For the past year this film has been hyped up and highly anticipated. Not just by the African-American community, but for the entire Marvel fan base as well and it is finally here. Black Panther smashed the box office Thursday night grossing $2.5 Million and is steady on track to make $200M+ during this 4 day weekend. Those numbers beat out Captain America and The Avengers, making this celebration of African culture and attempt to unify all races the most successful film Marvel Studios has released. So what exactly made Black Panther so damn successful, the answer to that rests within this review so let us jump right into it.
The film takes place shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War. T’challa has been crowned king of Wakanda but is not sure if he is ready to sink into that role, without is father by his side. We are instantly introduced to the main villain, Erik Killmonger, but a young version of himself. We find out why he becomes the man we see in the film after events transpire between his uncle and current Black Panther, King T’chaka and his father N’jobu, who was planted in Oakland California as a spy. That moment instantly builds a personal connection with us and Erik, making us feel for his character and his cause later on in the film. This scene also holds a very powerful message about how young, black children grow up without parents around to guide them far too often. So they are forced to grow and learn from the bad communities and environments that they are placed in. Being shaped by drugs, gang violence and street life, making it all they ever know as they grow up without proper protectors. We see how that upbringing became apart of who Erik was towards the later parts of the film. Director Ryan Coogler did extremely well conveying that message.
As the movie picks up we are introduced to the city of Wakanda and its people. The visuals in this film were breathtaking, showing of views of the South African wilds and rain forests. Their culture and way of life was heavily present in Wakanda. From the music, the busy city streets, even right down to the way people looked and dressed. Many characters like W’kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) the chief of Wakandan security and best friend to T’challa had tribal markings on their face to detinguish themselves and I found that so cool. His lover Okoye (Danai Gurira) and leader of the royal guard group ‘Dora Milaje’ (an all women warrior group) was probably my favorite character in this film. She wore tribal markings on her bald head and carried herself with grace and pride for her country. She is very traditional in the sense that Wakanda should stay hidden and only tend to their people and country. While W’kabi wants to help liberate their African-American brother’s and sister’s across the world using Wakandan resources, which is a very important issue that the film ultimately revolves around. The leader of the mountain tribe the Jabari, M’baku (Winston Duke) was a welcomed addition to the Black Panther crew. Although is tribe was reserved from the rest of Wakanda his character still brought tons of laughs and power to the film, he was crucial towards the end of the film as well.
Characters like T’challa’s mother and sister reminded me of my own family back at home. Ramonda (Angela Bassett) is the queen of Wakanda and the most loving and supportive mother anyone could ever ask for. Angela Bassett played this role with grace and beauty, she was completely under used in my personal opinion, I would have liked it if they did more with her character. Shuri (Letitia Wright) is younger sister to King T’challa and their relationship felt so real and organic, not at all forced. The way they interacted and spoke to each other reminded me of how my brother’s and I were growing up, how we still are with each other now. From the dope handshakes, to the slang we used talking with each other. This movie felt like I was attending a family reunion. One of the most important characters to T’challa was Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) who was a spy for Wakanda and flame to T’challa. She was the voice of reason in T’challa’s ear the entire film, his confidant and support system when things were going bad. Every woman in this film was a strong, proud warrior and I was there for it every step of the way. The notion that Black is beautiful was heavily present in this film regarding the queens casted to play these roles. These women were beautiful. It didn’t matter how dark their skin was or how much hair they had, or their body shape. They were all powerful, black women that kicked ass in every scene. A lot of people who did not support this film voiced how angry they were about that fact prior to the public release of the film. But they could not stop this wave.
The story of Black Panther was extremely well done. By tying in the modern issues of being Black in today’s society and mixing it with lessons about self discovery, faith, family, honor, pride and love you are left with this brilliant master piece. So let’s talk about the villain that people are dubbing ‘Marvel’s best on-screen villian’. Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) has trained his entire life to rule Wakanda. Becoming a black ops agent and killing over 100 people, even his own african brother’s and sister’s. After what happened to his father he vowed to return to Wakanda and rule the country they way it should be ruled. Sharing the resources of the nation with oppressed black citizens and providing them with ammunition to overthrow the corrupt people in power. Making Wakanda the spearhead of an all out war against the world. He even went as far as working with Klaw, using him as a means to invade Wakanda and challenge T’challa for the throne. The fight against Killmonger and T’challa blew me away. You could see the anger and rage in every strike Erik dished out. He had trained his entire life for that moment and I felt for him even though he was the villain. I was sympathetic to his cause because it had just means behind. Liberating people of color from discrimination, poverty and oppression is something that we are striving for heavily in today’s society. But not just people of color, we are striving to liberate anyone who has struggled, treated unfairly or has been silenced by those in power. That message was so powerful that you could feel it in your chest as you watched the film. Ryan Coogler excelled in intertwining that within Killmonger’s character. It was apart of who he was and was not going to stop until he saw that mission through to the end. If he had to kill to make that vision reality, then he did so without hesitation. Anyone who sided with T’challa’s way of staying hidden needed to be eliminated. Which was rather extreme but you still understood why he was doing what he was doing. making him the most relatable Marvel villain we have ever seen on the big screen. Michael B. Jordan deserves an Oscar for his performance as Erik Killmonger, cousin to King T’challa and one with a rightful claim to the Wakandan throne as well.
From the beautiful landscapes, to the fantastic music mixed with exciting African culture Black Panther blows its Marvel sibling films out of the water. With a great supporting cast that included Agent Ross (Martin Freeman) whose character was extremely crucial at the of the film and Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis), Black Panther shined brightly as a corner-stone for future Marvel Studios films. Although some fight scenes seemed at bit cartoonish to me, it did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the film. As a Black man, growing up in a society that looks down on you because of the color of your skin had its challenges at times. Being called things other than your given name because people have so much hate in their hearts for no reason at all. I was lucky to be blessed with amazing people in life that loved and supported me when no one else did, much like T’challa. So to be able to finally see a super hero and a movie filled with men and women who look like me was amazing. To see the support from not just the black community, but from people of all colors and races makes me so proud. Marvel and Ryan Coogler presented us with a story that set a wave in motion. A film that has brought all groups together and touched on some of the most glossed over issues in today’s society. We as people need to stand together and unify. In this point in time ALL lives matter and it is so important that people realise this now. This film also teaches us that it is okay to be proud of who you are. It does not matter if your skin is black, brown, white or blue. You are special, you are beautiful and your life means something. So you should not let anyone try to take that from you.
At the end the film, as I drove home, I could not help but feel proud of being a black man in America. I felt a motivation to continue to work harder than I have been, to strive for new heights and achieve my goals because the representation in this film was so beautifully well done. I hope when you watch the film for yourself you can take away something from it like I did. Maybe it will inspire you to make a change in your life or help you start to see things a little differently. We are all living on this earth and it is going to take all of us together to make it a better place to live in. So thank you Black Panther, for inspiring young black men and women like myself as well as many others across the world. Wakanda Forever.