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‘Black Panther’ claws its way into cinematic history

Femi Witherspoon

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I left my birthday dinner before I could finish my food so I could see “Black Panther.” I had been waiting for the premier since I stumbled upon the release date in 2016, and two years later, the release date was my birthday. I had planned a birthday dinner with a lot of my friends but the dinner was one of the last things on my mind. I had to get to that theater.The movie started to roll and “wow” was one of the only words that I could say.

First, let me say that I have never been so impressed by such an anticipated movie. Black Panther trumps all the X-Men movies and other Marvel films because, for the first time, I can relate to a Marvel movie. The soundtrack is bomb (not just because there’s some SZA) and the visuals are out of this world.

Black Panther is a film about family, ritual, and triumph. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Wakanda’s king, is faced with the battle of a lifetime when he is dethroned by an outsider (Michael B Jordan). To get back what is rightfully his, he will call on his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), his most trusted Dora Milaje warrior, Okoye (Danai Gurira), and his love interest, a Wakandan spy named Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), to help secure his position in the kingdom.

Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o played some of the principal roles in the film, which was evident from the commercials and the promotion for the movie. What wasn’t apparent was that the rest of the lead and supporting cast would be almost entirely Black. For the first time in my 18 years, I couldn’t count on one hand how many talented and gifted Black actors and actresses were in an action film.

It was a huge refresher that the young and bright director Ryan Coogler displayed Black actors and actresses throughout the whole film. In recent interviews, Coogler has stressed the importance of seeing himself and people who looked like him on the screen and he definitely nailed it. This was no surprise because his other Black-led blockbusters include “Creed” (2015) and “Fruitvale Station” (2013).

This made my experience much better. I felt like I knew the characters and that they knew me. We were like a family, all from the same royal kingdom of Wakanda. The sense of togetherness represented in the movie was all too familiar growing up in a Black household with my mother and sister. I never got this feeling when I watched Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible” or Scarlett Johansson in “Avengers.” I got a taste of what it’s probably like as a white child growing up and seeing strong positive images that resonate with you because the actors on screen look like you.

If you don’t love new sounds, this film will definitely change your mind. I honestly wasn’t used to such a fresh and diverse soundtrack coming out of a film. The closest thing to this soundtrack has to be from the hit TV show “Insecure” on HBO. Both soundtracks incorporated newer artists into the projects that would automatically make everything “POP” or give it a “BANG.”

Despite contributions from new artists, the Black Panther soundtrack is also infused with traditional African instruments and percussion that would last you a lifetime. Every transition had a funky tune to follow it, which made the movie that much better. I also commend the people in charge of the soundtrack for releasing it before the film. With a week to marinate in the soundtrack, I was able to appropriately jam out to the music while the movie was playing. With tracks from Khalid, Jay Rock, Vince Staples and more, it’s incredibly hard to be disappointed.

The visuals did not disappoint either. The costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, captured all of the moods of Black Panther, from the regal headdresses to the sleek and fitting warrior attire of the elegant Dora Milaje soldiers and of T’Challa himself. Every piece on every character told a story and had a purpose. You could immediately tell that there were mounds of time and thought required to pull off the looks that created individual feels for every character. The aesthetic and colors of the movie deserve their own article because wow, it was unlike any other superhero movie. There were indigo blues and ivy greens that made the screen extremely pleasant to look at. I think that I could watch the movie without sound and just stare at the backgrounds. That’s how great everything truly looks.

BLACK PANTHER IS A MUST SEE. In Atlanta, there was a school that took students on a field trip to view the movie. That needs to happen all across the United States, because behind all the glitter and amazing music, there are messages that need to be taken in by the youth. I really wish there were more movies like this for Black children growing up needing an extra push or bump of positivity. Representation matters and Ryan Coogler did an awesome job by creating this movie. Get out and see it! •

PHOTO COURTESY OF MARVEL STUDIOS.

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‘Black Panther’ claws its way into cinematic history