Cinephile No. 706 “Black Panther”
“A Complicated Utopia”
A Review of "Black Panther” by Nathan H. Box
Director: Ryan Coogler, Writers: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole, Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o
Rating: 4 Stars, SHOWTIME
T'Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who was a childhood victim of T'Challa's father's mistake.
Dear “Black Panther,”
I must apologize. I must apologize on behalf of all us who’ve patiently sat through Marvel’s decade-long experiment to string together a universe cemented in so many of our childhood years. I must apologize for whoever decided you should come toward the end when so many of us are filled with exhaustion, angst, and nervous anticipation about what comes next. I apologize for critics like myself who were one film away from swearing off superhero movies forever and walked into your showing with a predetermined negative attitude. I should watch every movie expecting the best and I was prepared not to afford you such an opportunity.
See, you were released into the shadows of the Academy Awards; a night when some of the best films of the year finally get the recognition they deserve. In an instant, you made half a billion dollars and then surpassed a billion before anyone could come to terms with what just happened. Meanwhile, the Academy’s nominees struggle to get people into seats. I placed this burden on your shoulders and for that I am sorry.
You impressed me. I need to say that in another way. You impressed beyond almost anything I have witnessed in the Marvel Universe. You didn’t linger on an origin story. You gave us the facts and brought us to present day. You revealed the majesty of Africa. You left us to ponder colonialism, systemic racism, poverty, and power. You are a comic book movie that demanded we discuss slavery.
You did this all with a story focused on a different kind of hermit kingdom, strong black male and female leads, challenges to the throne, resurrection, and civil war. You were cinematically beautiful and bold. You revealed a complicated utopia and made me ponder a world where Africans finally call the shots. “Black Panther,” you made me fall back in love with comic book movies and for that, all I can say is thank you.
Be good to each other,
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