Black Panther Review

I have never felt the way I do right now after watching a movie.

Black Panther was so much more than I thought it would be. As a Black woman who has loved film her entire life, I know how much representation matters and I’ve never seen a movie on the scale of Black Panther. I knew going in that it is a Marvel Studios movie, which also means it’s a Disney movie. There are expectations that come with that. But in my head, no matter the hype, I figured they would never give us the same love and attention they give to heroes like Captain America.

And I was right. They didn’t give us the same love as Captain America. They gave us so much more.

I have never seen a movie with so many black people in leading roles, playing such complex and unique characters. And on top of that, there are so many powerful black women in a world where they themselves hold great power and respect. And it all takes place in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, a place where black people are not only thriving, but excelling at everything they touch. Black Panther is a portrait of black excellence exemplified, and to be helmed by a black director (Ryan Coogler) and feature the talents of a black costume designer (Ruth E. Carter), black hair stylists (Camille Friend), and black writers (Coogler and Joe Robert Cole), all of whom are given free rein to tell their story… I was awestruck by the end of the film.

Black Panther is a wonderful film that completely lives up to and even exceeds the hype that has been surrounding it. Ryan Coogler’s direction is thoughtful and poignant and what he is able to borrow from the original Marvel comics and bring to the screen is so satisfying. Coolger and his team are able to infuse Black Panther with cultural dialogue, that usual Marvel superhero grandeur, and plenty of humor.

But it’s the characters of Black Panther that make the movie work. There’s Chadwick Boseman as the new king T’challa, trying to find his footing in a role he was thrust into by the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War. There’s Shuri, T’Challa’s brilliant, funny, tech genius, scene-stealing baby sister played by Letitia Wright. And in a break from the typical Marvel mold, the villain is exceptional – Michael B. Jordan‘s Killmonger is a standout player.

In order to talk about Jordan’s character and performance (and so much more), I would have to spoil the film for you. And that is a definite no-no. So just trust me when I say that each actor and each character they play is not the typical one-note black character you are used to seeing in a blockbuster film. They are all fully fleshed out and vivid on the screen, each with their own ambitions and agency.

The fight scenes are, as you’d expect, excellent. They are fast-paced, beautifully choreographed, and feature some of the most thrilling moments I’ve seen in a Marvel film. When the Dora Milaje, T’Challa’s all-female band of bodyguards, walked on screen and wielded their spears, I couldn’t help but break into a grin. They are the stars of every battle and the film doesn’t shy away from their strength and fierceness.

But even more important than the action is Wakanda itself. The set design is colorful and vibrant, a nation that is opulent and rich in colors and textures. Each space had a defined feel and emotion to it. Shuri’s lab is playful, curious, and bright – just like her. The throne room is sparse, offering a view of the golden city, showing the focus and seriousness of the space. When you are watching the film you are fully immersed in its universe.

I was, and still am, an emotional pile of feelings after watching this film. It’s going to take a few more viewings to sort myself out, but one thing I do know is that Black Panther is definitely an achievement, especially if you are black. I know some people will take that last statement as some kind of weird jab, but all black people should be able to see themselves on this scale. To see a multi-million dollar blockbuster superhero movie with a predominantly black cast is wonderfully jarring, and filled me with so much pride. I want everyone who looks like me to feel the joy of seeing black people triumph in a movie instead of the endless suffering cinema doles out when telling stories about us.

This isn’t a film where you’ll see broken black bodies, a tale of enduring pain and survival. It’s a film where we see a diverse group of black people thrive, fight, and win. I know my emotions are high, but this is one of the best stories Marvel has told so far.

/Film Rating: 9 out of 10

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About the Author

Jazmine Joyner writes for Women Write About Comics, Wear Your Voice, Ms En Scene, and You can find her on twitter at Jazmine_Joyner.