Outfit ready? Check.
Hair or appropriate headwear in place? Check.
Snacks safely and securely stowed away in a purse? Check.
I’m joking about the last one. (No, I’m not). But the day is near, and if you’re like me, “excited” just doesn’t explain what you’re feeling ahead of the public release of Marvel’s “Black Panther.”
The good thing is the movie is even better than you expect. So much better. Ryan Coogler, the director of “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed,” does an applause-worthy job taking on his first superhero flick, which is set in the fictional African country of Wakanda. Lead protagonists Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira emanate all types of #blackgirlmagic in more ways than one. The fighting scenes are raw. You’ll even think the movie’s villain, played by Michael B. Jordan, is a real one.
And you’ll feel all the feels. Emotion overwhelmed me after a screening when a black woman pulled me to the side to ask my thoughts. (Yes, I cried). I’m not going to give anything away, but I will say if you are going to your local theater with your mind set on celebrating this film, it won’t disappoint.
Here are some of my favorite elements:
Nods to various African cultures
“Black Panther” imagines the greatness of an African country if the continent had not been colonized and robbed of its resources. And while Wakanda doesn’t actually exist, it carries a lot of the negative perceptions cast upon countries some politicians liken to sh**holes. (“Third World” is a term that’s thrown around often). But Wakanda is rich in its portrayal of African culture, with nods to the colorful fabrics, range of skin tones and lively streets. Costume designer Ruth E. Carter, who was responsible for dressing casts in “Do the Right Thing” and “Selma,” said she drew inspiration from the Xhosa, Zula, Himba and Maasai tribes on the African continent. Her work is breathtaking and even pays homage to the lip disks worn by Surma women of Ethiopia.
Ok, so Angela Bassett has BEEN everything. But in Wakanda, she’s queen to King T’Chaka. For the majority of the movie, she wears a regal crown that frames her face (which we all know doesn’t age). But when she’s forced to remove her headdress, revealing her natural locks, I ’bout screamed. Besides the fact that she and the rest of the cast are just gorgeous, they really just rocked the hell out of their natural hair. Lupita wears a cropped fro. Michael B. Jordan wears his tresses in locks. A kick ass army of fierce women have no hair at all. And Letitia Wright’s character has braids.
One of the characters wears a straight-haired wig during a fighting scene, but when she’s ready to get down to business she snatches that thing off so fast. How’s that for messaging?
Kickass black women
Speaking of fierce black women. SPEAKING OF FIERCE BLACK WOMEN… “Black Panther” goes above and beyond. Sure, they play the roles of loving mothers and love interests, too, but they also bring the men of Wakanda to their knees. While Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman, has a team of elders who help guide him, who does he trust to help him catch the bad guys? Black women. Who fights to defend Wakanda any time it’s on life support? Black women. Who puts themselves in danger to save lives? Black women.
You get the point. Black women are the sh**.
The movie explores fatherhood through the perspectives of two sons. The relationships that are portrayed are nuanced and touching. The fathers are gone but not absent. That alone speaks volumes, considering the way black fatherhood is often misrepresented in the media.
Michael B. Jordan
Besides the fact that Michael B. Jordan is a fine, fine man, his character is phenomenal. Jordan does a spectacular job of portraying the rage, disappointment and disconnect often felt by African Americans. Expect a few lines from the movie to really hit home.
The best love story of “Black Panther” doesn’t even involve the main protagonists, but it is one of the most moving scenes in the whole film. That’s all I will say for now.
I refuse to give this one away, but just know I was too delighted, cheering and all. If you adored “Moonlight,” which was written and directed by two Miami locals and featured young Miami actors, you’ll be happy, too.