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Revisiting Black Panther: The Ancestral Plane

There have been beautiful tributes to the great Chadwick Boseman’s life over the course of the past few weeks. The salutes to a wonderful actor and an even better man draw attention to one of Boseman’s greatest cinematic achievements, Black Panther. In appreciation of this movie, let’s take a look at three scenes that show why the film is one of the best superhero films of all time. The waterfall fights, Erik Killmonger’s identity reveal, and his subsequent death are some of the most powerful scenes in the movie. Yet, the thematic significance and visual awe of the ancestral plane scenes cast a spotlight on how complex the film truly is.

Ancestral Plane: T’challa Part I

In Captain America: Civil War, we see the death of King T’Chaka in front of his son T’Challa. For the rest of the movie, T’Challa is stubbornly vengeful to get back at his father’s murderer. While he overcomes this grudge by the movie’s end, Black Panther shows that T’Challa is still struggling to move on from this event. That is the first image we see when T’Challa takes the heart-shaped herb: the bomb explosion in Vienna.

After this vision, T’Challa wakes up in a savannah under a dark, purplish sky. The new king approaches a tree of black panthers, one of which transforms into T’Chaka. Seeing his father, to whom he never had the chance to say goodbye, T’Challa immediately reveals his emotional struggle. “I am not ready to be without you.”

T’Chaka’s response is striking and reflects one of the most consequential themes of the movie. “A man who has not prepared his children for his own death has failed as a father.” T’Challa exits the ancestral plane, happy and at peace about his father. No longer seeking vengeance and confident in his father’s guidance, T’Challa is ready to rule.

Ancestral Plane: Killmonger

Killmonger’s ancestral vision shows how a lack of guidance growing up and desire for vengeance clouds his judgment.  Similar to T’Challa, the first image of Killmonger’s ancestral plane that we see is the death of his father. The vision shows a young Killmonger holding and rocking his dead father as T’Challa did in Civil War.

The scene then shifts to the inside of an Oakland apartment with the sky of the ancestral plane above. This is Killmonger’s home. He is the son of both Prince N’Jobu and an American woman. Because of his mother’s origin, Killmonger’s father never brings his son to Wakanda.

Walking around his own apartment, Killmonger opens up an empty cabinet, finding some of his father’s items from his homeland. We then see Erik as a child talking to his father. Unlike, T’Challa’s scene with T’Chaka, the conversation between Killmonger and N’Jobu seems like a mixture of the past and present. And that’s the point of the scene. Killmonger is so broken from the past that it clouds his vision of the present and future.

Unable to feel any level of happiness by seeing his father shows Killmonger’s emotional detachment. This mindset was created by T’Chaka’s killing of N’Jobu and the abandonment of his nephew. These actions severe all of Erik’s ties to Wakanda. As a result, Killmonger is full of resentment his whole life.

There is no turning back in Killmonger’s mind, and Wakanda will never accept him as one of their own. Instead, both Erik and his father, “are both abandoned” in their Oakland apartment in the ancestral plane. N’Jobu isn’t even happy that his son is now the king and will try to execute his vision of weaponizing the black community. He is instead full of sorrow for what his son has become.

Ancestral Plane: T’Challa Part II

T’Challa’s journey back to the ancestral plane shows an evolution of his view on both Wakanda and his ancestors. Unlike Killmonger, T’Challa has guidance throughout his life in preparation for his kingship. But, until he hears about the story of Killmonger, better known as N’Jadaka, T’Challa realizes that he cannot be solely reliant on this guidance.

Unconscious and frozen after his waterfall fight with Killmonger, T’Challa receives the heart-shaped herb. The sky in the ancestral plane is bright and T’Challa sees not only his father, but other ancestors walking towards him. T’Chaka tells his son, “the time has come for you to come and be reunited with me.” But T’Challa refuses.

This is the first time we see any push-back from our main protagonist towards the ways of his ancestors. No longer does he approve of Wakanda’s isolationist politics. T’Challa now understands that he cannot follow his father’s advice blindly. While grateful for his father’s guidance, T’Challa realizes that Wakanda, “let the fear of our discovery stop us from doing what is right.” He refuses to die and vows to confront the fallout from his father’s sins.

T’Challa utilizes both of his ancestral visions as spiritual revelations, while Killmonger only further plunges into his resentment over N’Jobu’s death. Without any guidance growing up, the tragic antagonist cannot escape his sorrow and hatred. While the ancestral plane serves as a moment in which the new king can look towards the future, Killmonger remains stuck in the past.

Conclusion

While both Killmonger and T’Challa are from the same family, the two could not be more different in their goals. This, of course, affects their relationship and Killmonger resents T’Challa as a symbol of the people who abandoned him.

But for all the flaws in the T’Challa-Killmonger dynamic, the same cannot be said about the relationship between Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan. Friends for over 15 years, Boseman was always a “big brother” to the younger Jordan. And like all of us, Jordan is now finding out about how much of a hero Boseman really was.

Fighting of a terrible disease, while still performing as an actor is one thing. However, Boseman went above and beyond during this time with his humanitarian work. Boseman’s acts of kindness included raising funds and awareness for children’s charities through the Marvel: The Universe Unites campaign, giving 4.2 million dollars in personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals in African American communities to help fight off COVID-19 (to honor Jackie Robinson day), as well as frequently visiting children in the hospitals fighting off diseases similar to his.

There is so much more that Boseman did that isn’t mentioned in this article but it’s fair to sum up all of this man’s actions as the work of a real superhero.

How are you coping and honouring Chadwick Boseman’s legacy? Feel free to reach out to us in the comment section below or on Twitter.

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Dylan FIne

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