For many months, depending on which side of the divide they fell, movie buffs anticipated the premiere of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest instalment – Black Panther with either bated breaths or wry cynicism. Each expectant audience had good reasons for their stance. The mostly Black cast movie had been the subject of discourse for many months. And when it finally hit cinemas penultimate weekend, no one wanted to risk waiting until movie spoilers ruined the personal experience of seeing firsthand.
Once I heard it had opened at the cinemas in Lagos, I knew I had to see it as soon as possible. The scanty reviews I had permitted myself to read on a few social media platforms were positive, and when I eventually saw the movie last weekend, I understood why.
Black Panther lived up to its hype. I had entertained some fear for the film. I mean, we all know what happens many times when there’s plenty of buzz around a thing or person. More often than not, the outcome is an anticlimax; not because whatever it was is actually bad or below par, but due to expectations that were well above the usual standard.
I was afraid Black Panther would fall into that category. That people would have such high expectations that when the movie was released it would fall flat. Okay, maybe not exactly fall flat, but it would be reminiscent of a virgin who had heard fantastic tales about sex and how it is better than ice-cream and cake, and what not, only to have a wham bam thank you ma’am moment after waiting for so long to experience the rapturous ecstasy everyone couldn’t stop going on about..
But the latest Disney Marvel Movie was determined not to be caught in the web of mediocrity that can be associated with disappointing sex. From the stellar cast to the eclectic costumes to the cinematography that made sure it was hard to miss the minutest details on screen to the nuances of the story itself, Black Panther ticked all the boxes.
The characters were believable. For Black people who saw the movie, it didn’t feel far-fetched to imagine an alternate world where the colour of their skin wasn’t synonymous with inferiority and slavery. For once, they didn’t have to deal with the repetitive narrative of being sold into slavery or appearing only as an appendage to the main cast, who would largely be White.
But this is not an attempt to engage in the battle of the races. It is a celebration of one race. It is the expression of happiness that someone could look beyond all the troubles that plague a generation of people to conceive and execute the masterpiece that is Black Panther. And while it might appear to be an idyllic project that will only succeed in infusing a category of people with some giddy feeling, I believe it does far more.
Who knows, maybe this one movie can kickstart a shift in the way the world views a race that has been maligned since time immemorial. Perhaps Blacks themselves will begin to shed the victim cloak they are so quick to wear and see the possibilities that can come to be through a spirit like that of the citizens of Wakanda.
By the way, my favourite character was T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. The tech wiz girl was not your typical boring geek. I loved how fun and witty her character was; attributes that are often portrayed as alien to tech geniuses. It was a great way to show that girls can be all they want to be. And that was only one of the glaring and subtle messages the hit flick sought to pass across.
Black Panther delivered on its promises. Most people and even critics have attested to that. If we were to personify the movie, it would be a Stephen Curry or even a Lupita Nyong’o (who coincidentally played a major role in the blockbuster). Stars who have so far lived up to their potential.
But what about you? Are you all hype and no substance? After hearing lofty things about how good you are at what you do and how wonderful the quality of your work is, do people end up disappointed when you are put to the test? These are valid questions to ask in this age of social media where everyone is quick to blow their own trumpet, and audiences cannot readily tell who’s the real deal and who’s nothing but a charlatan.
I have engaged supposed professionals who are always on their A-game on when it comes to promoting themselves but turned out to be utter disappointments when it was time to walk their talk. In fact, I dare say this set of people are in the majority.
Ryan Coogler, the young man who directed Black Panther is only 31 years old. He had proven himself in directing Fruitvale Station and Creed before landing what is clearly his big break in Black Panther, and I would hardly be surprised if he earns himself an Oscar win for it.
When we laud works of excellence and “oooh and aaah “about other people’s successes, it makes sense to take the time to look inwards in a bid to be better.
Don’t be all about meaningless cacophony, be about substance. Live up to your own hype.