Black Panther is a film that represents a lot of personal firsts. Not only is it the very first motion picture I got to see on the day of its premier. But also the first Marvel film as well. Have not generally been a major follower of the contemporary Marvel film franchises. Never even read super hero comics. Yet last summer, previews began appearing on YouTube and such for Black Panther. Even in the preview, there was a very clear subtext for Afro Futurism. Which is probably my favorite science fiction trope. As 2017 marched on and the theatrical premier of the film drew closer? The more it impacted on me.
By the time the first month of 2018 had passed, had made up my mind that it was a film that myself, my mother and father all needed to see on the big screen. My own mother was taken with the idea of it-once learning that Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o would be starring in the film alongside African American Hollywood icons Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker. My friend Henrique showed me videos of people attending California premiers dressed as African royalty out of the film Coming To America. As well as dancers and cos players too. Still what WAS Black Panther as a movie?
Black Panther tells the story of the secret African city of Wakanda- the home of a group of technologically advanced tribes with a strong code of honor. This is all due to the use of the powerful metal Vibraniumm, which is the literal lifeblood of Wakanda culture. Boseman is T’Challa, a newly appointed king whose faced the ritual challenge to become king along with his bride Okoye. T’Challa than faces the challenge of saving Wakanda, as their most powerful warrior Black Panther, from being nearly overtaken by a traumatized family member. And face the secrets of that family as well.
The first impressions of seeing Black Panther for me reduces down to what’s said to be the beginning of wisdom. The idea of not knowing the ins and outs of what is shown. Black Panther is very unique from the Marvel films I have seen on the small screen. Chadwick’s T’Challa finds himself on two missions in the film-both inward and outward. One is to prove himself as king of Wokanda. The other however is about dealing with his inner reality. The notion that he may have to be the one to end Wakanda’s isolationist policies so the rest of his disenfranchised people around the world can be lifted up.
In a world where the white supremacist policies and permissions of Donald Trump, mass shootings and police oppression are now daily news? Black Panther is likely the most important American film of 2018. Its a Marvel superhero film, based on the first black centered comic they put out in 1966. Most importantly, the films director Ryan Coogler drew on his childhood experiences as a native of Oakland, California (a subtext of the Black Panther film) to tell a story where an technologically advanced group of African’s held the power to change the world for the racially oppressed.
For me personally? The experience I had with the build up to the film was more strongly online based. Articles, forums and the aforementioned experience with my friend Henrique. Where I live in Bangor, Maine? There remains virtually no black/Latino population from which to develop a culture. And Black Panther IS an Afrocentric film. With themes of Afrocentric people with an advantage no longer living in fear of sharing their abilities. The audience around me on premier night didn’t seem to know how to react to it. But Black Panther did uplift both my mother and I upon seeing it, for sure.
Black Panther is a historic film. And beyond even uplift, it affirmed some of the sociological outlook I’ve been developing for the last decade. Largely from talking in depth to people online about the black experience in Africa and the African diaspora-people such as Henrique. The film even took some time to throw some shade around Trump era hatefulness by stating the importance of building bridges instead of walls. And even if Black Panther isn’t easily understood by every American right now? I feel it will endure as one of (if not THE) shining moment of Marvel’s cinematic history.
*Still to come in the future, my actual movie review of Black Panther