Black Panther was Everything I Wanted and More

While I may have been a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to diving deep into the Black Panther lore, this character has already become a huge part of my life. As such, this movie meant a lot to me. Not just as a huge fan of the character, but as an African American. This was our movie. It had to not only live up to the weight that comes with every Marvel movie, but it had to live up to the weight of being the first superhero movie with a predominantly all-black class.

Black Panther didn’t just live up to both sets of expectations. Black Panther blew through them like a wet paper bag.

First and foremost, this movie is unlike anything we’ve ever seen from a Marvel movie. In fact, it doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie at all. Sure, it’s got characters we’ve seen before and the film opens with the T’Challa dealing with the death of his father, T’Chaka, during the events of Captain America: Civil War. But everything else is refreshingly disconnected from the rest of the Marvel world. Outside of Ross and Klaw (and the obligatory Marvel movie stinger), the only mention of the outside Marvel Cinematic Universe is a hilariously subtle joke from Shuri. I am incredibly glad that Marvel let Ryan Coogler run free with this movie and have it stand on its own without needed to spoonfeed the audience with references to the rest of the MCU.

More than anything, this movie feels disconnected from the superhero genre as a whole. While it’s got mystical elements like the Heart-Shaped Herb and your typical hero vs. villain storyline (although even that breaks the mold, which I’ll touch on in a bit), none of the typical superhero cliches are there.

Black Panther is about T’Challa dealing with the weight of being thrust onto the throne. It’s about isolationism. It’s about racism. It’s about so much more than just a guy with powers running around and fighting. Which is why the movie is so damn powerful.

While everyone can enjoy the movie, it’s no secret that it will resonate most with us black folk. The main reason being that this movie is unapologetically black. The costumes. The music. The rituals. The setting of Wakanda itself. Everything about it just feels so incredibly right. Like, I wish Wakanda was a real place so I could save up money to go there one day.

In just about every scene, you got the sense that this was an African movie. That was largely due to the score. The persistence of the drums in almost every track never lets up and never lets you forget that this movie takes place in an African nation.

If the music wasn’t enough, the prevalence of rituals and tradition were on full display from start to finish. Warrior Falls was one of the best looking scenes I’ve witnessed in a movie in quite some time. Everything from the outfits everyone was wearing to the ritual dances they performed during the fights. It was incredible.

Speaking of incredible, though, I’ve got to talk about these women. I basically want to be a black woman after watching this movie. The strength and beauty of every woman in this movie were incredible. From the Dora Milaje to Nikia to Shuri to Queen Mother. They absolutely slayed. And not just with their looks. These women were fierce. Nakia and Okoye’s fight sequences not only in the casino but during the final act, good lawd. I am so glad that this movie exists not just because it was amazing in its own right, but because people now have a blueprint on how you can give black women a chance to shine. They don’t have to be there just as a love interest or a plot device. They can be incredibly badass and majestic in their own right.

Another big thing that sets Black Panther apart from just about every other Marvel film was that it had a villain that meant something. Now before you say the name Loki, you have to realize that he’s basically an anti-hero at this point. He was a good villain who then turned into a helper who then became comic relief. But even at Loki’s best, you never quite felt for him like you do Erik Killmonger.

I don’t want to get too deep into this one right now because 1) I don’t want to spoil people since today is technically release day and 2) I plan on doing a longer piece of its own on the dynamic of Killmonger. But as his back story is fleshed out, it was the first time I actually felt bad for a villain in a Marvel movie. There were plenty of times where you could empathize with his character and understand where he was coming from. Especially when it came to his plans on how Wakanda should carry itself (i.e. not isolating itself off from the rest of the world). Basically, Black Panther broke the mold on how a villain should be written. Hopefully, superhero movies are now the better for it in a post-Black Panther world.

Now, I’ve said a lot of great things about the movie up to this point. I do have a couple of gripes about the movie, but they’re fairly minor.

Both come from the last act of the film. While it was one of the strongest I’ve seen in a superhero movie in a while (even The Dark Knight, the best comic book movie — before Black Panther, that is — in my book, suffered from a slow third act), it had some iffy moments. For me, it was mainly the look of the CGI during T’Challa and Killmonger’s final fight that kind of took me out of the moment. I know that heavy CGI was needed due to where the fight took place and the nature of the fight, but it still felt a little less real than the earlier action sequences. Additionally, the final fight itself was admittedly a superhero cliche of the hero fighting what is basically a doppelgänger. It made sense thematically, but it just inherently brought some comparisons to other movies to mind. That only stood out because the rest of the movie follows its own script that doesn’t follow any of the typical rules of comic book movies.

As I said, though, these gripes are minor and in no way took away from my enjoyment of the film or stop me from giving it full marks on whatever scale you want to use. 10/10. 100%. Certified Fresh. It was everything I wanted it to be and more.

Full stop, this was the best comic book movie ever made. On the merits of its significance to my life and as a black nerd, it’s also up there as one of my favorite movies ever.

Everything that I’ve said here is barely scratching the surface on what I want to say about Black Panther. I already have three or four pieces in mind that I’ll be putting out in the coming days and weeks as I see the movie a few more times, so I will end this one here.

While you anxiously await my next article, do yourself a favor and go see this movie. You will not be disappointed.

Wakanda forever!

Calling it like I see it on culture, sports, video games, and everything in between.