The screen opens to the black expanse of outer space dotted with stars when—Bam! The sky is illuminated by a glowing meteorite speeding towards Earth and then hitting Africa. This is the opening of the wildly popular movie, Black Panther directed by Ryan Coogler.
Black Panther, based off of the Marvel comic, is the story of doing the right thing even when it is hard. Wakanda is a country with vast technological innovation that is posing as a third world country with isolationist policies. Following King T’Chaka’s death, T’Challa becomes king and assumes the role of the Black Panther, Wakanda’s protector. The movie is about his struggles against Killmonger, his radicalized though well-meaning cousin who was abandoned by his family and takes T’Challa’s throne, wanting to support violent uprisings in the world with Wakanda’s weapons.
When I saw this movie, it was one of the first superhero movies I had seen. It’s depth, exciting scenes, and overall message of empowerment blew me away and here is why.
In Wakanda, the best warriors and heroes in the movie are women. The fiercely loyal General Okoye leads the Wakanda military and is a respected warrior. She is shown taking down bad guys, two at a time, and inspiring an uprising against the villainous Killmonger. Nakia, who is in love with T’Challa, is a selfless spy who works tirelessly to help the poor and suffering people of Africa. King T’Challa’s sister Shuri, spearheads the science innovation and mind blowing technology of Wakanda. These are all black women who are all strong, loyal, and kind and are some of the true heroes of Black Panther. Having all of these great examples of women role models in the age of the #MeToo and the #EnoughisEnough movement is vitally important.
I thought that the movie also made a moving point about putting aside our differences. It contrasted the breathtaking views of Wakanda and its technological prowess to the poor inner-city conditions of America to highlight how our divisions are holding us back from our true potential.
The depth in the characters was startling for a superhero movie. King T’Challa had flaws but was strong and good hearted and when tested, made heroic decisions. Instead of in a typical Marvel movie where the villain’s goals are often uncomplicated and cliché—normally world domination or revenge, Killmonger was a much more sympathetic villain with a much more complex motivation. His father’s murder and his abandonment as a child gave his character more depth and emphasized the fact that is highlighted many times in the film, that no one is all good or all bad.
Beyond all of this, Black Panther was simply a good superhero action movie. There was a fight scene on the roof tops of moving cars to the beat of Kendrick Lamar’s soundtrack, a jet fight with dire consequences, and had a superhero suit that uses opponent’s energy against them, all done with great effects. It was engaging and exciting and kept me wondering what will happen next.
The film has revolutionized the film industry because of its success with an almost all black cast and its success will hopefully lead to more movies featuring minorities. It painted a hopeful picture for more diverse movie casts of tomorrow. Black Panther has all of the good action a superhero movie should have but with an empowering and inspiring message.
Movie Poster Image From IMDb.com