Black Panther hit theaters on February 16 and the anticipation was justifiably high. The film, which stars Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, has already broken pre-ticket sales records. Social media is obsessed with the Marvel film, despite some questionable marketing moves from Disney, like a white version of Black Panther. Co-written and directed by Ryan Coogler, the superhero flick is packed with serious Black star power: Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling K. Brown and many more.
The movie follows the story-line of Captain America: Civil War — after T’Challa’s father is killed in an attack. He returns home to Wakanda to be crowned king, but his crown is challenged, which results in a civil war. It’s a classic tale of good versus evil, but told through a superhero lens we have never seen before — unapologetic Blackness.
Ryan Coogler delivered one of the best superhero films I have seen in decades. Black Panther is innovative, intelligent and as empowering as a movie could be. Yes, it’s just a movie, but as I watched these Black and brown powerhouses deliver on screen, I could only imagine how overjoyed I would’ve felt if I were a ten-year-old watching Black Panther. When I was younger, all we had was Billy Dee Williams in Star Wars and a handful of brown extras in the Batman franchise. Black and brown children need a movie like Black Panther to boost their imagination and help them to dream the impossible.
The Marvel film is also packed with social commentary, which will appeal to an older audience. There is talk of guns, police brutality and the economic forces that are destroying Black and brown communities across the globe.
Moreover, Coogler clearly wanted to give women a strong narrative. While Boseman and Jordan are excellent, the women of Wakanda effortlessly stole the film. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia was an independent boss, never the sniffling damsel-in-distress. Danai Gurira as Okoye (you know her best as Michonne from The Walking Dead) was the greatest warrior in Wakanda and she stopped at nothing to defend her home — not even her man, played by Get Out‘s Daniel Kaluuya, could stop her. In one epic fighting scene, she used her wig, which she hated, as a weapon, making the audience cheer (side note: Okoye was such a crowd favorite, she needs her own spin-off). Letitia Wright plays Black Panther’s teenage sister Shuri, a scientist who is crucial in saving Wakanda and the world.
Then there is the supporting cast of warrior women who helped to light up every frame. Black Panther is as powerful for Black women as Wonder Woman was for white women. Not to say no Black women were moved by Wonder Woman, but there was a specificity in Black Panther that was palatable in every frame.
At times, Black Panther falls into the superhero trappings of CGI fighting that sometimes looks like a cartoon, but it’s the heart of the film that redeems any shortcomings. At its core, Black Panther is a story of family and unity, especially in the relationship of Black Panther’s father and the villain’s father. For boys and men, the films tugs at the heartstrings of fatherhood and boyhood, and searching for an identity even when you feel abandoned.
What Get Out did for horror in 2017, is what Black Panther will do for superhero films in 2018. Outside of the endless memes that are destined to come out of the movie, Black Panther will be a cinematic shift in our culture. From the box office to unavoidable think pieces, this is a film that will have a shelf life of a lifetime.