And I'm not saying that because this one is full of black faces instead of white ones, or because it takes place mostly in Africa instead of the US or Europe or a distant planet. But because this movie is not afraid to explore some pretty deep issues facing our world right now. And it does that simply by doing what superhero stories do best: it uses superpowers as a metaphor for the problems we all face at one time or another.
In this case, the problem of adulting. Which sounds silly, I'm afraid, but I don't mean it in a silly way. I look around me at the people in their twenties and thirties who keep talking about how weird it is to have to do this adulting thing, or how adulting is hard, and I think... wow. This is a legitimately troublesome thing for a lot of people. There's this sense that the up-and-coming generation has been somehow unprepared for the business of being grown-ups, and they resent this.
In a sense, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman, a man who needs to make more movies so I can watch them) is facing the same issue. He's been thrust into the role of king, a role his parents have done their best to prepare him for, and yet, he doesn't feel ready to step out from being a son into being a leader. But he must. And unlike the people around me, more than a massive credit card debt or a failed romantic relationship or the ignominy of living in his parents' basement hangs in the balance. The fate of a nation rests on his (delightfully broad) shoulders now.
And so T'Challa does what the people around me are discovering they must do: he accepts his new responsibilities.
On the flip side, we have Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). He's angry, he's vindictive, and he wants to take power however he can. He says he also wants to help the masses rise up and fight off their oppressors, but really he just wants whatever power he can grab for himself. Like a twenty-something who wants the advantages of adulthood without the responsibilities, he pushes his way into T'Challa's world, wrecking and ruining anything he sees as a threat.
And yet, he was surprisingly sympathetic in the end. I empathized more with him than I ever expected to.
So, that's one thing Black Panther has going on.
But there's more. It also faces up to the idea that, to borrow a phrase from another superhero, with great power comes great responsibility. The nation of Wakanda has wealth and technology that they have hoarded over the years, worried that by sharing it, they will weaken themselves and endanger their people. Pretty hard not to see the parallels here that the filmmakers are drawing. The United States has wealth and technology other countries lack. And we're very worried right now about who we share them with.
What the film points out is that hoarding can also be damaging. But that helping others, holding out the hand of friendly assistance to someone regardless of what they look like or where they come from -- that is not damaging. That is healing.
In fact, as a Christian, it is my calling to do just that. To help others, to show God's love to them. Not to hoard the good news of salvation, but to spread it.
So yeah... Black Panther has some deep stuff to say. But it's also very exciting and fun -- my fellow theatergoers and I laughed together many times. We also clapped at the end. And again after the first "stinger" scene during the credits. Which scene, by the way, made me cry. Cuz wow, it was great.
(And the second stinger -- you have to stay for that, okay? Do not be like the vast majority of the people at my theater who just walked out after that. The second stinger is worth sitting through alllllllll the credits for.)
Anyway, like most of my "initial thoughts" posts, this is a little scattered cuz I haven't had a lot of time to consider this movie. I'll try to wrap it up here with a few thoughts on the film overall. The storytelling was nicely streamlined -- once in a while, I'd be like, "okay, where is this going?" and then that scene would tie right in with the storyline just like it should.
The acting was superb -- I expected to enjoy Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong'o and Martin Freeman, but I didn't know I was going to like Letitia Wright so much! She was sassy and smart and fun.
The first action scene was a lot of darkness and shaky-cam and I was worried that the film as a whole would be that way, but it wasn't. The rest of the fight sequences were perfectly watchable, and in retrospect I can see that one was supposed to be disorienting and choppy because of what's going on in it.
I saw somewhere that the film's director, Ryan Coogler, said that Black Panther is going to be the MCU's James Bond, and wow, that was a really apt comparison. There's even a casino-set scene that made me think of a similar one from Skyfall, plus T'Challa's sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is basically Q. Here's hoping they make more Black Panther films, cuz I definitely want to see them!
EDIT: I forgot to say whether or not this movie is family friendly! I'd say it's on par with the other MCU movies. There's non-gory violence involving guns, knives, spears, and imaginary weaponry. There's maybe a dozen bad words, though they're more vulgarities rather than profanities. There's what MPAA calls "a brief, rude gesture," and you can probably guess what it is. There's a little bit of kissing, but no love scenes, no nudity (unless you count shirtless men as nudity, cuz there be shirtless menfolks here). So yeah, it earns its PG-13 rating but doesn't step beyond what the MCU has basically set up as their boundaries.
This has been my final post for We Love Superheroes Week. Check out everyone else's entries here, and don't forget the giveaway is open through the end of today! I was going to post the answers to all the games today too, but I think I'll hold off until tomorrow because people are still entering those.