Black Panther: Marvel’s Latest Feature is a Win for me!
I have never felt the way I feel right now after coming out of a film before.
Black Panther was so much more than I expected it would be. As a Black woman who has loved film her entire life, I know how much representation matters and I’ve never seen a movie on the scale of Black Panther. I knew going in that the film is a Marvel Studios film, meaning it’s a Disney film as well. There are expectations that come with that. But in my head, no matter the hype, I figured they would never give us the same love and attention they give to heroes like Captain America.
And I was right. They didn’t give us the same affection as Captain America. Instead, they gave us so much more than that.
I have never seen a movie with so many black people in leading roles, playing such complex and unique characters. And on top of that, there are so many strong and independent black women in a world where they themselves earn great power and respect. And it all happens in the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, a place where black people are not only rising, but excelling at everything they are exposed to.
Black Panther is a depiction of black excellence exemplified, and to be crafted by a black director (Ryan Coogler) and feature the talents of a black costume designer (Ruth E. Carter), black hair stylists (Camille Friend), as well as black writers (the duo: Coogler and Joe Robert Cole), all of whom are given their own right to tell their tale… I was struck by the end of the movie.
Black Panther is an incredible movie that completely lives up to and even exceeds the hype that has been surrounding it. Ryan Coogler’s direction is caring and meticulous and what he is able to adapt from the original Marvel comics and bring to the screen is so marvelous and eye-pleasing. Coolger and his crew are able to fill Black Panther with cultural dialogue, that typical Marvel superhero grandeur, and tons of humor.
But it’s the characters of Black Panther that make the film work. We have Chadwick Boseman playing the new king T’challa, trying to find his footing in a role he was entrusted after the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War. There’s Shuri, T’Challa’s brilliant, funny, tech genius, scene-stealing baby sister played by Letitia Wright. And in a break from the usual Marvel mold, the bag guy is out of this world – Michael B. Jordan‘s Killmonger is a standout player.
In order to talk about Jordan’s character and performance (and so much more), I would have to spoil the film for you. And that is a definite no-no. So just trust me when I say that each actor and each character they play is not the typical one-note black character you are used to seeing in a blockbuster film. They are all fully fleshed out and appeared vibrantly on the screen, each with their own motif and agency.
The fight scenes are, as you’d expect, excellent. They are fast-paced, stunningly choreographed, and has some of the most gripping moments I’ve seen in a Marvel movie. When the Dora Milaje, T’Challa’s all-female platoon of female bodyguards, stepped up on screen and wielded their spears, I couldn’t help but break into a grin. They steal the show of every battle and the movie doesn’t shy away from their strength and fierceness.
But what’s even more important than the action is the nation of Wakanda itself. The set design is colorful and vibrant, a nation that is opulent and rich in colors and textures. Each space had a defined feel and emotion to it. Shuri’s lab is full of excitement, curious, and bright – just like the character herself. The throne room is sparse, offering a view of the golden city, showing the focus and seriousness of the space. When you are seeing the movie, you are fully immersed in its world.
I was, and still am, an emotional pile of feelings after seeing this movie. It’s going to take a few more viewings to sort myself out, but one thing I do know is that Black Panther is definitely an achievement, especially if you are black. I know some people will take that last statement as some kind of weird jab, but all black people should be able to see themselves on this scale. To watch a big-budget blockbuster superhero film with a predominantly black cast is incredibly jarring, and made me so proud. I want everyone who looks like me to feel the joy of seeing black people triumph in a movie instead of the endless suffering cinema doles out when telling stories about us.
Black Panther isn’t a feature in which you’ll witness broken black bodies, a story of enduring pain and survival. It’s a film where we see a diverse group of black people thrive, fight, and win. I know my emotions are high at the moment, but this is one of the greatest stories Marvel has ever told so far.