I’ll be honest, I was never a huge fan of Marvel’s Black Panther character.
Not because I particularly DISliked him. Rather it was mostly because I was not that familiar with him. When I was in my early teens, my single-mother had a job where she was able to bring home small stacks of Marvel, DC and Image comics almost every week. So, yeah. I read a lot of comics. Like, A LOT. I ended up really digging into the bigger names like Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men, and Superman. For the most part, I read what I got. So, sure I saw instances of the Black Panther among the pages, but it was never really as a main character or really in any kind of an important role.
And, let’s be honest, he wasn’t exactly a character that I related to. He wasn’t a geek/nerd like Peter Parker, or an outcast like Gambit or Cannonball. And while the character does possess super strength, he wasn’t really the unrealistic portrayal of male masculinity and knighthood that Superman was. Then there’s the most obvious reason of all. He didn’t look like me.
So when Marvel announced they were making a Black Panther movie, I wasn’t super excited. I mean, I’m a little more socially aware, so I did think it was cool, but I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy it. My attitude changed a little with Captain America: Civil War. Their introduction of Black Panther in that movie raised my interest. Still, he wasn’t a character that I personally related to, but from a storytelling perspective, he was more interesting than I’d expected.
When the first trailer came out, though, I was hooked. Among all the social implications of this movie, I was finding myself really excited simply because of the visuals and the music. Just from the two-minute teaser and the trailers, this film looked like it was going to bring a new kind of style and aesthetic that wasn’t really present in Hollywood. As a geeknerd, the scifi aspects were also really interesting.
So, when my wife suggested pre-ordering tickets for the Friday opening I was practically giddy. (Multiple people in my family have strong aversions to big, obnoxious crowds.)
I’m not going to address the social implications of this movie. Not because I think they’re irrelevant. Quite the opposite. I’m not going to address its social implications because many other writers have already done so, far more eloquently than I can here. And, in my opinion, their perspectives give them far more insight into what Black Panther’s success means on a scale bigger than just as a movie. No, I’m just going to talk about the movie for the sake of it being a movie.
You can check out several other articles about the social impact aspects of Black Panther with a quick search. Here are a few:
Even though we’ve already been introduced to Black Panther the character, the movie is really an origin story. Granted, the end of the movie has significant repercussions for the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the same way that the end of Iron Man gave birth to it. But I don’t think this takes anything away from the film. In fact, I think it’s interesting that Marvel can do an origin story now when people are looking for the superhero and comic book movies to grow into different directions away from the somewhat stale trope that the Iron Man movie created.
As far as the plot goes, I’ve seen the film being described as Marvel’s first Shakespearean epic. I supposed this is true. It is a monarchical family struggle because of a little betrayal with a little bit of love interest thrown in. Black Panther does have that somewhat timelessness to the plot. Personally, though, I think that the story arc might actually be the weakest point for the movie. By no means does that mean Black Panther is bad because of the movie. It’s a strong plot, just not the strongest point in the film.
What is the strongest point then? For me, it was the visuals. Black Panther was positively beautiful to watch. Marvel has always done a fantastic job with the effects for the MCU. But Black Panther takes it to a whole new level, in my opinion. Between the battle rhinos and the amazing costumes and the incredible scenery, the movie was unadulterated eye candy. I firmly believe that outside of the repercussions on the rest of the MCU, they could not have made this movie before now because the technology probably did not exist.
Okay, so I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about the social aspects of the film, but I changed my mind. I have to get on my soapbox a little. It’s the elephant in the room, in a way. I’m a white guy and this movie only has really two major white characters. And one of them is a bad guy. So, watching this movie, how did that make me feel? Personally, I didn’t care. It didn’t bother me at all that there weren’t very many people “I can relate to,” on the screen. I watched a movie and enjoyed every minute of it.
Now, I’m not saying this as some type of badge about my progressivism. I’m not interested in justifying my social-justice-warrior-ness to anyone. My point is that for those people out there who are holding off going to see this movie because they have this belief that Black Panther is a “black people movie,” I gotta say that archaic and biased viewpoint is keeping you from enjoying a really good movie. If you think of yourself as a nerd or a geek or just like to watch great action movies, believing a movie is made for a select group of people because most of the actors don’t LOOK like you is limiting your fandom. And I would argue that it will limit it even more in the future. Besides, if people of color acted like that they would hardly get to see any movies.
So go out there, brave the theater and the throngs of people excitedly going to see this movie. Stare up at that big, silvery screen and let your eyes and ears feast on what might be one of the best Marvel movies. I’m pretty sure you’ll thank me.