A while back, Avi Arad stated “they” (I’m assuming Marvel Studios) had a “great take” on a Black Panther film, and follows this up with referring to the film thusly: “It’s like black Indiana Jones.” Really? A monarch of one the most technologically advanced societies in the world, not to mention that this society is in Africa — just how in the jolly green fuck can you relate this to Indiana Jones?

T’Challa is a king, a diplomat, a scientist, an athlete, a super hero… He makes Indiana Jones’ racist, plundering adventures obsolete. To make a great Panther he has to be regal and own his arrogance — not use his arrogance as a front for insecurities, a la Tony Stark. He doesn’t fail up like Indiana Jones. He strategizes and then takes chances. If T’Challa were in Raiders of the Lost Ark he would have just let the Nazis open the Ark and watched them all melt. He wouldn’t have engaged in all that unnecessary adventuring. The Black Panther is a character unto himself. He needs to be afforded the same care and consideration of the other Marvel-verse heroes and their various “phase” films.

We need to see the fights. Please, no Bourne shaky-cam and quick edits. The Panther is a fighter and should be portrayed as such — but his fighting style shouldn’t be the same spin-kick, roundhouse, jump-kick we’ve all seen ad nauseum. Just as Captain America has a unique fighting style, so should The Panther. Whether it is a modified version of Capoeira, or Ta-Merrian, or modified nGolo, or what have you, it needs to be presented in full, on the screen. And the shit has to be African, or African derived.

Speaking of Africa. Wakanda is in Africa. Despite its tech-advantage, it is an African nation. This means that English might not be the language we hear when we visit Wakanda. I’d suggest Chichewa as the “Wakandan language.” And since Africa has to be a primary focus of the film, you have to deal with: poaching, exploitation, economic disparity, inter/intra-tribal conflict, Western education versus African (Wakandan) pride — hell, cover two and I’ll be happy. Do not turn this shit into Coming to America, or do this.

Cast an athletic, charismatic, unknown. He has to be a badass in the tribe, the boardroom, and in battle. But he also has to convey: “I have PhDs in various subjects; I’m smarter than a generation of your family, and I am the sexiest motherfucker you’ve ever seen.” The actor has to be able to embody all of that, and I have yet to see an established actor who can. Oh yeah, he doesn’t need to be English or American. Ummm… how about going to Africa to scout talent? We should see Tony Stark as the over-privileged man-child he is. We need to see how money, genius, and heroism play out differently between the two men. We also need to see them in collaboration. Steel sharpens steel.

It has to be a (good) trilogy: The Black Panther; The Black Panther: Fall of Wakanda; The Black Panther: King War. In the first film, he is at his prime; he stumbles and falls in the second film, and he is a full-on badass in the third film. Klaw should be a primary villain, but a new villain should be introduced as well. Someone we haven’t seen before. Villains make the hero. But no Man-Ape. He’s too ridiculous. He and Captain America have to fight. They have to. Why? Because the idea of an agent of American imperialism going to Africa to start shit and gets his ass handed to him? Cinematic gold. And, yes. Panther would whoop Cap.

Here it is.

If there is a love interest, she has to be his equal or better. It would be great if it was Storm (she has NEVER been portrayed correctly on screen), but it could be anyone from his past. We all know that the Black Widow wants some… but his love interest should be a woman of color. In film (and TV) interracial relationships are used as a way for the creators to distance themselves from being accused of bigotry: ‘See! It is an interracial relationship.’ I’m in no way against interracial relationships as me, my wife, and my child are all products of one, but having two kick ass characters of color in a healthy romantic relationship, on screen? Best. Shit. In. Life.

Do not put all that gold crap on his uniform. His uniform should hint at his connection with the Panther spirit, so it should have some tribal flourishes. But it is also functional and real world. No vibranium boots where he can jump off a three-story building and land without breaking his legs, not to mention land silently. His uniform is as much a symbol as it is a piece of combat gear. One again, none of that ridiculous gold. He’s supposed to be stealthy and ready to fight, not Run-DMC.

Care about the film. Don’t pull a Blade: Trinity and have the anti-charismatic white kids take over. Care enough about the character to give him his own  trilogy (like I said, it needs to be a trilogy), and do not have him abdicate screen time to what amounts to Scooby-Doo and Mystery, Incorporated.

On another note, let us not forget that it was Wesley Snipe’s success with portraying Blade that allowed the first X film to get made when it did. Blade 1 and 2 are proof that a black male lead can carry a film and have it be successful. I know some white dudes were shook by having a tough and confident black superhero on screen (hence why Blade was made into a eunuch. He couldn’t be kick-ass and be sexual. White dude’s heads would have exploded). But the Black Panther I want to see has a three-dimensional life — including romance. He deserves it. We deserve it.

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12 thoughts on “How to Not Screw Up a Black Panther Film

  1. A Black Indiana Jones? Sounds like they’re looking at the awful Jack Kirby run on the character in the ’70s. That’s a terrible idea. Nothing written by Kirby should ever be looked at as an inspiration for anything, because Jack Kirby was one of the worst writers in the history of comics.

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  2. they gonna screw it up because the media is too busy pushing their agenda to allow a black male character to look THAT good and honorable. Their doing too much damage to the black male persona trying to re-define it to let BP be what he should. Watch and watch how they use all the other black characters these days.

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  3. “And since Africa has to be a primary focus of the film, you have to deal with: poaching, exploitation, economic disparity, inter/intra-tribal conflict, Western education versus African (Wakandan) pride — hell, cover two and I’ll be happy. Do not turn this shit into Coming to America, or do this.”

    No.

    Wakanda is isolationist nation, none of that crap matters to it. It is African, but a whole different ballgame. And they embrace western education just fine as T’Challa studied abroad in Europe and America.

    And why wouldn’t there a Coming to America vibe? You don’t actually think most of the movie would be in Africa, did you? Nope. Just like Thor had far more Earth screen-time than Asgard. It would conclude back in Wakanda.

    Don’t tell Marvel how to make movies, just don’t.

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    1. Wakanda isn’t isolationist, it is unconquered. There is a difference. If Marvel can invest in the travesties named Thor and Thor: The Dark World–letting us Marvel at Asgard’s pseudo-glory–they can invest the time and energy in world building Wakanda. If you’ve read Panther, you will see the themes that I wrote about in the comics: See Hudlin’s and Priest’s runs.

      The “Coming to America” reference was the 1988 Eddie Murphy film. I’m fairly sick of seeing whiteness so foregrounded. And I really don’t want a whitewashed Black Panther.

      Don’t tell me what I can or cannot do. Just don’t.

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  4. Agreed with most of the list, but I still don’t get the obsession with T’Challa’s woman being black — if he needs a black love interest, I’d prefer a Wakandan one. (Then again, I never cared for Thor being with Jane unless he was Don Blake.)

    Though at this point, based on Elizabeth Olson and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s fake Eastern European stints as Wanda and Pietro, I entirely expect them to speak English the entire film in horrible racist attempts at accents.

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  5. Really good article and insights. I didn’t read much of the Black Panther books when I was a kid, so my familarrity with him as a hero is not as sharp as I’d like, but from what I do remember. I think you’re right about everything you said. And I think he should have a black love interest. For no other reason, than the only time you see it is on BET or in a Tyler Perry movie where all of the main characters are black. I also woiuld love to see Tony Stark on screen with someone who is his equal intellectually AND financially.

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