A little over a week ago I watched Black Panther at a preview event, and while teaching and getting sick might have gotten in the way of me posting, it hasn’t kept the film and it’s lead character T’Challa off of my mind, for a few big reasons. Minor spoilers below.
The first reason being IT’S SO GOOD! Those are the exact words, with the exact applied emphasis used when I told a co-worker the very next morning.
I typically refrain from using all caps in my posts, because it feels like I’m shouting, but since I literally had shouted about how good this movie was it felt appropriate. Everything from the visuals (especially of Wakanda) to the story to the acting was fantastic!
What makes the movie even better is the amazing impact it’s making on American (and global) culture. Everyone deserves to see themselves represented and just like he did in the comics, by being on the big screen Black Panther is inspiring kids everywhere to believe in their worth and to believe that they can make a difference, in ways that other heroes just can’t. It’s not that other heroes aren’t good enough it’s that representation matters. The New Yorker has this amazing article about Black Panther and African identity and it’s well worth a read for anyone who enjoyed the film. The movie is starting social discussions about race, oppression and redemption everywhere I look and these are things that deserve to be talked about. Without getting too spoilery the perspectives of T’Challa and his rival Killmonger can be compared to Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. Both were black activists who wanted racially equality but through opposing ideals and means. Depending on your outlook or upbringing it’s not always easy to identify with these men who made such an impact five decades ago, but with Black Panther these conversations about race and equality can happen in new and valuable ways.
Finally, and this one takes a bit of explaining, Black Panther was so good both for the character and the movie overall that it made me want to see more Marvel. Now, as a comic book collector and MCU fangirl, how can that be possible? Well let’s back up a few years ago… when Captain Marvel was supposed to get her own movie, but then she didn’t, because Marvel wanted Doctor Strange, and then her date got pushed back again for Thor: Ragnarok (which yes was amazing) and other Phase 3 character introductions, and then her date got pushed back AGAIN for Spider-Man: Homecoming (a film I’ve yet to see – because WHY did we need another reboot). At this point I was a very frustrated fan. One who still liked the MCU, but has walked into every Marvel Studios film wondering why she has to sit through another sequel or origin story that feels inevitably enjoyable but ultimately unwanted. Now I recognize that because I keep seeing Marvel films I keep giving Marvel my money (though not for Spidey… not yet), therefore my whining is a tad pointless. That being said for me the last few years of waiting for details about Captain Marvel have left me a bit bitter, and like anyone who has a favorite character I wonder if they’re going to get her origin or core characteristics right.
With that mini-rant out of the way, let me say that to some degree Black Panther has fixed my Captain Marvel problem. Seeing this movie won’t make Carol Danvers show up in a theater any sooner, but it did give me hope that after they did T’Challa such justice that I have nothing to worry about for Captain Marvel’s origin story. With Black Panther, its director Ryan Coogler and Marvel maintained what felt like an epic tightrope act of remaining fearlessly true to a character who had a controversial start while making it fresh, current and true for the ideals and needs of today’s young fans.
On top of that Marvel, in the past few films has gotten surprisingly good at keeping each film and hero unique enough so that we’re not just getting the same basic hero in a different costume. Because of all that, and the fact that the Dora Milaje were so incredibly fierce I now feel like Captain Marvel’s film will be just what I hope for. And so I also feel more optimistic about seeing other Marvel films (and I’ll finally watch Spider-Man: Homecoming).
Actually let’s pause for one more reason to see this film. The women! And not for out dated sexist objectifying reasons. No, the women are a reason to see this film because they are strong, powerful warriors who fight and love and are mutli-layered people. Ryan Coogler did an amazing job with the Dora Milaje and each actress was beyond incredible. Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira were each a fierce warrior and all complete characters with their own motivations, loyalties and personalities, and Angela Basset was wonderful. I can’t wait to see what Marvel does with more female characters.
From start to finish Black Panther gives comic book fans everything they could have wanted, regardless of who their favorite hero is. Like it when Captain America jumps out of a plane? Watch Black Panther do it, but looking more intense. Like it when Tony Stark reveals everything at a press conference? Watch T’Challa do it while having a bigger impact and more class. Like it when Thor had to come to terms with the fact that he never knew everything about his father? Watch a beautiful balancing act of character growth as both T’Challa and Killmonger have to recognize that while their fathers shaped them they each have the opportunity to shape their destiny.
T’Challa had more growth than Thor had in three films (5 if you count Avengers and Age of Ultron), he’s just as patriotic as Steve Rogers, and unlike Tony Stark who seems to crumble at every obstacle (only to overcome them later), T’Challa is a man of more resolve. Black Panther is in every way at this more just somehow “more” than all the Marvel heroes we’ve gotten so far.
Have you seen it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.