The latest Marvel film, Black Panther, has brought superhero movies to an exciting new level.
Not only was it a thrilling adventure, it opened up new possibilities for films representing black culture. In fact, the movie is a landmark moment for Hollywood because of its novel image of black culture and because it is the first Marvel movie to feature a predominantly black cast.
Set in the fictional East African country of Wakanda, where the country poses as a third-world economy, but is something of a technological utopia, the film follows Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther. T’Challa faces an internal crisis at home, where he is challenged for the throne by Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, played by Michael. B Jordan. The plot is full of Shakespearean themes, including familial conflict, tragic heroes and political strife.
The exhilarating performances by all of the major actors, along with the inspired writing, makes this film a memorable one. T’Challa’s sister is played with dripping charisma by Letitia Wright, who assists her brother on his missions. Danai Gurira as Okoye, the sword-wielding general, is equally as stunning. Lupita Nyong'o dazzles as Nakia, T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend who also happens to be an undercover martial artist.
This movie represents the gold standard for the superhero genre. Throughout the film, audiences are treated with thoughtful, creative storytelling, even though the plot is somewhat familiar. Still, the many wonderful details push the genre with mind-blowing stunts, epic battles that rival Lord of the Rings and intricate characters. Black Panther is a poetic action film whose action sequences are enhanced through clever writing, beautiful special effects and vibrant cinematography.
Most importantly, Black Panther is a game changer in the way black people are portrayed on screen. Robert Townsend’s Meteor Man, which featured a black superhero as the main protagonist, could not break the barrier that Black Panther achieved. In a climate where there has been relatively negative representation of black people, this film will open up new possibilities to a younger audience.
Even though this film is about a monarchy set in a fictional country, it demonstrates that black people can be portrayed in a complex way, rather than being submitted to tired stereotypes. The Cosby Show, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder broke the typecast barriers on TV, and now Black Panther has achieved this on the big screen.
The bottom line is that in this climate where topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement are contentious dinner conversations, Black Panther proves that black stories matter — not only can they tell a rich, vibrant story, the general public is open and receptive to hearing about them.
This long overdue movie will be a treat for the entire family, including those who usually wouldn’t attend a super hero film. Black Panther transcends its genre, transcends racial stereotypes and revives the true spirit of black film.