Panther. The combat ritual commences with all tribes gathered to watch T’Challa get crowned with each tribe asked if they would challenge T’Challa for the crown. His powers are stripped away by drinking a magical potion. M’baku of Jabari tribe challenges T’Challa.
I found it peculiar while watching the movie how I never noticed in theatre that M’baku says to T’Challa glory of Hanuman. Hanuman is an avatar of god, a devotee of Ram, who was also an avatar of god in hindu mythology. It is surprising that it wasn’t there when I saw it in theatres. I don’t seriously understand why though. Their context of Hanuman might have same meaning as Hanuman was a vānar. You can read Ramayana if you feel interested in it, it is a powerful and beautiful mythology story and since we are currently celebrating Diwali, Diwali marks the day that Prince Rama triumphantly returned to Ayodhya his home with his wife. The whole mythology is beautiful but I still am clueless about the context of Jabari tribe having anything to do with a hindu god. Anyone who has read the comics or would know the meaning of “Glory of Hanuman” comment below and please do let me know.
Back to the combat, M’baku being bigger and having a stronger appearance. He uses his stinging words to remind others that T’Chaka died in front of T’Challa. He uses his combat skills to fight T’Challa.
T’Challa doesn’t hesitate or lose his composure as M’baku with each blow also uses his vulnerability to break him down. Speaking out of context, Black Panther has cinematic beauty. It encompasses African heritage. I really love the fight sequences, the music, their costumes, their beautifully appearances. Not a single moment feels dull in this movie, the colours strengthening character of the people. The story is a lot like an asian kid finding out that his family is flawed. Why asian? It is a typical plot line where society influence makes one member of family plot conspiracy and take down for power. I always think that other kids aren’t as scrutinised but then again I am looking it through my eyes.
The ritual is a bit barbaric because it gives the participants a choice to murder their opponent or fight till one of them yields. Even if M’baku is big, T’Challa uses his tactics and agility. M’baku uses his strength to crush T’Challa and a dizzy T’Challa watches mother give him strength when he is bleeding massively on the verge of possible skull cracking. He uses arm to break through M’baku’s mask and gets stabbed by his nonstop attack but T’Challa stands stronger towards his true self, believing in himself and defeating M’baku.
You have fought with honour. Now Yield! your people need you! – T’Challa
Can one tell the difference? T’Challa doesn’t let digs at his past cloud his judgement into choosing murder in any fight. Be it for the person who killed his father or for someone who pokes at his internal wounds. He choses to behave like a dignified human being. A person who choses right and tries to seek what is truth. He has few set of belief’s from his upbringing. He later questions his own beliefs as he realises that he nothing is what it seems. Everyone gathers around for the final part, giving T’Challa the heart shaped herb.
He is buried in sand and comes out of earth in an ancestral place. T’Challa faces his trauma of losing his father and is humbled to meet his father in this spiritual place. He is filled with pain and sorrow. He feels that he has not been able go protect him and is not ready to become a King.
This exchange of words reminds me of Simba for some reason. While T’Challa is old enough but he thinks he doesn’t know how to be a great one. He sees his father as a great king and stepping into his shoes can feel overwhelming. T’Chaka recites T’Challa’s true nature and tells him that a good man cannot be a great king. He isn’t swayed much by his words but he comes back to life happy.
The Betrayed Son
The story of Black Panther is told by N’Jobu to his son. N’Jobu worked as a war dog in Oakland, he fell in love and had a son. Due to his close understanding of Wakandans living in oppression across the globe. He decides to go against the principals of his tribe and join hands with an black market arms dealer, Ulyssus Klaw to help him steal Vibranium. Ulyssus Klaw kills a lot of Wakandan people while stealing the Vibranium.
One day N’Jobu is getting ready with weapons and his mission thinking it is the correct thing to do. He is visited by T’Chaka who is there to bring him home and punish him for the crimes of rebelling and being responsible for murder of few wakandans. He pretends to not know anything or be part of anything. Unbeknownst to N’Jobu, Zuri his friend, his accomplice known as “James” to him, turns out to be a Wakandan spy and sheds truth of N’Jobu’s plan of action. Zuri never speaks of that day to protect the name and reputation of T’Chaka.
T’Challa after hearing of Klaw’s sighting and a stolen artefact of Wakandan origin, goes to bring Klaw to Wakanda for necessary punishment for his crimes. Klaw escapes with the help of Erik Kill monger who has the twin ancestral heirloom which T’Challa is wears when his father passes away. Coming to Zuri to seek the truth of what is kept hidden from him.
T’Challa’s belief system is completely shattered the very moment he realises that his father’s name is built on the blood of his uncle. He realises that his goody too shoes father is not so goody after all. When the two Wakandans left the little boy to live there after killing his father.
I guess no family is ever perfect. At this moment T’Challa realises that all the adults whom he looked upto for being righteous and great had blood on their hands. I can understand that T’Chaka kills N’Jobu because he was going to fire on Zuri who was just doing his job. He never really plans to kill him. He inevitably is lead to do so but he didn’t needed to leave his son to come back to his father’s dead body.
The betrayal of his uncle was wrong no doubt but his thought process behind it wasn’t. He just wanted to lend hand to his people from not getting mistreated. If only that were the case.
We meet Erik Killmonger, the child who was left behind. He is completely opposite of T’Challa both in nature and thoughts. While T’Challa believes in bringing peace and starting out as the King tries to bring Klaw home for seeking justice. Kill monger kills as many people he can kill to get to Wakanda to completely follow same lost path his father chose.
T’Challa believes in the women he has in his life. Their influence makes him what he is and so much more, he makes their existence into his strength. Erik has a girlfriend, a robbery crew and everyone who helps him is killed because he has a personality driven with revenge, rage and corruption. He thinks the only way to solve global issue of mistreatment of their people is by using their advanced weapons start a war.
I am gonna go out of Black Panther for a quote. A wise king must never seek out war-Thor. But He must always be ready for it! – Hella.
Those are the wisest words applicable to someone who holds the power. A ruler is not just a King. A ruler should follow set of rules to become great. Erik’s thinking is using fire to stop fire. It makes no sense and in the end his every move is one step closer to destruction.
Throughout the movie the topic remains whether they should intervene and reveal and use Wakanda’s technology to outside world. N’Jobu, Nakia, T’Challa and Kill Monger have same idea but T’ Challa having different execution than N’Jobu and Kill monger.
When Erik brings Klaw’s body, he is not swayed like W’kabi, who blindly supports Killmonger even when he shows aggression, destruction and misuse of his power. Just because he killed Klaw he hands out his loyalty to him.
Kill monger explains to T’Challa that his body has self inflicted scars the number marking each kill. He wears the murders as a badge of honour and something to be proud of and T’Challa takes Ross an American agent back to Wakanda to save his life even if doing so might endanger the secrets of Wakanda. It does turn out differently.
It’s not a comparison of the two cousins, of who is powerful and who is not. It is about the quality of being the leader who believes in protecting his own as well as those around him. T’Challa played by Chadwick Boseman, I bet no one out there would have been a better fit for T’Challa. He originally auditioned by Drax the destroyer. I think the casting team did an excellent job in picking the correct actors for both the protagonist and the antagonist.
Anyway, everyone gets the point that T’Challa even without the title is a King. His royalty is made by his loving Mother and Sister along side his general and Nakia.
Erik challenges T’Challa for the combat ritual. He uses all the wrong means to reach a weapon and at the end of it he nearly destroys everything. Erik has a deceptive personality. Perhaps he faces a harsh life but that’s not an excuse to become a mass murderer. He believes in taking for his own benefit and not for what is for everyone.
If you look closely at T’Challa’s relationship with Shuri, he makes fun of her and she does the same but He believes in her brilliant mind and she believes in using the Vibranium to bring advanced gears and basically be a Scientist, a child prodigy. They lift each other up and grow up. Love is essence of life, even though they fight but when time comes T’Challa doesn’t hesitate to protect Shuri from blood thirsty Kill monger.
T’Challa is a peaceful person, a good man like his father says. And in my eyes the great king. The greatness comes with every decision he makes with every action he takes. The actions are never driven in arrogance or irrational decisions and emotions. T’Challa is a reasonable and wonderful king. Why? He doesn’t let any opportunity go by to create relationships. In the beginning he spares M’baku because he never intends to misuse his power and paint it with red.
When his family is overthrown when Kill monger throws T’Challa off the cliff. Everyone watches in sheer horror of what Killmonger is capable of, Okoye is on T’Challa’s side in every moment but as he is throw off. She is inevitably bound to serve Killmonger. Who kills both Zuri and T’Challa in front of everyone’s eyes.
Who wears the crown?
Everyone stares in sheer horror as this monstrous being reigns as the king. T’Challa’s mother, Shuri and Nakia take Ross with them and seek refuge in Jabari tribe. She also steals one heart-shaped herb knowing what Kill monger can do after he drinks the herb himself.
For T’Challa when he is buried he meets his father. The only person he regrets unable to protect. For Erik, we see him reliving his childhood trauma, finding a dead father, being complete alone. In the ancestral plane, he visits his childhood apartment, it is not free like T’Challa’s. N’Jobu’s spirit is enclosed in that apartment where he died. Erik finding everything about Wakanda from his father’s diary.
Erik has the half conversation with his father in his child form. His father wonders if he feels sad or will shed tears for him. Through this child’s answer he stricken with regret that she should have gone back home and things would have been different. His father regrets that his actions have caused them both left abandoned. Both in T’Challa’s plane and Erik’s… one of the parent and child is wrong in the whole hearted vulnerable conversation. In T’Challa’s, his father tells him to be great he must become bad. At least thats where the conversation ended and in Erik’s plane, Erik is the blindly driven with vengeance be it because of what he faced or be it because of what his father was doing. Both the fathers fail to do a basic job of being a father to their son, T’Chaka lets him down by the choices he made and Erik’s by choosing murder, crime and chaos to be initiative for him to learn. When T’Challa comes back he is happy, when Killmonger comes back he is filled with aggression, rage and anxiety. I would say it looks like a massive panic attack.
Panther family along with Ross go to M’baku. His mother contemplating whether to give the herb to M’baku as the Jabari clan are like those isolated relatives whom we never visit or understand. Because of Jabari’s outer aura they seem antagonising.
I think this is the most favourite scene of mine. The Jabari tribe’s, M’baku holding Wakandan life ticket around. M’baku is very funny. They all bark at Ross when he speaks, they do this in an intimidating way. This bizarre power play is very amusing but what is more amusing that rather than drinking the herb himself he lets them know that their beloved King is alive. And T’Challa come back to life with Black Panther’s powers.
Why does this scene seem so important? Besides the unending humour and fact check quality M’baku has, he is less than a good warrior. He could have taken the herb but chooses to respect the tradition and their ancestral beliefs to deciding who is worthy to become the King. Mother, sister and beloved perform the ritual and bury T’Challa after giving him the herb.
Previously it was night and now the plane looks like it’s almost dawn. I guess it represents the dawn for T’Challa as he confronts his father on his past actions. His father telling him to accept death and leave everything behind. T’Challa filled with rage now showers his piece of mind on every ancestor.
He tells them that he would not abandon his people like his father did. He not only is expressing his anger but also taking accountability for their actions. He sees Killmonger as the wronged cousin, not a killer but a wronged child. The grown Killmonger who sits on the throne, he knows that Killmongers altogether attributes will end Wakanda and many lives. He comes back to life and asks M’baku to lend his hand in saving the destruction which is on it’s way.
Every other tribe is used by Killmonger so it is understandable that T’Challa asks Jabari tribe to help them as part of Wakanda. M’baku making a point that Jabari tribe was never considered anything and suddenly T’Challa makes them part of it. T’Challa takes responsibility right then and there saying that he can’t speak for past kings and he presses on to handling the current situation.
We know how this ends.
What can a country full of farmers offer the world?
Black Panther vaguely but not so subtly explain that Africans are treated with oppression and mistreated globally. It cannot be further away from truth. Wakanda and T’Challa in the role of Black Panther is a sign of hope that world should change it’s perception.
People have stereotypical believes about every nation. Just like India is not just about slum dog millionaire. Black Panther takes conventional materials like spears and other objects used primitively and enhance them 10 folds up putting everything else to shame. Erik’s plan of world domination stems from his father’s belief’s. He is a child so he doesn’t really know what is right and wrong. When he is injured by his own actions and T’Challa shows him the scenic view which Erik’s father spoke of, in his last few moments he shed that all this happened because he lived in agony.
T’Challa is very much privileged, protected, given all the resources and well trained. He is loved. Erik found his father dead, it is evident that he didn’t live like T’Challa, his life was loveless and without any security. Erik’s ambitions are flawed to begin with his reasoning and ways are clouded too. The topic isn’t really wrong, people suffer and they do require help.
This also reminds me of Falcon and winter solider, because Sam had to watch Karli, another person who suffers picking extremes to make a that not everyone is privileged and life is hard for those. It is very hard. T’Challa does ridicule the idea when Nakia talks about the same but in an intelligent way he starts to understand what needs to be done.
T’Challa creates an outreach program in the same neighbourhood where N’Jobu was killed. If you look at Sam’s role as Falcon, one would think that government pays these heroes hefty amount for put their lives at stake but no!!!… we realise that not everyone is privileged. And people who do so, putting all in because they want to, you see them as a completely different individual.
T’Challa has the grit and understanding that world has crimes and criminal, poverty and a lot of problems but he does lend his hand to helping those in pain or danger. He doesn’t hide behind the invisible walls of Wakanda. The reason why he doesn’t tell the world about Vibranium is because he knows that the world can misuse the technology. It is safe because he and Shuri aren’t misusing the Vibranium. If you take example for power of Vibranium , Captain’s shield is made out of it. Black Panthers suit as well as whole of Wakanda is made from it.
It is wonderful that marvel uses tiny details into making us grasp what is wrong in the world and what can be done. UN was made to create a better place for the world, to eradicate problems many countries face.
Many developing countries are deemed small or powerless by developed countries because of their outward notion. If you go online you can check that the crimes in that make India famous, same crimes and same problems are present world wide. Take homelessness for an example, even a developed country like America has massive amount of people who suffer from that. Women’s safety is a concern for every country and yet India is put on the “worst radar”. Yes these problems exist and they are terrible, if only people would help reduce the problem rather than point out that it exists.
Worst stereotype about India can be seen in American movies, that people think Indian food gives everyone diarrhoea because of the level of spice in it. So many english movies ridicule Indians by showing characters with broken english or trying to make the characters english sound like the South Indian. We have different accents and different cuisines, we love spice. Deal with it, if you love your food bland, we can’t help but feel sorry. It’s like we are Gordan Ramsey the way he loves meat. We love spice.
Wakanda makes a point that a nation created by Solidarity is very much needed. Right now world faces with enormous crisis. Not revolving around just one nation, we suffer from hunger, depleting resources, unnecessary hatred, violent crimes, mental health issues, inequality, racism, climate change, all sorts of crimes, poverty, unnecessary increase in non biodegradable materials, dump-yards being burnt… and also increase in toxicity, too much of garbage filling up landfills and less forests or shall I say burned down forests and increased endangered habitat for animals, a pandemic with a lot of nations living in violent times even now when there is a virus which took over the world, killing a lot of people. Everyone has become selfish rather than opening their eyes towards what needs to be done by everyone of us.
World has endless problems, can’t we contribute to making lives better?
Wakanda Forever term stands for solidarity, we all together can create a better place for everyone, live in harmony but we would require mass contribution. Start small, he stands like a symbol giving us an understanding that we too can choose what is right thing to do and not get clouded by irrational decisions.
I think I will write a separate blog to highlight what needs to change within ourselves. These changes aren’t impossible.
Helping each other out we can strive towards a better future. Where Ice doesn’t melt and animals don’t suffer…
I hope to draw a tribute to Chadwick Boseman. Hope you be reborn again.
Thank you for reading.