A few things before we get started
- SPOILER ALERT!!! If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want any of it ruined for you then you probably don’t want to continue reading
- My Black Panther knowledge is limited to the movie, so all of my character observations are strictly based on that
- Photos of costume design, movie snapshots, and/or cast do not belong to and were not taken by me. Most are credited to Marvel studios and or entertainment new sites
ok, leh get it shawty!
Like many other Nashvillians, I attended the Black VIP Red Carpet Premiere the day before the film came out. PacFest, GAWD, 2100 Social Club, Black in Tech Nashville, Black Geek Week, and SO MANY other amazing organizations came together to sponsor this packed event and raise money for GAWD inc, a non-profit organization that offers mentoring and resources to uplift children in the community.
It was such a beautiful event. I loved seeing all of the people dressed up in African, tribal, and/or cosplay attire. I loved seeing so many creative outlets on the scene taking pictures and doing interviews in order to capture and share this moment. I loved how many families showed up. And, most of all, I love seeing my people show up and show out in a major way for something so positive.
In addition to the event itself being amazing, the movie was phenomenal. As I said in the notes this movie encompasses my entire Black Panther knowledge. I was very open going in, and I think that only added to this movie completely blowing me away. From start to finish I was enthralled by beautiful scenery, captivating characters, and a storyline that was fresh and well put together. We spent the entire car ride home reliving the best moments and dissecting character dialogues. At work over the weekend it was like those of us who had seen then movie could feel the excitement oozing off of the next person and couldn’t wait to strike up a conversation. We talked about Wakanda for DAYS and that is no where near an exaggeration.
If you had a chance to go see the movie, then you know that there were SO MANY great moments that I can talk about. But in an effort to keep this a one part post, I forced myself to narrow my favorites in order to really dive into them without taking up yal’s whole day.
Outside of how beautifully the entire movie was shot, the costume design was the first thing to instantly grab my attention. The amount of detail and care put into creating the Wakandan wardrobe is seriously to be marveled at (did you catch it LOL). Each tribes’ garb was more detailed and different than the next creating an intriguing feeling of unified individuality.
When reading up on Ruth E. Carter’s vision for the film’s costume design her one main focuses was to make it all look real. Dubbed Afrofuturism, Carter gives us motherland vibes from the next dimension with unique patterns, textures, vibrant colors, and custom embroideries. Carter and crew did significant amounts of research gaining inspiration from numerous African tribes and people creating designs that was realistic and effortless.
Along with dressing the beautiful people of Wakanda, Carter was tasked with dressing one of my absolute favorite movie villains of all time; Killmonger. He is literally T’Challa (Black Panther) on opposite day and his look was such a big deal. The contrasts between these two leading men are mad clear from watching the movie trailer, however, the effort put into creating the visual contrast through costume deserves a standing ovation. Everything T’Challa wears is well tailored and regal. Killmonger on the other hand is urban street wear from head to toe. Like T’Challa, his look shows stature and wealth, but it does it at a completely different end of the spectrum. From drop-crotch pants to floor length coats, Killmonger takes hood rich to the next level. Even after taking over the Wakandan world, his look embodies an element of flash meant to stand out and celebrate his stature.
Fully developed & very different female characters
While T’Challa was the main protagonist, the film would have been nothing without its strong female cast. Many reviewers wrote off T’Challa’s character as being weakly written, but I feel that him not being overpowering allowed for other characters to develop and truly contribute to the story.
The three main female characters who made the most impact were Okoye, Nakia, and Shuri. Each woman supported the male lead in a way that showed both their individual importance and their importance to the entire Wakandan kingdom.
Okoye (played by Danai Gurira) is the general of the Dora Milaje , an elite group of female bodyguards, and the head of Wakanda‘s armed forces and intel. As arguably the most traditional character in the movie, Okoye is loyal to Wakanda and the throne without waiver. She leads her unit with strength and grace and questions anything outside of the laws and traditions of the land.
What I loved about this character is that she never let emotion outweigh her allegiance. So often when we are presented with strong female characters in a film the main focus tends to be on softening her to a more “likable” and “digestible” woman. This “alteration” is typically done by a male counterpart who ends up becoming a love interest only after she sees the error in her independent ways. Okoye was not about that life. Bae was good and she loved him, but when it came down to it, it was Wakanda over EVERYTHING!! When the war broke out and she had to protect the kingdom she let him know:
Bae: “You would kill me, my love”
Okoye: “For Wakanda…without question”
Nakia (played by Lupita Nyong’o) is a spy and King T’Challa’s former love interest. Nakia’s character is a little more complicated than Okoye and her loyalty to the kingdom is not as black and white. Though she loves Wakanda and everything they have built, she doesn’t agree with the old, traditional ways of keeping all of Wakanda’s recourses a secret.
When we meet Nakia she is in the back of a wagon amidst several other women who have been kidnapped by a militia. It is a little confusing at first until it is revealed who she is, and then her story feels super close to home. A few post back I wrote about how the movie Fences spoke to millennial women not wanting to settle down and lose their identities within a man, and this is completely Nakia. Throughout the film, T’Challa continuously tries to convince her to take a seat beside her on the throne as the queen and she is just not for it. She has no interest in taking the throne and being his wife if it means she cannot do the work that she is passionate about and help people.
“You’d make such a good queen if you weren’t so stubborn,” he tells her. “I would make a great queen because I am stubborn — if that’s what I wanted.” she replies.
Nakia’s realization of her privilege as a Wakandan brings her a sense of responsibility and obligation to the black people in the outside world. If she cannot convince the kingdom to open their arms and offer the assistance, she is more than willing to get her hands dirty and do it herself. Because of this, she isn’t willing to give into to T’Challa without being able to do it her way.
Shuri (Played by Letitia Wright) is hands down the best character in the entire movie. T’Challa’s little sister and one of the smartest humans in the world, Shuri is the queen bee of all things technology and engineering in Wakanda. From the black panther suit to the city’s magnetic train system, Shuri has helped to advance the kingdom in a way outsiders couldn’t comprehend. After healing Everett from a paralyzing gunshot wound, watching him marvel at her technological advance more than validated her and Wakanda’s position in the world’s hierarchy. She is light years ahead of anything he could have ever imagined.
This character is important for so many reasons. She is brown girls in STEM. She is brown girls against conformity. She is brown girls with confidence. She is brown girls in control. I’m in my high 20s and this was inspiring to me, so I can only imagine how watching her was for young girls. I think back to how hard I used to argue over being the pink Power Ranger when I played as a kid. Someone could really catch these hands if they weren’t trying to let me pick Shuri.
Black v. Black
A HUGE conversation and theme that kept reoccurring throughout the entire movie was whether or not we are actually our brother’s keepers. When T’Challa becomes king multiple different people question how different he will be as a king and if the old way is still really the right way. From Nakia, who he loves, to W’Kabi, who he trusts, T’Challa is torn trying to make a decision to interfere with the struggle of the outside world or keep Wakanda and its resources a secret.
When Erik Killmonger arrives on the scene he has no question at all about what the decision should be. Through his struggles as a fatherless kid in the hood and experiences invading poor countries with the military, he has seen first hand the turmoil black people all around the world are experiencing. Knowing of Wakanda and their resources he is hell-bent on changing this and claiming what he feels black people rightfully deserve. Once he becomes king it is game on.
This was a really profound movie moment for me. Black identity is not a new topic among our community by any stretch, but Ryan Coogler literally had our physical self and our inner self in true combat on screen and this was overwhelming for many people. It was interesting seeing someone who was so obviously the villain be right and make valid and important points for why he was doing what he was doing.
People have argued that his method was extreme comparing him to a modern-day (and of course fake) Malcolm x and I think that’s the beauty of the character. His conviction and belief were real. It wasn’t just about him. He was willing to die fighting for the liberation of black people globally, and did.
“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew death was better than bondage.”
There are SSOOOO many other things that I could talk about in reference to this amazing movie, but I won’t spoil it all and let yal see it. I will say though look out for black male relationships (specifically men and their fathers), females saving men (and really the world), and views on beauty and identity.
To date, Black Panther has grossed $476,613,041 globally and is still going strong. It is receiving rave reviews across the board and has people diving into some in-depth and import conversations. Outside of the deep messaging, as a superhero movie, it’s pretty bad ass as well. It’s beautifully shot, has awesome fight scenes, lots of explosions, and all the action you could ask for.
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