BLACK PANTHER Gets So Much Right, and One Crucial Thing Wrong

Emilio Banks
February 7, 2018

The first reviews for Marvel's Black Panther have arrived online and they're overwhelmingly positive. So if she has to, you know, she is royalty.

As such, it can be hard to separate what Black Panther means from what it is.

Black Panther pits T'Challa against Erik Killmonger, a hulking whirlwind of rage and charisma that whips through Wakanda with self-righteous fury. All the while Coogler makes sure that "Black Panther's" subtext touches upon heritage, identity, and representation, themes that fester and then explode at the exact right time.

As far as landmark superhero movies for underrepresented groups go, I don't think Black Panther has anything as monumental as Wonder Woman's No Man's Land sequence where she defies the patriarchy and introduces herself on the battlefield. All across the African Diaspora, there are cultural differences that keep us apart, many of which Black Panther touches on.

The Black Panther film itself famously long in gestation before finally being green-lit by Marvel Studios, finally kicked into high gear after Chadwick Boseman was cast as the titular character also known as T'Challa and he appeared in the massive hit Captain America: Civil War. It was risky because, in most cases, this can cause a film to become confusing and end up all over the place. But this can also be thanked to the bone-crushing, wall-smashing action executed to perfection by director Ryan Coogler, who takes to it like an artist in love with the ways human bodies can cause destruction.

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Flanked by formidable bodyguard Okoye (Gurira), T'Challa rouses his supporters, including his mother Ramonda (Bassett), spunky teenage sister Shuri (Wright) and old flame Nakia (Nyong'o).

T'Challa, king and protector of the technologically advanced fictional African nation of Wakanda, has been characterised as the first black superhero, which is partly true.

Seated in the row behind prolific author Tananarive Due and Entertainment Weekly columnist Anthony Brenzican, I was excited to share my thoughts about what we were about to experience. "I'm just going to hold it". Those ideas are the movie's supple backbone, not just stuff that's been added to make the whole venture seem important. So there you have it, Boseman didn't have to undergo auditions and test screenings like, say, Tom Holland, he was just the ideal man for the job.

The question of whether this isolationist nation should prioritise protecting its people above all else, or reach out to those less fortunate, is dealt with thoughtfully by Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole, who position the conundrums within the context of real history. It was really cool to see somebody that look like me.

Black Panther has 50 fresh reviews, 13 from top critics, and is being called "a superhero movie for the ages". In the mix of all of this is a large supporting cast that also features a number of strong female roles including Oscar victor Lupita Nyong'o as the crafty Nakia, whose duties are complicated by her relationship with T'Challa; Danai Gurira as Okoye, the kickass head of the all-female Special Forces; the delightful Letitia Wright as T'Challa's technical wizard of a younger sister; and Angela Bassett as their Queen Mother, Ramonda.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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