How “Black Panther” Transcends Superhero Movies

SAM SORENSON | ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST

I have never been a fan of superhero movies, specifically Marvel movies, but I would be lying if I said I did not love “Black Panther.” I went in knowing almost nothing about the film other than Top Dawg Entertainment produced the soundtrack and that the majority of the cast is Black. Those two reasons brought me to see it opening weekend and I am glad I did. Regardless of my expectations, or lack thereof, this film truly stunned me and left me with a warm feeling in my heart.

Both the score and the soundtrack are amazing. Admittedly I was more excited about the soundtrack than the film initially considering it was an album full of new Kendrick Lamar material. While I wish they would have used the soundtrack more in the film rather than just picking snippets, Ludwig Göransson’s score truly shone through. The melding of more modern hip hop with traditional African sounds, which Göransson discovered while traveling in Africa, comes together to give the film a distinct feel. The beating drums are so visceral during the action sequences, while the somber moments are highlighted as well.

Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Erik Killmonger steals the show as one of the most sympathetic antagonists I have ever seen. The entire film I felt for his cause and saw where he was coming from with his beliefs. He is introduced by showing his father in a room full of Public Enemy posters and plans to overthrow the oppressors of African Americans in their community. Killmonger takes a militant mentality quite similar to the actual Black Panther Party, but this does not align with the views of Wakanda’s people. It is hard to overstate how important his performance was as the villain seeing as there was never a moment where I didn’t understand why he was doing something. His anger and desperation strike a chord with the continued cycle of oppression in today’s society.

One of the draws of this movie was its almost entirely Black cast. Yes, there are some White actors, but the focus is still on African roots. I have heard complaints about this and if you are concerned with specifying that the amount of Black actors should not matter, you are missing the point entirely. A scene near the end shows a triumphant moment from one of the White characters, but this doesn’t take away from the focus of the film or come off as a White-savior plot. Everything about the film and the origins of the Kingdom of Wakanda celebrates Black excellence and does not need to rely on asserting that all lives matter.

Finally, the women of the movie are powerful and show amazing performances. The film has a strong female general as well as a young woman who specializes in creating technology for the hero of the film. Rather than leaving the women of the film as an afterthought or mere love interest, “Black Panther” shows them as powerful equals who are pivotal to the strength of the kingdom. There are no females that need rescuing and the women actually end up saving the main hero a couple of times.

(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD) As the film wraps up, Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) takes the time to speak of repurposing the abandoned housing projects of Oakland. Rather than the sad reality of many being torn down to make room for hotels or other corporate buildings, Boseman speaks about his vision to renovate them to help the community and provide research platforms for the impoverished. (CONCLUDE SPOILERS) This is a beautiful ending that touched my heart in a way I did not know a superhero film could. While there was the action and admitted cliches of a typical superhero movie, I felt that the film was much more important and I found myself forgetting that it was a superhero film at all at times. Ultimately, I cannot recommend this film enough. Even if you are not a fan of superhero films, this movie goes far beyond expectations and stands on its own as one of the best films in recent memory.

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