There are movies that are entertaining. There are movies that are brilliant. Then there are movies that are Revolutionary. Revolutionary in the sense that they can be all of these things, plus raise the bar as far as what we could and should expect a film to inspire and evoke from us as viewers. That being a level of complexity and forward thinking that has the ability to change the way we think, operate, see ourselves and see each other in the world. Black Panther is Revolutionary.
I had a chance to watch the film for the first time during the World Premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles last week, had my eyes glued to the screen for the entire 2 hour and 14 minute film time, and joined the crowd in a well deserved standing ovation. Black Panther has been described as one of Marvel Studios best films yet and as any Marvel fan can attest to, that is not a small feat!
About the film
Writer-director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) takes on the challenge of bringing the first black superhero story to the big screen. If you’re a Marvel fan, you know that T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) was first introduced to audiences in Captain America: Civil War. In Black Panther, he returns home to take his late father’s position as the King of Wakanda. In this task, he’ll use his position as Wakanda’s guardian, Black Panther and king to defend the country against its longtime enemies.
Why Marvel’s Black Panther is one of the most revolutionary films of our time
The Importance of Representation
Black Panther is truly a movie of firsts in terms of representation. First, for the first time in history, audiences will see a movie with a black superhero. While the Black Panther was the first black superhero found in mainstream comic books, he has also been on almost every Marvel superhero team. This is the first time the world gets to see a black superhero as the standalone character on the big screen.
Another really important element of this film is the fact that its setting is a fictitious nation in Africa that’s also known to be the world’s leader in technology, intelligence and resources. I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to me, as a first generation Liberian-American, to see an entirely different portrayal of Africa than what’s usually portrayed in Hollywood. Just imagine the shift the perception western audiences can think of this beautiful continent!
Black Panther has already broken Marvel’s record for the highest grossing film in the first 24 hours of ticket sales, successfully breaking the myths that minority-led films don’t bring the best returns. I have no doubt that it will continue to be a success at the box office. Coincidentally (maybe), Black Panther is in theaters on Feb 16, which happens to be in the middle of Black History Month.
Two words: Girl Power
The women of Wakanda are among the fiercest, smartest, and all around most badass women you don’t get to see in many films. Just to give you an idea, these are 4 of the women who lead in Black Panther:
- Shuri (Letitia Wright) is T’Challa’s little sister and is the smartest person in Wakanda—the top scientist and the innovator behind the Black Panther’s updated suits and technology. I have no doubt that Shuri is going to be a new fan favorite!
- Okoye (Danai Gurira) is the head of the Dora Milaje, the all-female Wakandan Special Forces, and is the best fighter in Wakanda second to only Black Panther. She’s bald, beautiful and unapologetic as she challenges many stereotypes we see of women, particularly black women, on the big screen. She’s a superhero in her own right.
- Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) is a top Wakandan spy often imbedded in countries outside of Wakanda to observe and report back. As the love interest of T’Challa, she’s exudes a refreshing confidence and independence, proving the fact that beside every king there’s a queen.
- Ramonda (Angela Bassett) is T’Challa and Shuri’s mother and de facto advisor to the throne. As strong of a political force she is, she puts the well being of her children first.
Yes, Black Panther is technically the star of the movie, but you will find these women stealing many scenes.
In true Marvel fashion, there is a multi-layered element to what T’Challa is tasked with, including an unlikely, but formidable enemy (Erik Kilmonger played by Michael B. Jordan) challenges him to the throne and brings about some important questions regarding what nations with great power could or should do to help the other, less fortunate nations of the world. Ironically, it also strangely brought to the forefront part of the source of an ongoing friction between Africans and African-Americans. I can’t elaborate on this too much because I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but as you’re seeing the movie, you’ll see what I mean.
Themes that transcend beyond race, gender, creed and the many things that otherwise separate us
Yes, it’s a black superhero movie. Yes, it’s girl power gold. Yes, it’s set on the continent of Africa. However, it is truly a film that everyone can relate to and find a sense of belonging to. Of course, as a black woman and Liberian American, I felt a strong sense of pride in seeing people that looked like me, spoke in dialects I’m familiar with, and represented what I’ve always known about the continent I’ve descended from. However, I’ve also had the chance to hear the opinions of other people in the audience who don’t share my vantage point and they equally enjoyed the film for what it was able to illicit from their perspectives. Themes that include the desire to protect the things and people that matter to you, to challenge stereotypes, of feeling lost and trying to find your place in the world, and many more.
What to know before you see Black Panther
First, if you’re not a huge Marvel fan, take the time to watch Captain America: Civil War for a little bit of a background on Black Panther’s story. Also, check out these 13 little known facts about Black Panther to get you out of the dark!
Second, make sure you stay until the absolute last credit rolls through the screen. Do not, I repeat, do not walk out right after the movie ends. Marvel films always have extra snippets that appear after the credits start rolling. There’s a really big surprise at the very end!
Lastly, can you bring young kids to see Black Panther? I’ve heard some people raise concern about this being a little more on the violent side in terms of Marvel films. There are a few bloody scenes in the movie, which is likely what has earned it a rating of PG-13. Depending on your child’s sensitivity, the violence may be too much for kids under 10 or 11. There are no sex scenes and I counted only 1 curse word and a middle finger, however, so I’m personally comfortable letting my almost 9 year old see it with me.
Feel free to ask me any other questions you have about this film and I’m glad to share any tips or info I can offer! Again, Black Panther is in theaters everywhere on 2/16. When you see it, please come back and let me know what you thought of it too!