I’m not a big fan of superhero movies, and I generally find any efforts to appear “thought-provoking” are pretty tinny.
But I would say that Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is actually thought-provoking. Coogler and his cast and crew have accomplished so many things in this movie that it’s hard to know where to start. But one thing they’ve done is to evoke some basic moral/philosophical dilemmas and conversations in a way that doesn’t seem completely, uh, comic-book.
I set out to read some of what’s been written, and here are a few links to pieces that I appreciated the most. But as someone who likes to know as little as possible before seeing a movie, I would recommend that before you read any of this you go see the film, and come back here if you’re still interested.
If you’re looking for reviews of Black Panther, Metacritic is the place to find them. I didn’t go through them exhaustively, but of the “old media” I enjoyed Manohla Dargis the NY Times and Ken Turan in the LA Times. I thought David Ehrlich’s piece on Indiewire was particularly good.
Probably the most moving piece I’ve read was Carvell Wallace’s Why ‘Black Panther’ Is a Defining Moment for Black America in the NY Times Magazine. Both of the last two pieces allude to Afro-futurism, and if you can find more on that in Brent Staples’ The Afrofuturism Behind ‘Black Panther, also in the NY Times. The piece gives more of the history of the comic book series; without trying to take anything away from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ contributions as a Black Panther writer, Staples does underscore the importance of Christopher Priest’s vitalization of the comic-book series starting in 1998.
Finally (as of this moment), Vann Newkirk II has a worthwhile piece in The Atlantic. It’s the only place where I’ve seen a discussion of how the isolation of Wakanda might be emblematic of the potential isolation of middle- and upper-middle-class blacks in the US.
I would love to hear what others think; if you have links to good writing on the film, please post in the comments!