Marvel has become a master of creating worlds and universes, but in “Black Panther” they have gone a step further. They’ve sparked a movement, a cinematic revolution that has spilled out over the edges of the screen and flooded the real world.
The power of that movement became very clear when this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture were announced. It’s rare for any film that actually dominated the box office to make it into this prestigious category, but one that is also part of a larger film franchise about superheroes. Well, I had my money on hell freezing over first.
It is no surprise that “Black Panther” is the film to break through into the Best Picture category. It exceeded extremely high expectations and shattered superhero stereotypes in more ways than one.
First, there’s our superhero, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who is in a different league from pretty much every other Marvel superhero. He’s a king. He has access to tech that would make Tony Stark’s head spin. Oh, and did I mention he runs an entire country. Like, he has his own army.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about Wakanda. This sovereign nation is practically its own character in the film. Outside of the film it sparked an entire “Wakanda Forever” movement. It also turns a stereotype on its head as an African nation that’s lightyears ahead of the outside world, both in its technology and in other ways.
One of those ways is the status of the kingdom’s women. This is so far from Marvel’s usual female representation that there is literally no comparison elsewhere in the cinematic universe. The tech wiz is the king’s sister, Suri (Letitia Wright). The king’s personal secret service, the Dora Milaje, is not only run by a woman, Okoye (Danai Gurira), it’s an elite, entirely female force.
Of course, what the film also does well is it shows the flaws. T’Challa’s isolationist policies are called into question both by extremists like N’Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan) and by his trusted advisors.
What makes “Black Panther” is not just one thing–it’s many–working seamlessly and effortlessly together. There are outstanding performances bringing to life characters that are game-changing and dynamic. The action sequences serve a purpose beyond giving the audience what they expect. The story itself is relevant but manages to never become too preachy. It is perfection, and it’s about damn time.
If there was any justice in the world it would win Best Picture. Most likely, we’ll just have to comfort ourselves that a year from now it’s the only nominee that most of us will remember.
…just for fun: