by Annice Abanda
When I hear about a movie that everyone has claimed is amazing, I’m always a little bit apprehensive. I ask myself: will this movie be all that everyone has made it out to be, or does the hype mean I’m going in with high expectations that the movie can never fulfil? After watching ‘Black Panther’, I can honestly say it deserved every positive review it received.
So, what makes it so noteworthy?
Its representation of Africa.
Although Wakanda is clearly a fictional country, it’s evident that its conception is based on natural beauty and cultures present in actual African countries . The various panning shots of Wakanda’s landscapes are comparable to the surreal ones in existing African nations.
Building on the interconnection of a fictional African nation and non-fictional Africa is the existence of vibranium, an imaginary metal, which is comparable to the very real resources produced in Africa – from diamonds, cocoa beans, iron and copper to tropical fruits, gold, petroleum and more.
Wakanda is the bedrock of technological advancement as well as rich traditions. The infrastructure and technological discoveries show Africa to be more than the primitive, technology-deprived continent it is often represented as. At the same time, the presentation of different African cultures through clothing, rituals, accents, tribal organisations and so on means their traditions are neither denied nor seen as inherently opposed to technological innovation. The two exist alongside each other which subverts the narrative that whiteness is a necessary prerequisite to progressivism.
It was clever to set ‘Black Panther’ in a fictional country that is historically contextualised by Africa, as it avoids the misrepresentation of a single African country whilst being able to showcase a multitude of African countries in one single place: Wakanda.
Its representation of women.
I loved seeing women alongside men in battle, in leadership positions, and in governance. Okoye (played by Danai Gurira) is undoubtedly the most skilled and most captivating warrior who prioritised her duties and dedication to her craft over her relationships; she was willing to fight her husband for what she believed in. Shuri (portrayed by Letitia Wright) is a technological genius and one of the smartest people in the Marvel universe. Although this does nothing to tackle the structural barriers that see so few black women worldwide involved in STEM, it challenges the idea that they are incapable or undeserving of a seat at the table. It shows that black women, when given the opportunity, can equal the performance of their counterparts, and even outperform them. Meanwhile, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) showed us that fostering gentleness, compassion and empathy is not mutually exclusive to demonstrating strength and assertiveness. She never belittled herself for a man – compassionate yet assertive.
‘Black Panther’ showcased dark skin black women of all varieties (short hair, natural hair and even no hair) which was important considering black female representation has normally been limited to light skin black women.
Its message of equality.
Michael B. Jordan’s character, Erik, is very important. He symbolises the many aggrieved and oppressed people who want to do to their oppressors what has been done to them. A very valid feeling. Though tempting, T’Challa’s rejection of this idea is key. It would simply feed a never-ending cycle of one demographic dominating until another manages to dethrone them, creating chaos and havoc as ‘Black Panther’ shows. Instead, we need to fight for equality and that means embracing our differences whilst living in harmony. We can love our own race/culture/gender/religion and simultaneously respect other people’s.
He initially held all the stereotypical views about Africa and had them dismantled.
It speaks for itself really- but the fact that the soundtrack wasn’t generic mainstream music that a lot of big Hollywood movies, especially superhero ones, have was refreshing. I loved the hip hop beats throughout, the sound of the Weeknd, and Kendrick Lamar. To witness vibrant music of black origin take pride of place was thrilling.
It was actually funny!
That it was a superhero movie.
Placing aside its rich and multifaceted depictions of blackness, ‘Black Panther’ revealed itself to be a superhero movie just like any other. Filled with enthralling action scenes, special effects and ‘cool’ gadgets, it brought together people of different backgrounds who enjoy exciting movies. The cinema was full when I watched ‘Black Panther’ and, though it was branded as a ‘black movie’, the audience wasn’t solely filled with black faces. Especially significant as the positive messages are consequently communicated to people of all backgrounds.
The success that ‘Black Panther’ has garnered in the few weeks since its release date is a testament to the skill Ryan Coogler demonstrated to turn a favoured comic book story into a ground-breaking production. Whether you’re a Marvel fanatic, a pro-black enthusiast, or just want something exciting and different to watch, I’d seriously recommend watching this movie!