02.20.2018

Wakanda Is Kinda Woke: Spoiler-Free Reflections On Black Panther

Wakanda Is Kinda Woke:  Spoiler-Free Reflections On Black Panther

By Michael P Coleman

I hadn’t planned to write about Black Panther, figuring that everything had already been written and said about the latest Marvel superhero movie that’s become the studio’s first masterpiece and a certified cultural phenomenon.  And by now, you know me:  I’m not going to give away anything from the exceptional film, but suffice it to say that if you didn’t make a trip to Wakanda last weekend, you should.  You just should.   

A few reflections: 

bp1 post master 250As of last night, Black Panther had made $426.6 million in four days of general release, with $242 million of that coming from the domestic box office.  Allow me to put that in perspective: the movie outperformed last year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi and enjoyed the second-highest four-day domestic opening of all time.  Black Panther has earned more money, in just four days, than last year’s Justice League earned in its entire, 3 month domestic theatrical run. 

As a lifelong Superman fan, a part of me aches to have to report that fact.  But a bigger, blacker part of me simply says “Wakanda Forever!” 

Even with that staggering financial success, and critics as well as fans universally praising the film and cast, Disney has not at press time announced plans for a sequel.  The best they’ve done is promised us that the lead character will return in this summer’s Avengers: Infinity War.  Now, I don’t have anything against Captain America, Black Widow, and most of the rest of the Marvel gang (I for one have had more than enough of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man / Tony Stark), but what’s it take to get a brutha’s sequel green lit?  With virtually no competition at the box office for at least the next two weeks, Black Panther stands to continue its dominance.  Hopefully, Disney will do the right thing (thanks, Spike) and put Black Panther 2 on the fast track. 

The film succeeds on so many levels.  While last year’s Wonder Woman and other movies have advanced the notion of what a woman in a action movie can be, Black Panther takes the conversation to a whole new level.  I’m not sure that the title character or his chief protagonist, Erik Killmonger, was the baddest warrior in this thrilling new movie. 

No, I’m wrong about that.  I am sure.  They weren’t.  Black Panther presents more #BlackGirlMagic than we’ve ever seen on the big screen. 

Wakanda Forever! 

Speaking of Killmonger, he’s the most nuanced villain I’ve seen in a movie in some time.  Far from one-dimensional, I walked out of the theater thinking that every African American man in America is just a decision or two away from being Erik Killmonger. 

It was great to see the legendary Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker in such regal roles. 

And Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa?  If you’ve ever wondered what an African American James Bond would look like, you’ll wonder no more after seeing Black Panther

Congrats to director Ryan Coogler for delivering the superhero movie that I’ve been waiting my whole life for.  I saw the movie Saturday morning during one of the day’s multiple sold-out screenings, and it was a big morning for a former colored boy who used to have to imagine hard to see himself as Superman.  By Saturday afternoon, three different retailers at Arden Mall in Sacramento had sold-out almost all of their Black Panther licensed merchandise.  You could get a t-shirt in small, but last time I checked, neither Boseman, Jordan, nor I could wear a “small.” 

Brody Passionate Politics Black Panther 250Oh yeah, speaking of shirts and lest I forget:  prep yourself for a shirtless Black Panther / Killmonger battle that needs to be seen on the biggest screen you can find.

Far from your standard superhero / action film, Black Panther injects social commentary — and even the slightness of slams on Donald Trump proposed wall — into a movie that everyone, not just black folks, needs to see.  There’s a “hiding in plain sight” reference that I am DYING to tell you about — but I’ve promised a spoiler-free review!  Make things easy on me and book a ticket for Black Panther as soon as you finish reading this, and when we run into each other at Starbucks, we can talk.

But in the meantime: 

Wakanda Forever! 

Black Panther is playing in theaters everywhere. 

 Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.