Black Panther (8 out of 10)
"Only you can decide what kind of king you want to be."
I think it's fair to say that I don't know the first thing about what it feels like to face racism and racial injustice. While I'm technically only half-white (I'm half Palestinian), I'd give Snow White a run for her money as the fairest of them all. So, I understand that I really have no clue about what life must be like for someone of color on a daily basis. From everything ranging from subtle looks to overtly derogatory language and even physical violence, racism is an evil and dark part of humanity that unfortunately lives on with, sadly, no signs of fading away or being eradicated. One group that faces some of the most vicious racism here in the United States is the black community, and despite the efforts over the decades of the likes of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others to overcome racism and racial barriers of the black community, its a people group that unfortunately has not had a lot of heroes to look up to, and that goes for both those real, or even fictional, such as superheroes. While there are some fictional, black superheroes scattered throughout Marvel and DC comic books and films, I can't think of very many that are the front and center stars, and someone for the black community, and people of color in general, to look up to.
Thankfully, with the release of Marvel's "Black Panther," that will hopefully be a thing of the past. Featuring a charismatic and inspiring performance by Chadwick Bozeman as the title character, an excellent (and predominantly black) cast, and some of the more fun and exciting moments in any MCU film, Black Panther gives people of all races a thrilling, entertaining, and exciting entry into the superhero genre, while also (hopefully) breaking down racial barriers and divides. It's not just Bozeman T'Challa/Black Panther who does a stellar job in the titular role, however. Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, and Lupita Nyong'o as his sidekick, sister, and love interest, respectfully, give standout and oftentimes scene-stealing performances to compliment Bozeman and the film as a whole. The narrative itself is well-written and constructed, introducing T'Challa without resorting to the usual origin story tropes, and the film features some excellent and suspenseful action scenes to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The only issues I had with the film were that it was a bit too long and could've used a little trimming, it had some Marvel/Disney cheesiness (particularly during the final battle scene), and it featured a somewhat underwhelming and unconvincing performance from Michael B. Jordan as the villain (with a corny name) Erik Killmonger. Jordan has proved to be a very talented actor in other roles, and while he certainly looks great in the part as the villain, and has a very good and moving backstory that makes you feel quite a bit of sympathy for his character, his performance just felt a bit off and forced to me.
Those are minor qualms, however, as Black Panther excels far more than it fails. Being a bright spot in an otherwise dull time of the year for feature films, while also transcending the typical big budget superhero film by pushing social and racial boundaries, Black Panther is a great film for the whole family. It introduces a lead superhero of color, along with other characters who can be looked up to and inspire children and adults around the world to believe in themselves and what they can accomplish, no matter their race or color of skin. I give Black Panther an 8 out of 10.
- Ryan Zeid