There are only two animated/visually enticing films that I have ever seen that depict the life of a “terrestrial character” in a way that excited me, thats James Cameron’s Avatar and Marvel Studio’s Black Panther.
Let me preface this by saying, I am not a huge Marvel fan, so my opinion is not biased nor unfair.
RYAN COOGLER, YOU DID THAT!
BLACK PANTHER IS THE BEST FILM MARVEL STUDIOS HAS CREATED TO DATE!!
Yes, this movie premieres on Friday February 16th, however I had the opportunity to see this film at a select screening hosted at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum for Howard University students and staff. Not only was this an amazing opportunity to see the film before many others, but we were also graced with the presence from director Ryan Coogler, costumer designer Ruth Carter, Marvel Studios executive, and Award-Winning Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Leading up to this film, the overall marketing roll-out was IMMACULATE! From the casting of the film, to the release of the film during Black History Month, to the African themed red carpet premiere, to the Kendrick Lamar produced movie soundtrack, everything about this movie has been executed with the audience in mind. Since I am not a huge marvel studios film fanatic, the anticipation for this film grew as a result of the stellar cast that featured Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita N’yongo, Angela Bassett, Forest Whittaker, Daniel Kaluuya, and others, knowing that the film was going to be executed with pristine thought and talent.
As I researched the background of the Black Panther comic, I realized that this was going to be more than just another superhero film. Black Panther, originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, was the story of T’Challa, king and protector of the fictional African nation called Wakanda. Black Panther is the first superhero of African descent to appear in American marvel comics, long before Luke Cage, Falcon, and the Green Lantern. There is something special about the way in which Black Panther chose to use his super powers. Unlike the other superheros such as Spiderman, Batman, or Captain America, Black Panther chooses to use his powers to help the people of Wakanda and make his country better. With his family by his side, T’Challa fights to preserve his late fathers legacy and protect the family name and the citizens of his town. Without spoiling the entire movie, lets just say he has some battles along the journey, with family and foes.
Now before we watched the movie at the premiere, we were asked to turn in our cell phones, restricting people from filming or recording any part of the film before its officially released. (Smart move Marvel!!)
Watching this movie, I saw so many similarities between the people of Wakanda and various countries in Africa, as well as black communities in America. I felt like I was watching the battle between two superheros in my neighborhood. Not only was this movie theatrically pleasing, but it was also fun to watch. I cheered along as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) fought to protect his reign as king, gushed as Erik (Michael B. Jordan) fought for /destroyed Wakanda, and hysterically laughed as Shuri (Letitia Wright) ushered technological advances to assist her big brother T’Challa claim the throne that was rightfully his. There was a moment of clarity and comparison when Erik was discussing how people all over the world need assistance and Wakanda has the power to assist them in their endeavors. Africa is the wealthiest continent in this world, however they are looked as less than when it comes to resources, wealth, and economic power. There is an unspoken myth that the African diaspora consist of only African-Americans, however this movie goes to show that diasporic Africa is worldwide. Like Ta-Nehisi Coates stated, “The African myth is us. We are the myth.”
After the 134 minute movie ended, the panelist discussed what this movie means to Hollywood and why it was important for Ryan Coogler to get involved in this project. As a kid growing up in Oakland, Coogler discussed that he was struggling to find a sense of belonging within his neighborhood, much like the character Erik. But as he traveled to different countries in Africa, he noticed that African-Americans have a lot in common and started to feel as sense of belonging, and yearned to bring this to the main screen in this film. In his other films Fruitvale Station and Creed, Coogler wanted to tell the stories of people that looked like him and were, in their own ways, trying to find their own sense of belonging. Its important that we have directors, writers, and producers that tell the story of the black community from a wholistic point of view. When we see these films, we see ourselves.
What makes this movie so important, aside from the stellar cast, the marketing rollout, the cinematography, is the representation that is present both in front of and behind the camera. As we discuss the lack of diversity within Hollywood, films like these continue to prove and show that with the right script, backing from studios, and cast, movies that are important to us can be told. To be honest, this movie was BLACK AF, but wasn’t a traditional and stereotypical “black film”. Its all about the representation that we are able to see on the main screen that might usher in a new creative sense of direction among the next generation. Kids that go to see this movie will be able to see themselves as strong black men ruling countries, strong black women fighting at the forefront to protect their families and countries (like they have been doing for years), black women creating technology that will advance the world, while wearing traditional African garments that represent the Masai, the Suri tribe, and the Northern African Tuareg tribe on the continent. I was able to watch this movie and be enthralled by the costume design created by Ruth Carter, that represented my heritage. Carter’s aim was to create a sense of Afrofuturism within the costume design, and she surely did that.
After seeing this movie, I strongly urge everyone to go see it , whether or not you’re a Marvel fan. When this movie is publicly released on Friday, go see it. DON’T SEE IT ON BOOTLEG! With this movie being the first films made that represented an African themed superhero, we should be supporting them. If you are able to, get the full experience by seeing it in 4D! When was the last time a movie of this caliber was released in 4D? Movies like this are a result of what happens when you diversify your board room, do your research on the African tribe you are aiming to represent, and gear the marketing and promotional aspects toward the people who will watch it. When you support a film such as this, you are not only supporting the dreams of all of those involved in this project from the director, producer, to the cast, but you are sending a message to Hollywood that films like these matter to us. Diversity and Inclusion in Hollywood makes a difference in the way we consume content, support productions, and continue to invest our funds in making our stories popularized.
Tickets are now available for the premiere weekend of Black Panther! Click here to purchase your tickets.
Check out the official Marvel Studios Trailer, Black Panther Movie Trailer