Black Panther: Beyond the Superhero Layer

Black Panther

The Intro:
What makes a film an award caliber film? Now I do not mean the MTV Movie Awards, or the People’s Choice. I am talking about The Oscars, The Golden Globes, The SAG Awards, the big dog ones. These award shows showcase some of highest quality films of the current year. Films that are so technically difficult, or telling a story in the wildest of ways, or bringing attention to current topics important to today’s landscape. These films go beyond the Fast and Furious box office giant, beyond the Mission Impossibles, beyond the next big Dwayne Johnson film. These films are the ones sometimes not as well known as my previously stated films, but are the ones that should be watched, demand to be watched even. I am talking about “Moonlight”, “The Revenant”, “Birdman”, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, and many many more. The films that are not meant for a plain old surface watch but are the films that once analyzed, have layers that run deep and represent so many different things.

Today, you read a new bit of Oberrated content. Today you read about something I am passionate about, enough that I am breaking my mold and entering in new territory. I am speaking on the heavy debate that some believe “Black Panther” is not an award-worthy film.
Recently, nominations have been announced and “Black Panther” is in the running for some quite notable awards. These nominations have sparked the hordes of individuals to

Black Panther Nom

come out and sling their opinions rampantly about why they feel it is undeserving, whether those reasons are quite extreme or not. Let us list them out real quick:

  • It did not do anything new
  • It’s overrated
  • It should be in a fantasy and/or action category
  • It is a weak contender
  • It is a superhero movie (How is this even a reason?)
  • It is only nominated because it has “black people” in it

I am just going to stop there because I am already fired up again. This handful of reasons for it not deserving a nomination/reason for getting a, so to speak, “pity” nomination simply shows some people missing the point. On a fair end, I can not blame individuals for watching films on a surface level. That is simply how blockbusters become exactly that. Hell, “Black Panther” has that exact concept to thank for some of its success. However, “Black Panther” goes way beyond that once looked beyond the surface. Beyond that superhero layer, if you will. And with that, that is exactly why “Black Panther” deserves its nomination and I hope the plethora more coming its way.

Beyond the Suit:
Black panther castHere we have a Marvel film. For soon to be over 10 years, we have been blessed with Marvel superhero films that have created an intricate world that millions have grown so attached to. Among the vast filmography, “Black Panther” was presented to us in 2018 and had fans hyped. Loaded with a predominantly African American cast and helmed by an African American director, the film had all the makings to take the world by storm… and that they absolutely did. Aside from currently being the highest grossing film of 2018, it also is the highest opening weekend gross for a black director, the highest grossing superhero film, highest grossing February release, and many more.

A film does not hit this kind of success for simply being ‘a superhero movie’. That plays the part, do not get me wrong, but other pieces of the puzzle are moving around here to gain this kind of success. “Black Panther” not only entertains the legions of film fans and brings them back a second and third time, but it goes beyond the entertainment and hits something much deeper than that. It connects to its audience. It connects to those who were willing to receive its meaning. It speaks to the current landscape that is America and even the world, in some cases. Did I lose you? Let us refine your focus.
Let us look at Erik

Black panther Killmonger

Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan. Killmonger is the “villain” of the film. I quote villain because his mission may be a tad extreme, but one must look at the driving force for why he is doing what he is doing. Killmonger was a child growing up in Oakland, California under watch of his father, N’Jobu, who was working as a spy for Wakanda. N’Jobu witnessed the terrors that was life for his people outside of Wakanda. The following is a quote from N’Jobu:

Black Panther N'jobu

“…communities flooded with drugs and weapons, they are overly policed and incarcerated. All over the planet our people suffer because they don’t have the tools to fight back. With vibranium weapons they could overthrow every country, and Wakanda can rule them all the right way.”

Killmonger adopted his father’s mission as he became the new Black Panther and enforced his mission onto Wakanda to arm and empower his people beyond the nation. This very mission paints the picture of today’s America that African Americans face. Across all medias, we see the social injustice they face and the overall suffering many Americans experience today. This likeness is no coincidence, people. “Black Panther” released in February of 2018 following up years of headlines of African Americans being shot in the street, missing from society, or suffering through unjust incarceration. These moments within the film are so easily skipped over as a mere plot point, but open your eyes for a brief moment. Take these statements in. Take the pained mission of Killmonger/N’jobu and stand it side by side to today’s environment, both nationally and internationally. They are talking about Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, dare I go on? They are talking about the gang violence. They are talking about the suffering countries ravaged by war. These mere film quotes and plot devices dig far deeper than meets the eye.

Black panther Killmonger 2.gif

“Everybody dies, it’s just life around here.”

“Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, cause they knew death was better than bondage.”

It’s For the Culture:
Listen, I know there have been Black superheros before. It has been beat to death at the fact that Blade and Shaft exist. I KNOW. But this shit happens every single damn time something becomes famous or popular and people just have to “correct” the masses about what came first or what was notable at a time before what is talked about now. Fact of the matter is that “Black Panther” exceeded the Marvel superhero film expectations (and do not forget, those are HUGE expectations that were crushed), and it became not only a success but a cultural phenomenon. Fronting a largely African American cast and starring Chadwick Boseman as the front man. This film even went the extra mile staging incredibly strong female characters front and center.

Black Panther Okoye

With the likes of Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia (respectively played by Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, and Lupita Nyong’o) these female leads gave watchers of all ages a character to idolize for reasons beyond beauty and grace. They are idolized for their strength, their sense of honor, and their pride.

Shattering records across the board, “Black Panther” maybe most notably became the “highest grossing superhero film”. With eyes looking all over the world at T’Challa and company, this film became one that had everyone talking about it, had everyone hitting the “Wakanda Forever” pose, and had everyone wanting to be as regal as the Black Panther. One would be lying if they said “Black Panther” did not have a far reach on today’s culture.

 

Black Panther Wakanda Forever 4

The Wrap-Up:
I get testy during awards season, I will not hide that nor am I really ashamed about it. The films nominated for some of the top awards in the movie industry are so much more than Hollywood blockbusters. While, at the core, I firmly believe that films are meant to entertain. However, the films that push the envelope and cause viewers to feel something deeper than the sheer joy of entertainment are the films that these awards are all about. Whether that “something deeper” is sadness, empathy, or connection even. When the films reach this level, I, for one, rejoice. As does the film community for the most part. Now, the world rejoices around a title called “Black Panther” and the effect it has had on said world. It not only brings yet another Marvel spectacle to the stage but it uses a superhero film to bring focus on important world events. It became a cultural spectacle where the people of the world caused it to gross 1.3 billion dollars. Like it or hate it, “Black Panther” is much more than just a superhero movie and the nominations recognize that as it has many times in the past. I for one am all for just about every nomination. The competition is stiff without a doubt, and I do not believe it will win all of them. I do believe it can definitely take some home. But regardless, win or lose, I undoubtedly believe in “Wakanda Forever” and what it has done to the world.Black panther cast 2

References:
https://www.goldenglobes.com/

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