9:58pm PT by Lee Hyo-won
'Black Panther' Team Kicks Off Global Press Tour in South Korea: "Not Just a Popcorn Movie"
The stars of Black Panther kicked off the movie's international tour this week in South Korea, where key action scenes were shot, and were eager to discuss the political aspects of Marvel's most diverse franchise.
"My own personal culture and heritage is something I've always appreciated since I was very young and I've always loved superhero comic books and movies. So it's a blessing to be able to merge these two ideas into one project. It was really surreal to be a part of this process," director Ryan Coogler told reporters during the Asia junket held Monday in Seoul. The filmmaker added how he was in his northern California hometown with his wife when he received the directing job offer from Marvel, and the first thing he did was visit the comic book store where he first came across the original Black Panther books as a kid.
Chadwick Boseman, who plays the lead role of the shadowy superhero as well as T'Challa, the young ruler of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, also expressed his excitement of being part of the franchise. "I never said yes to any role without reading the script, without knowing the director," he said about agreeing to take part in the project while attending a red-carpet event in Switzerland.
The actor described the film as a "revolutionary" superhero film both in terms of the story itself and also in the way it is perceived in the real word, about the notion of Africa being the setting for a technologically advanced country like Wakanda.
One Korean reporter commented that the film sheds light on African-American history, with Black Panther/T'Challa being similar to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Erik Killmonger (the supervillain posing a threat to Wakanda's authorities) to Malcolm X.
"I understand [this observation] from an emotional standpoint and in terms of [the characters'] demeanor standpoint but not in terms of philosophy," said Boseman, noting a key difference. "Wakanda didn't have to deal with colonialism and slavery because of its isolationism, whereas Dr. King and Malcom X had to deal with these issues. [Black Panther and Erik Killmonger's] reality is not at all dictated by European white society. These two characters exist in their own mythology. Also, Malcolm X was never as militant, as ruthless as Erik Killmonger."
Michael B. Jordan, who appears as the vengeful Erik Killmonger, offered his view of his character. "Erik grew up in a systematic depression, he had a lot of things taken away," he said, explaining how there are two sides of a conversation and the villain "was willing to go through any lengths to make his point of view heard."
Boseman emphasized how "the most important thing about this movie is the debate it will be starting and the discussion it will be starting." "It's not just a popcorn movie for people to enjoy," he said.
In addition to featuring a diverse cast, Black Panther has been noted for featuring a strong female lead.
Lupita Nyong'o, who appears as the warrior Nakia, said her character was not a typical heroine. "[She] is a war dog, which means that she is an undercover spy for Wakanda. She goes out into the world to places like Korea," said the Oscar-winning actress. "She has a special relationship with T'Challa and what I love about that relationship is that it's not your average, you know, sweetheart story [with a] damsel in distress. They have a history but she is a reliable ear for him," she said.
Meanwhile, Boseman mentioned how excited he was about his Korean nickname, "Busan Panther," coined by local media and fans after key action scenes in the film were shot in the South Korean port city of Busan. The production had created much hype as shooting took place in several landmarks in the city known for hosting Asia's largest cinema event, the Busan International Film Festival.
The first international red-carpet premiere for Black Panther is being held in Seoul, after which it will open in Korean theaters Feb. 14 and the rest of the worldFeb. 16.