I’ve talked a lot about how Star Wars changed my life. It is the movie that opened my eyes to the possibilities of being something more than I am. It opened my eyes to the world of film, and for believing that I could be part of the creation of characters like I saw in Star Wars. It was the start of my creative journey.
A few years later, I saw the issue of Green Arrow 76 entitled No Evil Shall Escape My Site, where the old black man questioned Green Lantern with words that have stuck with me forever.
I’ve been readin’ about you . . . How you work for the blue skins . . . and on a planet someplace you helped out the orange skins . . . and you’ve done considerable for the purple skins. Only skins you never bothered with – – ! . . . the Black skins! I want to know . . . how come?!
As I’ve grown, as much as I love Star Wars and how much it has changed my life, I dismissed how I wasn’t represented, where I didn’t see someone like me, in the film. Yes, I know how Lando was added in The Empire Strikes Back, but it could be easily surmised that the reason Lando was put in was because of many questions, like the old man in Issue 76, that had been mentioned in articles and discussions that occurred after Star Wars.
I grew up in a time when having someone look like me, an example of me who could be a writer, an artist, a creative person, would have made it seem for my young self that anything was possible. It wouldn’t seem strange or unusual to be the creative person I aspire to be, but that wasn’t the era I lived in. The thing is, I had it better off than my parents, and it was batter off than my grandparents. You try to look for inspiration wherever you can find it, even if the representation isn’t with someone that looks like you.
Before I went to see Black Panther, I tried writing articles about some of the reports I saw before the movie. From what I saw, the Black Panther movie was being built up as a watershed film; a film that would be the defining moment of a race and a generation. In USA Today, CBS News, New York Times, Washington Post and on YouTube this was being hailed as THE FILM that would be a new experience, a new cinematic representation to Black Cinema.
It seemed like WAY too much hype.
So, before I dive into the review I must make a confession. Before I saw the movie, I was hit with the news my father, who has been very sick, had a slight turn for the worse. With the one of the themes in the film, it may have clouded my objectivity on that narrative. Putting that aside, I have to say the film lives up to the hype, primarily the writer and director delved into territory that makes the overall theme of The Black Panther relative to today.
The Black Panther is foremost a wonderful and rich addition to the Marvel Universe. I’ve always said the difference between Marvel and DC movies had been with the DNA of the publications. DC characters are gods, above the realm of men which makes them a bit hard to translate into normal cinema constructs. Marvel is the every man books, so you can easily see the humanity in the characters. Black Panther was on point for the humanity of the character. He struggled with the title of being king as well as doing good for his people.
There were things that were so, and yes, I’m going to put it this way, so PC perfect with the characters. It was a majority Black cast and it was good to see the full spectrum of characters. Most films there would be the one Black or one Asian in the film. It was nice to see a full representation of Black people in the film. What was even more impressive what how women were portrayed. Women were equal in the society and complex. The thing is, because there were many diverse people of color in the story, the white people in the film were standouts and seemed out of place. In an odd way, it reminded me of the movie Boomerang. In that Eddie Murphy vehicle, it was a largely Black case and because of the wide variety of people of color, it didn’t become a novelty of the token Black character. They were just people. That, in part, what happened with Black Panther.
One big side note that occurred in the plot (not going to spoil it for you) is where they went with Killmonger. It could have gone so wrong with Killmonger as to the angle they took with it. It was every racist nightmare where the underlying motivation went with the character, but it made so much sense that they had to address it, and it played out well, for me. Here’s the thing, I understand, and I could empathize where Killmonger wanted to take Wakanda, but he was forged by the African American experience. T’Challa was from the African experience and while the skin was the same, the motivations and the struggles were different. The relationship between the two was complicated and gave a different dimension to the world conquering aspect of many villains in comic books.
By the way, the speech at the end about where he wants to be buried, I don’t know it was a punch in the gut for me.
The only thing I didn’t like was the ending to the movie. It seemed a lot like the ending to Iron Man, where Tony Stark reveled he was Iron Man. I would have liked it that Wakanda had continued the illusion to the outside world. Sharing the technology, for me, seemed like a Kumbaya moment that had to be done for a feel good moment but didn’t make sense for the decades long isolation establishment of Wakanda. It had to make sense for the bigger threat to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the Infinity War) and just seemed too neat of an ending.
This was a really good movie to me. It will give inspiration those people who were me in 1977. It will show them in front and behind the camera. It will show then that it is possible to be who they are.