Remembering Chadwick Boseman The Real Black Panther
Boseman’s transformation into Black Panther came even as he faced cancer and the bouts of chemotherapy and surgery that came along with it.
Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther
There aren’t many quiet moments in the action-packed Marvel movie Black Panther. But with good acting, they often speak louder than every death-defying fight sequence combined. In one scene, T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, is meeting his father as he assumes his rightful role as King of Wakanda. He tells his father that he is not ready to be without him. “I want to be a great king Baba. Just like you.” The response from his father isn’t necessarily what he wants to concentrate to, we’ll surmise from T’Challa’s expression. “You’re a good man, with a good heart. And it’s hard for an honest man to be king.”
The 2018 superhero movie,
directed by Ryan Coogler, is significant for more reasons than one. It brought an almost entirely Black cast to the screen in a major blockbuster, as part of the massively popular Marvel Comics Universe. It grossed more than $1.3 billion around the world, including Rs 38 crore in India. It was the first superhero movie to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. And now, another bullet point can be added to its massive cultural footprint — it brought us, Boseman, as King T’Challa, a lasting memory of a great actor for fans of all ages.
43, died on Friday in Los Angeles after battling colon cancer that he was diagnosed within 2016. His wife and family were reportedly by his side when he died. The news was released in a statement, which noted that “It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”
which also stars Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, and Daniel Kaluuya, follows the story of T’Challa, the king of a fictional African nation of Wakanda, under threat from outside forces looking to co-opt the powerful metal vibranium for weapons of war. Though T’Challa had been seen in other Marvel movies at that point, including Captain America: Civil War, this was the first time that moviegoers could watch Black Panther’s story unfold on screen. Fans, particularly those from Black communities, could finally see not just a superhero that looked like them, but the young whip-smart Shuri (Letitia) and the brave forces of Nakia and Okoye (Lupita and Danai) portrayed on screen.
flaw as a king perhaps came from his pride for the Wakandan nation, secluded from conflict, strife, and pain in the world outside. Nakia tries to convince T’Challa to open their secret borders to those who are struggling. T’Challa, however, fears the reverberations it would have on their peaceful way of life, not unlike present-day political ideologies that see open doors as an invitation to threat. As he grapples with his identity as a king, T’Challa must also reckon with the former king’s — his father’s — past actions that caused the death of his uncle. Boseman in the role must hold the weight on his shoulders as he carries the words of his father, “It’s hard for a good man to be king.” Yet candor and humor also suffuse the role, as he banters with Shuri or finds love with Nakia.
It’s also a film that doesn’t shy away from Black history. Looking at the vibranium ax at a museum that he’s about to steal, Killmonger asks his white guide whether her ancestors paid a fair price for it, or if they stole it, like so many valuable artifacts that were pilfered by the British during their colonial rule. Later in the film, when he is near death, he recalls his African ancestors brought to the colonies on slave ships. He tells T’Challa, “Just bury me within the ocean, like our ancestors who jumped from the ship. ‘Cause they knew death was better than bondage.”
A few facts
about Boseman have and will be repeated over the weekend, as Marvel fans reckon with the loss of a superhero. For one, his transformation into imposing hero Black Panther — both in the 2018 films and several others in the Marvel universe, including Avengers: Endgame – came even as he faced the disease and the bouts of chemotherapy and surgery that came along with it. Watching T’Challa in a brutal clash against his arch-nemesis Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens (played by Michael B Jordan), or standing tall, ready to face Thanos in the final battle of the series, you can’t help but wonder at his strength that didn’t come from any superpower.
Chadwick Boseman Black Panther,
the 18th film in the MCU, will be a fan favorite for years to come. It had people around the world, ones who hadn’t even previously been fans of the Marvel Universe, shouting “Wakanda Forever!” to each other, and a new perspective on what the largely white superhero industry could look like in the future. Though the entire cast had been expected to return for the sequel to the film, a release date for which was announced as May 8, 2022, it remains unclear how Disney and Marvel Studios will proceed with production after the death of Boseman.
Despite the words of his father, it feels safe to say that T’Challa was both a good man and a good king. The film brought Black pride to the screen, and a story wove Black history into its telling. Though we will not be able to see Boseman continue his journey in the role, fans will remember that he brought a new face, a new voice and a new kind of superhero to the movie theatre, hopefully opening doors to many, many more.
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