Ryan Coogler's Black Panther is a beautiful, action-filled comic book blockbuster, but not to be ignored is the surprising depth of its socio-political themes. The central nation of Wakanda is unlike any nation on Earth -- incredibly advanced thanks to its unique Vibranium mines -- but the fact that it's shut off from the rest of the world creates a fascinating conflict: do the immense resources manifest a responsibility for the country to help people beyond their borders, or does the horrible history of colonization and slavery in Africa justify their choice to stay hidden? It's the issue that ultimately drives the entire film -- so it may not surprise you to learn that the actors playing it out on screen have some strong opinions on the subject.
Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with the cast of Black Panther during the film's Los Angeles press day, and my first question in every interview was exactly the same: if you were a Wakandan citizen knowing what you do about the rest of the world, how would you feel about the country's border policy? The responses I got were impressively diverse, and it was Lupita Nyong'o -- who plays Nakia in the Marvel film -- who pointed out the reason why: because I was hardly the first person to bring up the topic. Said the Oscar-winning actress,
One very important advocate for keeping the borders of Wakanda secure in Black Panther is T'Challa himself -- and as it turns out, Chadwick Boseman shares the perspective. While most of the actors I talked to weighed both sides of the challenging argument in their responses, the star of the film made a straight argument for why the African nation is better off in isolation. According to Boseman, history and the incredible dangers of the outside world both contribute to the argument for staying hidden, but also worthy of consideration is the geography of Wakanda:
The nation of Wakanda was founded on top of the aforementioned mine full of Vibranium, which found its way to Earth courtesy of a meteorite crashing down from space. Because of this, the country is naturally concealed within a crater -- which Chadwick Boseman seems to interpret as a kind of sign. If Wakanda were meant to interact with the rest of the world, it wouldn't be surrounded by natural walls.
Danai Gurira, however, disagrees. While her character in the film, Okoye, is extremely loyal to the classic traditions of Wakanda, she personally recognizes that Wakanda's relationship with the rest of the world doesn't entirely coalesce with where we are in modernity, and sees the border policy as archaic. Said Gurira,
You can watch all of the stars of Black Panther -- including Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Winston Duke and Daniel Kaluuya discuss the controversial Wakanda border debate in the special video we've cut together below!
I loved talking with the Black Panther cast about their thoughts on Wakandan border policy -- but it was only one of many things we talked about during the interviews. Stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more stories, and check out the film in theaters on February 16th!
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Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.