The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther was made available for digital download last week, a really short span considering its premiere in movie theaters was only in mid-February, but just as well.
Hardcore Marvel fans were desperate for the digital copy so that they could watch all eighteen MCU films before taking on Avengers: Infinity War when it hit last month. Besides, the movie’s shine has now been eclipsed by the unstoppable Infinity War anyway, so there’s no better way to steal back some limelight.
Infinity War aside, Black Panther did phenomenally, and nothing can take that away from it.
The records it broke are aplenty: first film to outgross a billion dollars this year, highest-grossing superhero film ever in the United States ever, highest-grossing film ever by a black director (Ryan Coogler), largest one-day gross for a non-sequel film, largest-grossing Monday by any film… the list goes on.
My first screening of Black Panther in theaters was nothing short of amazing. I was elated to watch the movie again, this time on my computer, and revisiting Wakanda was equally breathtaking as the first time.
I seldom care about how stunning big budgeted movies look, but this movie was truly spectacular, drawing from traditional African influences and marrying it with a futuristic, technological aesthetic. Wakanda is a country completely invented, yet it is immersive and spellbinding. It may not exist for real but Black Panther compels me to want to visit traditional Africa some day.
Even the movie’s soundtrack was transporting. It comprises an African-themed film score by Ludwig Goransson, who visited the continent to research authentic African music, as well as a hip hop album produced by Kendrick Lamar.
The film was also hilarious and passionate at the same time, making for a thoroughly entertaining experience. Helmed by the handsome Chadwick Boseman, who plays the titular character, Black Panther tells the story of T’Challa as he inherits the Wakandan throne following his father’s assassination in Civil War, and seeks to capture Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), a black market dealer who once stole a piece of vibranium, the fictitious metal that empowers the country.
To be honest, I found Chadwick Boseman, who plays the titular character, very forgettable in his first appearance as T’Challa in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. We barely knew the character’s back story, and it didn’t help that he was overshadowed by the already established ensemble cast that dominated that film.
Fast forward to 2018 and both actor and character finally shone in their own eponymous movie. In Black Panther, T’Challa has to prove his worth as leader of Wakanda while struggling to reconcile his covertly powerful country with the margnalization of black communities across the globe.
The movie features a wonderful trinity of powerful female characters played by ethnically diverse actresses, a true score for black women.
Nakia, played by the exquisite Kenyan-Mexican Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, is the gentle Wakandan spy and T’Challa’s former girlfriend, the epitome of a classy yet protective lady who can defend herself and her loved ones when the situation demands it.
Conversely, army general Okoye heads the country’s special forces, the Dora Milaje as their most lethal warrior, portrayed by Zimbabwean American actress Dania Gurira. And perhaps the most beloved is the witty, genius Wakandan princess fronting the nation’s technology program: Shuri, played by British actress Letitia Wright, whom you might recognize from Season 4 of Black Mirror.
Speaking which, the technological designs in Black Panther are far more inventive to me than anything in Iron Man’s armory. Perhaps it was its imaginative fusion with African artefacts, like Kimoyo beads that communicate and Lesotho blankets that become shields.
Most importantly, the movie is a culturally significant beacon for black people. Black Panther is a movie the black community needs. Black Panther is a hero the black community needs.
Even its villain, Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, is a hero the black community also needs, because he’s not exactly a villain in my opinion. I see him more as a vigilante for the oppressed, a Malcolm X with more aggressive means. After eighteen preceding movies, he is easily the MCU’s first well-developed one-movie super villain. He even delivers the most powerful line in the film: “Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships ’cause they knew death was better than bondage.”
There is no way Marvel isn’t approving a sequel. Hollywood studios love a good cash cow, and a passable film like Ant-Man already got one, so I’m thrilled that the world will get to enejoy more of Wakanda in the future. But in the meantime, I’m glad we have the first Black Panther to revisit over and over again. My second time watching was just as good as the first.