I underestimated how popular Black Panther was going to be this weekend. I had showed up to the movie theater early afternoon on Saturday, just about a half-hour before the screening I was preparing to see. Suffice it to say, it was already sold out.
While waiting for contributor Mark to arrive, I spent time in the lobby of the theater, silently observing the mood of the rest of the moviegoers. I saw large groups of families taking pictures with the large Black Panther promotional cutout, some in traditional African dress. The feeling in the theater lobby was nothing short of pure joy, as people prepared to watch the first true representation of their culture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Seeing this, I couldn’t tell you how happy this made me, and fortunately, the movie itself did not let any of us down.
Black Panther picks up the story of T’Challa shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, the first introduction of his character to the current cinematic universe. Wakanda, reeling from the sudden death of T’Challa’s father, King T’Chakka, the African nation sets to anoint T’Challa the next leader. As this is going on, an arms dealer has made off with a small portion of Vibranium, the resource responsible for the advanced technology the country has been able to produce. From there, it’s up to T’Challa, Okoye, one of his devoted body guards, the Dora Milaje, and his ex, an operative, to find what purposes the arms dealer has in store for the Vibranium, which leads them to Erik Killmonger, a former Navy SEAL with ties to Wakanda.
Black Panther feels like no other movie from Marvel to me, and that’s one of the things that I love so much about it. It’s not wholly unique in its story structure, but the cultural aspect of this film is almost enough to make this a completely different experience than anything else. That’s not to say that it is entirely derivative to the other comic book movies. In fact, the first half of this movie plays out more like a James Bond movie, as T’Challa has his own Q in the form of his younger sister, equipping him with all the latest technology Wakanda has to offer, and then going undercover in South Korea to try and apprehend the arms dealer, played by Andy Serkis.
To me, the best part of this film, though, is Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger. As the antagonist of this film, Jordan steals just about every scene he’s in; the dude is a star, and exudes more charisma in a single walk than I’ve been able to accomplish in 33 years of life. We’ve seen villains in these Marvel movies fall back on laurels set forth in the first Iron Man; they have a tendency to resort to a final fight between two similar forces, and while this film doesn’t stray away from that, I think Jordan is still able to raise Killmonger above most others and he’s one of the best villains in the cinematic universe. The cast as a whole is phenomenal, though,
I could go on about the cultural significance of this film, but I can’t really do it justice. I loved this movie, though, and it’s movies like Black Panther that keep making me come back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe when fatigue might start showing it’s head. They seem to know just the right time to hit us with something fresh.