WASHINGTON - Filmmaker Ryan Coogler has created a contemporary African superhero in a dazzling $200 million film that pays homage to African culture.
His film Black Panther, based on the Marvel comic, is about a king of a technologically advanced African country that has never been colonized.
The superhero's superb fighting skills are enhanced by his mystical powers and unique Black Panther suit, crafted with Vibranium, the earth's strongest metal.
The story is set in a fictional African nation that hides a big secret: It is built on Vibranium and has the technology and power no other nation has ever seen.
After his father is killed, T'Challah, played by Chadwick Boseman, becomes the new king and assumes the powers of the Black Panther.
"What makes the Black Panther, the Black Panther?" Coogler says. "You got the political responsibility, you got the suit, the claws, you got the strength. We got the fact that he is African. That is the thing that makes him unique.”
The film highlights the risks and benefits of an advanced country's political isolationism. Should Wakanda share its power and technology with the rest of the world? Or hide and protect its resources from outsiders?
Black Panther’s storyline and black superhero have captivated the imagination of audiences worldwide, says Lupita Nyong'o.
She plays Nakia, a Wakandan spy and T'Challah's love interest.
"We have here a Marvel universe that is unapologetically black. And to see us occupy an African country with kings and queens and warriors, and it's so inspiring. An aspirational nation that is rejuvenating to the human spirit,” she says.
In a VOA interview, Black Panther producer Nate Moore said everyone on the film wanted to create a movie that showcased a proud, beautiful and intelligent black culture.
"Typically in cinema, when you see Africa, it tends to be stories about poverty, and stories about resources being stripped. Here's a country that in our world is the most technologically advanced in the world. That's a great example to show to kids,” Moore says.
Colorful garments, created by Oscar-nominated costume designer Ruth Carter, reflect African tradition and empower its characters, she says, especially the women.
"They are actual fighters, they are generals, they have weaponry. They have to wear armor, but then we did it in a beautiful way. So, the colors are enhanced, the armor looks like jewelry. Their harness is, like, straps the body in a certain way. They pay homage to their history.”
Moore says the actors and the film's creators paid attention to every detail.
"We went to great lengths and had a lot of cultural advisers, and a lot of our cast is from Africa," Moore says. "All of our cast members wanted to sound African. And again, at the same time, I think for African American audiences there is a lot to pull from. And hopefully, there is some inspiration again learning about the roots where African Americans came from.”
At T.C. Williams, a racially diverse high school in Alexandria, Virginia, students like Jeincy Paniagua are excited about the film.
"I feel like it gives the message to younger children or just our society in general that no one is born racist. And with this, you're sort of teaching them not to be,” she says.
Her classmate Charlotte Despard observes, "I think it's super important for not only young women but young black girls, and black individuals to see this kind of representation in the media and I think it will give them a really big sense of empowerment.”
"But also show who we are as people," says Krishuana Andrews. "We are superheroes in our own way, and that has been proven through marches, black protests that we are not just a minority, but we are part of the majority.”
Whether it's due to Black Panther's messages about black pride or women's empowerment, this highly anticipated film is also set to break the box office record in the superhero movie universe.