Review: "Black Panther"
The buzz surrounding this movie was already insane. The gorgeous cast, the controversy (people mistaking the superhero for the group), and the general comic superiority letting us all know we are all bandwagon fans.
I was so stoked. A predominantly Black cast and Afrofuturism? Bet.
The film begins with necessary (for the non-comic readers) exposition, detailing how significant vibranium is to the mysteriously advanced, yet humble, country of Wakanda. When we are transported to the country we see marvelous technological advances coinciding with tribal rituals and animal tending. It is both exciting to behold, yet tinged with sadness; it begs the question: how would Africa be had it not been colonized? This is not the first thought-provoking question the film rises.
Between Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), we see ideologies and cultures at war. Killmonger is angry with what Black people have had to deal with in the US (i.e. police brutality), and doesn't understand why T'Challa would refuse to share the bountiful resources of Wakanda to help their brothers and sisters of the diaspora. Killmonger is representative of the generational issues, trauma and pain of the Afircan American community caused by centuries of slavery, discrimination, and hate-based violence. He reminds us that as people of the diaspora, we do not belong, and are thus unwelcome wherever we are; we are Wakanda's forgotten and abandoned. Killmonger is the embodiment of how the racial hierarchy affects Black people when we are placed on the bottom of the totem pole. Instead of ascribing to Dr. King's pacifism, he goes with the action praised by Garvey and Malcolm.
Meanwhile, T'Challa is forced to consider his responsibilities to the tribes of Wakanda and the implications for sharing such powerful tech. Not only does this get mentioned, but it represents the disconnect between Africans and African Americans. The entitlement that comes with being American, to take what we need, and the communal responsibility to tradition of the African community. He is focused on love and unity, even if that means excluding -- yet again, abandoning -- his brothers and sisters stolen from their native land.
The dichotomy these two represented, reminded me that I am implicitly duplicitous with these ideologies as well. Every day, I am torn between peace and action. It is difficult to express. Should I do the protests that I know are inconsiderate of the intersections of my Blackness and gender, or should I strike out on my own to represent those who suffer similarly as me? Not an easy question to answer, but the fact that a superhero movie has me asking myself that question is indicative that the movie is more than just a piece of entertainment.
Letitia Wright as Shuri was charming, fierce, and incredibly intelleigent. She was the brains behind T'Challa's suit and other incredible out-of-the-box technological advances. When she called US Agent. Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) a colonizer, I DIED! Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia brought Disney princess love, grace and patience, with a splash of Foxy Brown fierceness. Danai Gurira was a dream as Okoye; deadly and regal. Her loyalty and devotion to what the throne represented, over her love for W'Kabi's (Daniel Kaluuya) misguided support of Killmonger was powerful. You could see her heartache, but also her determination. And of course, because Okoye is just incredible, she gets W'Kabi to end his foolishness. Angela Basset with the white dreads, just made me pine for her to be storm. He role as the queen mother was beautiful. Winston Duke almost stole the show! His mountainous physique, coupled with his baby face and charming humor, kind of made me wish he was around in the movie more. I was very please for what it did for Black women and Black issues, but the film was largely silent on Black queer issues and those who don't have the body of action stars. They still have a chance to address these in the sequel. There should be a sequel to perpetuate the money-making machine "Black Panther" is, considering it is set to make $150 million this 4-day weekend. I may go see it a few more times...just to help it along a little.
Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright and Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis.