Scenes from the movie, “Black Panther,” which opens Feb. 16 nationwide.
BY MICHELLE HOLLINGER
Special to South Florida Times
I’m not a comic book fan so I knew nothing of the Black Panther character until his appearance in the “Captain America: Civil War” movie a couple of years ago. I enjoyed his presence in that movie and looked forward to him chopping it up with the other superheroes in subsequent Marvel flicks.
When the first trailer for “Black Panther” dropped, like the rest of Black America, I nearly lost my mind due to the roughly 45 seconds of breathtakingly beautiful blackness in the characters, the locations, the wardrobe. The anticipation built with each subsequent teaser until Tuesday, when I saw this outstanding work of revolutionary art brilliantly woven together by a young filmmaker rapidly cementing his place in a director’s hall of fame.
Ryan Coogler knows how to make a movie. He demonstrated it with “Fruitvale Station,” and “Creed.” Now, with “Black Panther,” he has placed himself head and shoulders above his filmmaking cohorts. Michael B. Jordan has starred in each of Coogler’s films – and the dynamic duo elevate their game with each project.
I refuse to spoil your opportunity for a full “Black Panther” experience, so here’s a nonspoiler review that provides an overview of the movie’s greatness and its effect on this reviewer.
T’Challa/Black Panther returns to Wakanda to take his place as king after his father’s death; however, his ascension is not without its challenges. One challenge in particular emerges unexpectedly and has radical global implications reminiscent of the real Black Panther Party circa the 1960s.
With other superhero movies, I sometimes find myself trying to remember who’s fighting whom, and why. Black Panther’s plot is so tight and written so flawlessly (by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole) that there was never a question about what was going on or why it was happening. There was no wasted dialogue – it moved the story along creatively while also doing its job in the character development department.
The fictional African nation of Wakanda is a character itself. Actor extraordinaire Chadwick Boseman brings his ‘A’ game to his role as T’Challa/Black Panther and Michael B. Jordan has broken the mold on playing a villain. However, if you feel like I feel, you just might have to re-think your perception of what constitutes a villain.
The women in the movie are strong in every conceivable aspect. Deep melanin never looked so good on the big screen. Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright are smart, charismatic and fiercely independent, yet unconditionally loyal to Wakanda. Angela Bassett is perfectly cast as T’Challa’s mother, bringing a defiant maternal instinct to the proud, grief-stricken widow.
Forest Whitaker is his usual superb self, embodying a key role and carrying it off with a wide emotional range. Fresh off his Oscar-nominated role in last year’s mega-hit, “Get Out,” Daniel Kaluuya is a conflicted warrior whose affection for Okoye (Gurira) literally brings him to his knees.
“Black Panther” is a more than a movie.
Yeah, Wakanda is a fictional place, but its presence, “hidden in plain sight,” its values, beauty, soul and allegiance to the ancestors make it a powerful metaphor for African-Americans. The visual power – the stellar CGI (computer-generated images) were not too much and certainly not too little – converged with the subtle and-not-so-subtle racial analogies to evoke a visceral reaction in me so strong that I had to literally stand for the last 25 minutes of the movie to provide the adrenaline and intense feelings room to flow.
The movie’s climax is incredibly emotional. Not simply because of what is lost, but also because of the language used to explain the reason the loss was chosen.
Go see this movie. Take your children. I predict it will become one of those tireless classics that finds its way into a college course because its content is rich and ripe for intellectual discourse. It will certainly become a treasure in the black community.
The South Florida Times does not have a rating system. Good thing, because there are not enough stars to quantify the excellence of “Black Panther.”