Written By: Brittany Momah
To me, a film is great not just because of the writing, the direction, or the cinematography, but because it represents something so much larger than entertainment. A film is great because it moves us, empowers us, reminds us that we are not alone, and calls us to action. Black Panther (2018) is that kind of film.
I just want to start by saying what a goddamn phenomenal all-around movie it was. The casting was excellent, the storyline was compelling, the direction and cinematography was top notch, and that costume design (I mean!!!). It was entertaining, thoughtful, comedic, heartwarming, and empowering. But it is this last aspect I want to focus on, and what I believe makes the movie so great. It was fucking empowering.
As a black woman, this movie did so much for me. Not only was it strange and incredible to watch a blockbuster film with a cast of basically all black people (short of two “main” characters), but it was so goddamn empowering to see black women kick ass. Black Panther’s entourage was not a band of male misfits with one knowledgeable female who is underappreciated, as we’ve seen so many times before. No, instead T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is surrounded by strong, intelligent, badass black women who run shit. His sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), is a technological genius who stole the show; his “right hand [wo]man”, Okoye (Danai Gurira), is a fierce warrior with an intense loyalty to her country; and his former lover, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), is so passionate about helping others that it took her away from her home…not to mention all of these women kick ass in a fight. Knowing that these characters will be role models to little black girls watching Black Panther is something that is so much bigger than a movie and is something that is so important for us to have.
As a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, may I just say, thank you. Thank you, Marvel, for understanding that Black Panther needed to stand alone. As it has now become customary for Marvel’s superheroes and villains to appear in each others’ movies, I was worried going into to this film that it would be overshadowed by characters like Iron Man. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Black Panther was its own entity. Of course, it had the comedy, action, and pop-culture references that make the Marvel movies great (and I’m sure that the sequel will incorporate other Marvel bigwigs), but this film was allowed to be its own. You do not need to have seen a single Marvel movie prior to understand or enjoy Black Panther, although the post-credits scene and Stan Lee’s token cameo will be lost on you if you haven’t. It was allowed to be a mainstream, blockbuster film for black people, made by black people. And the hordes of black people showing up in a single weekend to see a comic book movie is something I have never seen before, but I hope to see again and again.
And, finally, as a black person living in America, Black Panther gave us so much. It gave us permission to be upset about our world (not that we needed it). It gave us hope that if we remember we are more connected than we are divided, we can overcome. It gave us a reminder of the power and strength of black people. It gave us such a feeling of empowerment that brought me to tears. There was no white savior in this movie; no white man came in with different views from his cohorts and “fixed” racism (see Kevin Costner in Hidden Figures ). It critiqued our current, and past, world (the mid-credits scene was a much-needed monologue that felt like it was directed at all of us). And it gave us one of the greatest quotes: “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage!” It gave us, us. And that is a beautiful thing.