Movie Review: Black Panther (6 Things I Liked, 6 Things I Did Not Like)

It finally happened. The Black Panther movie finally hit theaters last Friday. Without further ado, let's hop right into the review, but first a (rather lengthy) disclaimer, and yes there will be spoilers.

I've been seeing a lot of people celebrating the film and there's an overall positive response, and that's fine. However, everyone wasn't feeling the film for good reasons, and that's fine. While there will always be genuine haters, everything is not rooted in empty dislike, hatred, or being a contrarian. In all honestly, I do find it a bit troubling that some people have never publicly spoken up or supported anything having to do with Africa and/or pro-Blackness, but are getting "offended" on other people's opinions about the movie. About a fictional country where fictional characters life. And if you are that person who supports both, congrats and thank you, but people are still entitled to their opinions. Now I understand and embrace the fact that people "wake up" and learn at different stages, but please don't turn into Sistah/Brothah Souljah all of a sudden because some folks aren't into a movie with a seemingly "pro Black" theme.

Not liking the movie or calling out certain themes in the movie does not make you a "self hater", "coon", "anti-Black", a "crab in the barrel", etc. Those terms are starting to get used way too loosely and sometimes seem to be used only when some people are attempting to shame people for not agreeing with them while some of them ironically indulge in destructive, anti-Black media and thought. The film made $235 million the opening weekend and has an overall positive response. History has been made. A few people not liking the movie or calling out problematic elements is not going to to stop people from seeing it. Your ticket isn't coming with a reparations stipend. Let's not be childish.

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Photo: Disney

If you are not actively and consistently participating in cooperative economics, no thank you. If you are not ignoring posts of Black children gone missing on Facebook (and yes this is shade to my Facebook "friends", especially those from Chicago who ignore these posts of children in our city missing), no thank you. If you're more upset about other people's opinions about TBP than you are about chemtrails, chemicals in the food, flouride in the water, ya know...things that effect you everyday, no thank you. If you have contributed in the disrespect of the sacred terms"hotep" and "ankh" in effort to beef with members of the "Conscious Community", no thank you. If the only Black folks you support is the people you know, no thank you. If you are still regurgitating the myth of "unprofessional Black owned businesses" and scrapping for excuses as to why you can't support one while accepting less than humane treatment at other people's businesses, no thank you. I can go on, but I'll leave it there.

Hair Flip GIF

In layman's terms, if you're participating in anti-Black action on a regular basis, but you're upset at contrary opinions of the Black Panther on a "y'all are crabs in a barrel" tip, miss me with alladat. If you not about that empowerment lifestyle on a consistent basis, sit down, be humble. And again, if you partake in positive action, congrats, but again no thank you. You don't get to manipulate, put into question someone else's Blackness, or silence anyone else's voice because it doesn't align with your beliefs. I'm nobody's Blackness police or a "Sistah Souljah" myself with my own problematic ass, nor do I wish to silence other but really y'all, please stop trying to align not liking or finding issues in a damn movie with being a sell out. Black folk especially have every right to question and critic any and everything that is marketed to us even if it's cloaked in "Afrocentricity". Deal.

Unless someone is physically blocking your entrance from the theater, covering your eyes from seeing the movie with their popcorn dust crusted hands, nobody with a varying opinion is "stopping your fun"....on the Internet...from their social media page...where you can easy like Sunday morning block or unfollow them at. If you do not like unpopular opinions or critical thought, this is not the review or blog for you, so I'd highly and respectfully suggest you electric slide your way to the upper right hand side of this page and press the "x" button. Mini-rant done.

Here are some positives about the movie:

  1. Amalgamation of African Cultures: The fantasy African kingdom of Wakanda was located in East Africa, but the culture was made up of different influences from all over the continent. For example, the all-woman army Dora Milaje was created after the real life Mino, Dahomey Amazon women who protected the ancient civilization. I even realized the panther god Bast was obviously named after the Kemtic cat god Bastet. 
  2. The Women Were Badass: Lupita N'yongo as Nakia, Danai Gurira as Okoye, and Letitia Wright as Shuri stole the show. Not only were they badass, but these women were also beautiful and all darker complected. Why do I mention their complexions? Because we should already know how the media has been so destructive towards darker skinned Black women. It's great to see all dark skinned women as the stars, as the standard of beauty and doing it all so amazingly. 
  3. Imagery: Of course the images were on point. Wakanda exemplified Ancient African civilizations meeting sci-fi. I even peeped some architecture that reminded me of the Malian Mosque of Djenne in West Africa. This is one of the first major movies to (somewhat) portray Africa in a more positive light, so it's definitely understandable as to why people are lovin' it. I always wanted to see more Black actors and actresses in fantasy and science fiction films, so this was a treat. After a while the Madea films and stereotypical images do get tiring. I'll also add that it was nice to know that the actors were from different parts of the diaspora and the continent ranging from Guyana to London.
  4. "The Mens" (*Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather voices*): Chadwick Boseman been fine to me since Get On Up. I'm finally seeing what all the other ladies see in Michael B. Jordan. Daniel Kaluuya who played two timin' W'Kabi crept out the sunken place, found a gig in Wakanda as a rhino herder and got fine on our asses. And that M'Kabu portrayed by Winston Duke was also looking magically delicious. 
  5. The Fashion: Y'all know I'm a fashionista and I was loving the designs, especially Nakia's green and black dress in the casino scene. The film's costume designer Ruth E. Carter incorporated what she calls "sacred geometry of Africa" and Afro-futurism themes to bring the heat on the stylin' tip. 
  6. Danai Gurira and Michael B. Too Fine Jordan Stole the Show: Hands down my favorite characters. Danai Gurira also played Afeni Shakur in All Eyez On Me and her performance was electrifying in that film. This was my first time seeing Michael B. Jordan in a movie and he did an exceptional job. The "Hey auntie"line took me out.

Here are some things that made me go "Hhmmm":

  1. Why Now?: Although this film has a Black director with an all Black cast, I have to question why all of a sudden Marvel (the HBIC in this production) chooses to create this film. The political, cultural, and social climate having an effect? I think yes. 
  2. In Reference to Number 1: Everything is politicized and propagandized and this film was no different. Take that how you want it. 
  3. Erik Killmonger's Portrayal: It was cringeworhty and a lowkey diss. The character seemed to want to fight for Black liberation on a Pan-Africanist tip and was basically made to be unstable, violent, and unfit to be in a leadership position. From my understanding, in the comic book, Erik Killmonger is actually native to Wakanda. Catch THAT shade. 
  4. The CIA Angle: Lahdamercy. The irony of the hero being named Black Panther (originally having no correlation with the group) plus the irony of people tying in the Black Panther Party with this film via art, memes, etc, PLUS the irony of the CIA presence in the film. I don't know about y'all, but that was definitely a subliminal diss. Let's not forget about Erik being from Oakland, California, the original hub of the BPP. And of course we can't leave out the CIA being responsible for the destruction of the BPP through COINTELPRO along with other Black political/revolutionary organizations in the 1960's-1980's, and pouring crack cocaine into urban Black communities (just ask Rick "Freeway" Ross). That was a diss. T'Challa and the Wakandans were all about tribalism (which I can't fault) but would rather work with a CIA agent over the "dangerous" Killmonger. Interesting. 
  5. Men Vs. Women Power Struggle: The women in Wakanda were holdin' it down, no P.O.P.. The battle scene between the Dora Milaje and Border Tribe seemed to parallel the battle of the sexes between Black men and Black women. In the end, the Border Tribe consisting of men surrendered to the ladies of the Dora Milaje.
  6. African vs. African American Beef: Ah yes, the decade old diaspora war between Black Americans and Black Africans. It's pretty obvious that Erik represented Black Americans and T'Challa represented Black Africans. Erik felt like the Wakandans "left" him, ignored other Black people across the globe, and were being stingy with their fictional vibranium metal. T'Challa saw himself as the king of only his country and others weren't his responsiblity regardless of them sharing the same race. Plus this guy was an outsider, unlearned of Wakandan ways, although he was technically family, a blood relative. These ideals portrayed in the film are very similar to some points that have been made in various AA vs African debates in stating that African Americans are outsiders, entitled, unwelcomed, unfit, and uncultured to be African for whatever reasons, and that Africans are selfish, turned their backs on AAs, and will work with with non-Black people over AAs. A YouTuber named LaMaJa even pointed out that every time Killmonger came on the scene, hip-hop music (tying into African American culture) started playing. 
Overall I felt the film had a strong theme of culturalism vs political empowerment. Wakanda and T'Challa represented culturalism in every way from music and spirituality to fashion. However, culturalism doesn't equate to revolution, politics, or liberation, even if it's based in Africa. Culture is simply a way of life, I'll even go far to say that in this case (African) culturalism does not equal (global) "pro-Blackness" either seeing that as we saw in the movie, T'Challa and the Wakandas weren't checking for anyone outside of their homeland.

Although he was viewed as "radical", to a degree, Erik represented political liberation. He studied politics, war, and revolution and wanted to act on it. Even though T'Challa provided Erik's Oakland neighborhood with a community center, it probably wasn't the (revolutionary) political education and tools the slain anti-hero would have liked his people to have. The community center doesn't necessarily equate to T'Challa and his fellow Wakandans caring about folks outside of their native land, it could simply be a gesture to right their wrongs out of guilt. Keep in mind this gesture was only for Oakland. We can unpack Killmonger as a highly flawed character we can unpack, but before you throw your fists up in honor of King T'Challa, let's keep in mind he had no desire to unite with outsiders, including those on the African continent. 

This was a visually appealing movie and can be inspirational for many, but it's not "Black power". There were many troubling ideologies in this film. Highly problematic if you're watching from a political perspective. It's perfectly fine to had enjoyed the film and be able to call out the propaganda tools. While the film is set in Marvel's fantasy land, I do think it highlights real life politics, culture, and thought surrounding Black identity from the States to the continent. Despite the foolish back and forth on social media, I must say that the impact is already showing by bringing up great conversations and debates and can possibly encourage better relations between Black people across the globe. 

Did you see Black Panther? Share your thoughts on the film below!

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