- By Emily Chilton, Co-Editor-in-Chief -
Marvel’s Black Panther hit theaters on Feb. 16 and has broken multiple box office records in the intervening two weeks. It has also proved to Hollywood that movies starring black characters, even (especially) movies with almost exclusively black characters, can perform at the box office. It also did about 5,000 other things incredibly well; the movie is a stand-out, and if you go see anything at the theater in 2018, it should probably be Black Panther.
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o among others, the film is visually and emotionally arresting from the very beginning. A boy asks for a story and a deep voice starts to unfold the history of Wakanda, accompanied by CGI illustration. An unusually long time is spent on background and character development, especially of T’Challa, before the major conflict arises, but at no point is it boring or plotless. Instead, the viewer is swept up in a world where vibranium and heart-shaped herbs exist and, poignantly, where the African nation of Wakanda was never discovered or colonized by Europeans. Wakanda beautifully combines technology, innovation, and wealth with tradition, simplicity, and culture. On The View, Lupita Nyong’o spoke on the significance of Wakanda’s history: “Wakanda is special because it was never colonized, so what we can see there for all of us, it’s a reimagining of what would have been possible had Africa been allowed to realize itself for itself.”
Though the film is tense at times, it never feels like it’s doing too much, instead managing to raise and successfully address issues of race, global inequality, gender, and even generational conflict while still telling a compelling story. Through various contacts with the outside world, including the eventual presence of Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), the nation and therefore the film starts to question and consider global issues and how it can help more than its own people. Complementing the social commentary of the film is its pure artistry of story and characters. It achieves what so few movies can: creating a viewing experience that is simultaneously enjoyable and thought-provoking.