February 21, 2018

Black Panther (2018)

Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan

This is a movie that has been celebrated with a jubilation I haven't seen since Star Wars was resurrected, and rightly so. It is a huge barrier breaker, with an all-black cast, a black director, and an all around celebration of black culture, beauty, and power. It broke $400M opening weekend ($242M of which was domestic)--more than Justice League earned in its entire domestic run. To say this movie is having a moment would be an understatement.

There is so much to love about Black Panther. The costumes and setting are both beautiful and vibrant. Seeing a movie set in Africa without the usual signs of abject poverty and/or wild animals is both refreshing and sadly rare. The tech gadgets dreamt up rival that of a Bond movie. And Danai Gurira's portrayal of the warrior Okoye is so badass I briefly considered shaving my head while watching the movie.
But it's the overall message of the movie that is winning over audiences. This idea of a magical, peaceful kingdom in Africa--untouched by colonizers and a history of slavery--run by powerful black role models is something we have sorely needed. Even the prerogative of the villain, Killmonger (whose hair we really need to talk about), complicated with a thread of truth and morality, had to be overly violent just to make sure audiences knew he was supposed to be the bad guy.

So it is with all of these glowing compliments that I hesitantly say: I didn't love it. I loved a lot of the components of it (as cited above), but not necessarily the sum total. For one thing, the action sequences weren't the most exciting. Maybe I've been binge watching too much Vikings, but it's hard for me to see anyone a fearless warrior if they're holding anything more powerful than two hatchets. In all seriousness, how is it exciting to watch someone fight in an impenetrable suit that absorbs the power of a freaking grenade? Like, how can you even die? Where's the suspense? (Though at the same time, the conception of that suit is amazing. I want it.) For another, it was terribly predictable. I know, I know, superhero movie--maybe I'm asking too much, but considering how much else the movie got right, it would have been nice to have had at least one surprise in the thing.

I love that this movie was made and I am happy I supported it in going (on opening weekend, no less!). The joy it has brought people of color, I imagine, is similar to how I felt in watching the opening sequence of Wonder Woman. Representation matters. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter that this movie didn't blow me away. It wasn't made with me in mind. And that's ok.

Final word: This movie was long overdue and a moment of reckoning for Hollywood's long-held  stereotypes of people of color.

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