Confession. I am so not a superhero fan. The only time I set aside a couple of coveted hours of free time to sit through a superhero movie is when my comic loving husband drags me to the theaters for the newest DC/Marvel/Star Wars/etc. film so he can be nostalgic about his childhood. So needless to say I had zero expectations for Black Panther. Like to the point I was quizzing my husband about who the Black Panther was on the car ride to the theater Saturday afternoon (does anyone else get the Marvel and DC worlds mixed up?).
For those fellow avowed superhero curmudgeons, this might be the film that wins the genre’s way into your heart. First of all: the backdrop. A good portion of the film takes place in the fictional African country of Wakanda, and the natural landscapes are breath taking. Second of all: the culture. African culture in all its beauty is celebrated throughout the movie, and I was absorbed by the vibrancy of the traditional dress and colors, the joy to be found in the singing and dancing of the people. Africa has always been a tribal continent, and the various groups in the film retain that melting pot flavor.
As a white woman, I was also thrilled to see diversity on the screen. It was refreshing to watch an almost completely black cast (minus the white “Tolkien” actors of Lord of the Rings fame Andy Serkis (Gollum) and Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins)), and I have been loving the trend toward more diversity in the film industry. Disney in particular seems to be doing a phenomenal job in being more inclusive in their casting, and I hope that for my daughter this will always be the norm.
Women also play a significant role in the film, both as warriors and as scientists. I was so proud to see women given strong characters in an action film, rather than being thrown into a male-dominated plot to add sex appeal, and Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Guirra nailed it.
And T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Black Panther himself. At the start of the movie he is an idealistic young man thrown into his father’s footsteps as King too early. Through the film T’Challa has to confront the realities of the outside world, and face down the enemies of Wakanda. For in the usual superhero fashion, not only is the fate of Wakanda resting on his shoulders, but the world’s fate as well.
The film explores hard themes. It confronts oppression and poverty. It celebrates cultural differences. It encourages coming together. It gives a voice to minority communities. And it does so in a beautifully executed manner, with both fierceness and grace. I loved this article from Detroit Free Press explaining the film’s far reaching impact. 5 out of 5 stars.