As the end of its second week comes to a close, I am certain that I am not the only one that was amazed by Black Panther. The action, the characters, the world, the culture, the music and the drama every scene had something to say and was full of heart. I was left without words when the credits rolled. My wife looked at me and was attempting to start a conversation about the wonders that we had just witnessed in this picture; but I was so preoccupied with all the emotions and the impressions that this film left me with that I couldn’t respond. And that is the word that kept coming back to me when I thought about this movie: Film.
It wasn’t just a Marvel movie for me. It didn’t generate that euphoric reaction that The Avengers provoked when I saw it for the first time (or the other four times that I saw it theaters during the summer of 2012), which Jon greatly captured in a recent edition of his Road to Infinity War series. That usual reaction of a young child wanting to share with everybody his new discovery, that urge like: “You must see the this movie! Its amazing! The effects are cool! The story is clever and faithful.”, etc. But Coogler‘s Black Panther left me in a similar state as Mangold‘s Logan. It was a powerful, real story dressed as a superhero movie. It is the reason why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is on everybody’s top five Marvel movies of all time. It simply tells a real story. You can eliminate all the superhero elements- the suit, the vibranium, all of it- and the story is still powerful at its core.
It is a story of fathers and sons, a story about a country’s legacy, evolution and about a man creating his own path. Every character from T’challa to Killmonger and Nakia have such a powerful view of the world that is valid and deserves our attention. Now, the most beautiful aspect of these characters and their individual arcs is that they speak from a very relatable place. T’Challa wants to know how he can be the king that Wakanda needs without sacrificing who he is and others in need. Killmonger, after seeing what most African-descendant communities face every day in the world due to injustice, slavery and poverty among other things throughout history; wants to lead a revolution that will make Wakanda known to the world and use its resources to shift the social role of these communities from oppressed to that of ruler and oppressor. Nakia, on the other hand, wants Wakanda to come out of the shadows as the beacon of hope for all the people that surround them that face hardship, poverty and the horrors of war everyday. In Nakia’s eyes, not too different from Killmonger, as Wakanda hides from the world to protect itself; it is allowing the world surrounding it to die. Even though the line between good and evil is always clear, it does not make any of the arguments discussed by these characters any less valid. It is impressive, satisfying and layered storytelling.
Now, out of all the storylines, my favorite journey was T’Challa. Everybody raves about Killmonger and I know why and agree with the masses. Michael B. Jordan‘s performance is complex, deep and heartbreaking. One of the most compelling by far in any movie in the last couple of years. It is filled with rage and emotion. Everything you can ever want in an antagonist. Danai Gurira’s Okoye, Lupita Nyong’O‘s Nakia and Leticia Wright‘s Shuri standout as some of the movie’s strongest performances. But the story arc of Chadwick Boseman‘s T’Challa/Black Panther was my favorite on personal level. Even though the movie is called Black Panther and I went in theater cheering for the Marvel Studios logo and the hero persona, I came out in love with T’Challa. In the midst of the world, tradition, culture and family he loves; he must rise to protect it from itself and show it the way to its future. In spite of facing betrayals, spite and unraveling heart-breaking truths, T’Challa as the hero that we need him to be, rises not only as Wakanda’s protector; but as one of our world’s Avengers. It’s a classic hero arc, but it has so much depth and it’s told in such a way that I can’t ask for anything more. What can I say? I am a sucker for this kind of story-telling.
I never expected that this would become one of my favorite Marvel movies of all time, mainly for how not “Marvelesque” it is. I never expected that I would be judging this movie in the same category as I view Logan. In my book, it simply transcends the genre. I may be making a big deal about this, but beyond the ties to our african heritage (personally I am from Puerto Rico with a bit from Ecuador. For those that don’t know, Puerto Ricans are a mixture of native Taínos, spaniard and african descent), beyond social commentary that it makes with such grace and truth; Black Panther is a cinematic masterpiece that has been gifted to us by a group of amazing and talented people. The box office has spoken. As I write this love letter and its first week comes to an end, Black Panther has made $520 million worldwide. This movie is impacting people all over and as soon as I have chance to enjoy it again in theaters, I am going back. Don’t just go because you love Marvel. Go for the ride and brace yourself; because you’ll leave the theater screaming:
Tell us what this movie has meant to you. How many times have you seen it and what place does it hold in your top five or top ten list. Let’s chat about it in the comment section below.
Also, check out our RTF Review on Black Panther by fellow Revenger, Tony Artiga