Go See Blank Panther
I have to start this off by saying Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) escaped the sunken place and ran straight to Africa. There are several important black superhero movies that preceded Black Panther. 1993 saw Robert Townsend release “The Meteor Man”. In 1994 Damon Wayans starred as “Blankman”. Both featured all star, all black casts. The 1998 movie, Blade, led by Wesley Snipes as the titular character, showed Hollywood that audiences of all types will come to see a superhero movie led by an African American. Blade, Meteor Man, Blankman, Spawn and countless others paved the way for Black Panther. My black card would be revoked if I didn’t mention these movies.
Black Panther lives up to every expectation, and raises a serious question. Do we not appreciate Chadwick Boseman enough? In the past five years he has played Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and now T’Challa aka the Black Panther. It kind of seems like Hollywood thinks all black men of note look like Boseman. Chadwick perfectly embodies T’Challa and his struggle of becoming king. Chadwick makes you love T’Challa not only cause he’s the hero, but because of the genuine person that he is. In only a movie and half Chadwick has been able to show the character development and arc of T’Challa that has taken Ironman, Steve Rogers, and Loki countless movies to accomplish in the same universe.
The kingdom of Wakanda is a fictional African country that is far more advanced than the rest of the Marvel Universe. Wakanda quickly becomes a central character of its own.The movie begins with a stylized summary of where it’s been and where it’s going. The movie encapsulates everything I imagined Wakanda to be as a young child reading the comics, and still evokes more wonder. We have always been told that Africa is this hopeless, desolate place —a stain on the world even— but this movie shows Africa as full of beauty, intelligence, and tradition, and abundant with different types of people and cultures. Wakanda is a fictional place that draws inspiration from several real African cultures, coming together in a cohesive, believable depiction.
While the central focus is on Black Panther, side characters remain multi-dimensional. Zuri’s (Forrest Whitaker) impact on the plot is felt throughout the whole movie. If I had to give an Oscar for this movie, it would go to Forrest Whitaker’s eye; it played a working eye to perfection. In many superhero movies, women are secondary characters. One of the strengths of this film is its integral female roles. Typical tropes of women in superhero films are turned on their heads when Nikia (Lupita N’yongo) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) prioritize their personal goals over their love interests. The Dora Milaje are a group of women who are the country’s fiercest warriors, royal bodyguards, and also unafraid to challenge the king. Shuri (Letitia Wright) shines out above all others. She is not only the smartest woman in the Marvel universe; she is its smartest person. All of these characters are important factors in moving the story forward, not just placeholders.
The undeniable star of the film is Michael B Jordan as Erik Killmonger. Even as the villian, he makes sympathizing with him, and his plight, inevitable. As I look back at the movie, Killmonger does absolutely nothing wrong… except ruthlessly kill people. What he was attempting to do was actually noble, but his approach is what makes him the villain. Michael B. Jordan’s performance was so great that it leads to the question ‘Is he the Denzel Washington of our generation?’
The underlying message of Black Panther ensures its place in history. Hats off to Marvel for not running away from racial topics, but instead addressing them in a clever, digestible way. The movie, for me, embodies everything I used to read in the comics as a kid, and is a great depiction of the layers of Blackness to the world. Every black entertainer in the world is in this movie. Hollywood asks in its best Tyrese voice,
“What more do you want from me?”
More opportunities like Black Panther, where every process of the movie is touched by black hands; from directors, writers, producers, to crew is a start.
I said all these great things about Black Panther so what are the weaknesses? Just like Prince, there are no weaknesses. If I had to give one, it would be that the film was just too short. I got sucked into this world and didn’t want to leave. Don’t just take my word do yourself a favor and go and see it.