Black Panther; The Year of Black Cinema
The most anticipated film of 2018 is finally here, and as someone who has already seen it twice, I can firmly say it does not disappoint.
Where does one start when trying to review Marvel's latest addition to their cinematic universe? Does one start with the record-breaking box office sales? Should there be an in-depth review of the performances given? Perhaps it should begin with a text-based standing ovation for the director.
Me, I'm starting this off by talking about the Culture.
What Black Panther does for the Culture is something we have yet to see in big Hollywood. This is not the first time that there has been a film with a predominantly Black cast. This is, however, the first time we've been given a film with a massive budget, no white savior, and a clear irreverence for the white people in the audience. Black Panther never tries to assimilate. It never panders to its white audience members. While the film never aims to exclude its white viewers, it makes it clear that the film was made for Black people, and I for one, find it so refreshing. In the past, we haven't had permission to make big budget films for just ourselves. You could either make a Black film but find the funding yourself, or you could get the big dollars from Hollywood but be forced to make the film palatable to all. Black Panther manages to have the best of both: a big budget and a clear intention to reach Black audiences, with little to no care about how white audiences receive it.
I saw the film twice, once in 3D and once in standard definition. Without revealing any spoilers: Black Panther is a must-see. It's an incredible story, tenderly penned by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, that manages to weave in your standard superhero action with more serious topics such as Black lives on the global scale, liberation, and war. The film manages to be hilarious and light-hearted yet also tense and heavy. It's a journey to watch, and a journey you'll surely want to embark on more than once.
Everyone in the film delivers incredible performances but honorable mention goes to Danai Gurira, Sterling K. Brown, Winston Duke, and Michael B. Jordan.
Gurira manages to craft an Okoye that is strong, soft, witty, and bad ass. Her performance is inspiring and both times I saw the film, I heard the female members of the audience vocally rooting for her. Brown proves that there is absolutely no such thing as a small role by taking N'Jobu, a role with little screen time, and crafting an incredibly moving performance. Duke similarly takes his few appearances as M'Baku and pumps them full of heart, comedy, and strength, giving us a well-rounded and very likable leader of the Jabari tribe. (It also helps that that man is fine as hell.)
A special round of applause is needed for Michael B. Jordan. Jordan manages to bring a softness and understanding to Erik Killmonger that leaves audiences conflicted. Killmonger is the clear intended antagonist of the film, but the whole time, you can't help but feel that his heart is in the right place and that maybe, just maybe, it's not his intentions that are wrong, but his execution. His performance is sincerely moving and well-thought-out. If Michael B. Jordan is not at least nominated for his performance next year, we boycottin' the Oscars.
As y'all know: All films in the Year of Black Cinema Series will be rated on a scale of 1 - 10 in several categories. These scores will then be averaged out in order to find the mean and final score. The categories are as follows:
Composition: Based on how many Black people the cast is composed of, how much screen time they're given, and what kind of roles they occupy.
Content: Based on the writing and plot of the film, because you can put all the Black stars you want in a movie but if the writing is wack, it don't matter.
Culture: Based on what the film is contributing to the culture. Because that's why we do this.
For Composition, Black Panther scores a 10. The cast was blackity black, y'all. What's even more important is that it featured all different types of Blackness. There were dark-skinned Black people, light-skinned Black people, natural hair, shaved heads, Africans, Americans, Black royals, and Black laborers. The protagonist and the antagonist were both Black. This is important because it stresses the idea that Blackness is composed of a spectrum of experience: there is no one way to be Black.
In Content, Black Panther scores another 10. The story is fye and even manages to pull off a couple plot twists. The themes and ideas posed during the film are real and relevant to issues Black Americans and Blacks all over the world are currently facing. It's not just a superhero film - it's very much a film about what we're facing today.
In Culture, Black Panther scores a perfect 10. The cultural impact of this film is unprecedented. So many of us have been waiting for years for a film like this. From the opening montage to the end credits, it's clear that no expense was spared in creating this film and that's exactly how it should be.
Overall, Black Panther finishes with a perfect 10 and a gold star from us at SDEL. That being said, don't go in hoping to have your every Black film wish fulfilled. This is only one movie. But it's an incredible movie, and definitely the beginning of a much larger cinematic movement.