I was afraid to see this movie.
I was afraid that people were going to cinnamon roll the hell out of this film. I was afraid that people were only going to see a diverse cast and ignore any flaws or faults in this film and mostly that has not been true.
Dear reader, I really liked that movie. I loved that movie. It isn’t perfect, but while it’s still fresh in my mind: I wanted to pen down a few of the thoughts about The Black Panther and what it means right now to be black, to be African-American, to be a nerd and to leave a movie theater while pterodactyl screeching.
- Okay, so Alamo Drafthouse decked this movie out with some of the best promo material and all. Seriously, I’m getting spoiled to the Drafthouse. And all the previews made me giggle.
- I had the pleasure of seeing this movie with my friend who is also named Amanda and she is white and real talk: she was way more excited to see this movie than I was and we spent a lot of time talking about the fact that this movie is objectively more important to me but she was the one screaming about Wakanda.
- We also got to have several moments where she wanted to compliment women in beautiful African dress but didn’t feel it was right, so in those times I acted as her surrogate: not that I didn’t also find these outfits beautiful, I’ve seen them before and they don’t hold the same meaning to me.
- Additionally, I don’t think much of Africa: I came from a family that was never much tied to our own blackness. Remembering Africa meant remembering Slavery and my family chose to focus on bettering their lives than remembering a land so many of us didn’t know.
Here’s a good place for me to talk about my position on and history with Black Panther before the Marvel movies. Truthfully, my favorite run of his was during the 90s and 2000s when he was very much rooted in radical Afro-excellence while also still being very much the blacksploitation character he was created to be. I never had an issue with that as a youth but also fully know we cannot have the superhero equivalent of Coming to America now in 2018.
Let’s actually talk about the movie now: there will likely be spoilers.
- The casting is AMAZING. There is not a single role that feels out of place or wrong. There is no one role that stood out more to me but dammit everyone was great.
- I will say it was powerful as hell to see a movie full of beautiful, strong and important black people on screen. So powerful that I did not know that was something I needed until I saw it.
- The action set pieces may be some of the best done by a Marvel movie: and while they’re actually pretty scarce: this is not as action-heavy as say Civil War was, it was still amazing.
- The new suit is great, the special effects are great and the soundtrack was great.
- I did not expect this movie to take me on the emotional ride it did. This movie is not dead parent approved but I am okay with that.
- Also, how dare another comic book movie make a villian that ends up making more sense than the hero.
- Andy Serkis is a treasure and it’s so good to see him on screen.
- Martin Freeman is also a treasure and his American accent is quite good.
- I was very impressed by this.
- It was AMAZING to see women of color use technology and be more brilliant than Tony Stark in places.
- The entire plot of how to deal with African wealth vs. African-American struggle hit me like I did not expect a comic book movie could.
- I was giddy over the use of Zulu weapons and formations.
- Seriously, this was like a LARP of the Deadliest Warrior episode that pitted Shaka Zulu against William Wallace.
- SEEING WARRIOR WOMEN MADE ME SCREAM.
- Stick around for that post-credits scene. It did upset me but it also did make me smile a little bit.
- Killmonger is a very human character and his deadpan reactions to things added levity in places there needn’t be levity.
- There was not a single character that felt out of place and that’s good for a Marvel movie.
- The small cultural touches made me giddy. Killmonger’s scarification, the tattooed heads of warrior women…lip plates. ALL OF IT made me so happy. Yes, it is pan-Africanism but in the moment it was AWESOME.
- There are lines in this movie that are so well-delivered that I almost choked on my Mr. Pibb several times. And that’s a damn good thing.
Now in this confluence of praise, I do have some issues with this film:
- Killmonger is complex and his narrative is very interesting…is a word…it very much did remind me of the actual Black Panther party for better or worse. There’s just one problem with this: we have learned from history that militant African-Americans is not the way to promote equality. And his words ring so true in this era that many people likely will not see this as a problem: and that is the problem.
- That’s actually just a general issue I had with the film that it does seem like the “villain’s” point of view is likely now one shared by many and in making such a sympathetic antagonist, his viewpoint: which mind you is wrong, seems very okay and normal and a valid way to feel.
- This is a minor nitpick but the pan-Africanism did start to wear on me as the movie went on. There are so many different languages, religions, clothes and mannerisms that make each country in Africa unique so to see them all sort of just appropriated for the sake of a cool shot: it’s a minor pick but it did wear on me. And while in one breath I can say it’s cool, it also isn’t ideal. And yes, I know this is a fictional African-land but you’re in my world now, so deal with the nitpick.
- Also there’s a Gorilla tribe that says to be loyal to Hanuman, who is a Hindu deity, which irked me. Not to say there are not Hindu people in Africa: but I’m sure the screenwriter needed a monkey god and just happened to find one.
- This movie is tensionless. That isn’t a bad thing but despite all the hardship: we know T’Challa will be okay. We know he’s gonna be in Infinity Wars. But a lack of tension isn’t all terrible: just an annoying part of the whole franchise thing.
- That post-credits scene did upset me a little because it didn’t seem like it was doing much but setting up the next movie and normally I’d be okay with that but as of yesterday, it made me the angry.
- Some of the humor is meta and out of place and even though I laughed, it is still weak writing.
But all of that side, this movie is iconic and important. I never felt attached to being of African descent but for a moment, in a theater full of people in their finest cultural garb or even those of us just in dresses from Forever 21. I felt an attachment to a fictional place like no other. I felt beautiful and strong for being African-American and I didn’t feel weird for being black, being a geek and loving technology. This movie was the film we needed right now with our current…concerns as a nation and planet. And sure, I had problems with this movie but I am not going to let my personal issues with it diminish how important this film must be to people of color and people in general.
This is the opposite of Wonder Woman for me. Wonder Woman was a passable movie that you couldn’t critique because of how important it was. Black Panther is a great movie that also happens to be very important and while it isn’t perfect: it’s very easy to ignore those flaws.
But this movie is very much a product of today, right now and where we are as a nation, as people and as humans on this planet. It’s one of the biggest reasons I do not think this movie will age well: I think it so perfectly encapsulates what it means to be of color in an unkind world right now. This is not a perfect movie but considering that I walked in assuming that I would not like it and left hooting should tell you just how I feel about this film. It’s political, emotional and real and all coming from a character most only know because of his brief comic book marriage to a more iconic superhero.
I won’t say Wakanda Forever, because that isn’t the goal and shouldn’t be the goal. The goal is to be kind to each other, be better people and help when appropriate. So with that being said: Wakanda For Now.
And long may T’Challa reign.
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