Revisiting Black Panther

The king lives.

After losing Chadwick Boseman (and writing about his legacy) it was high time for a rewatch of this film.

I rewatch the films of the MCU pretty frequently, but this was different. It was an extremely emotional¬†experience, especially given how much the film revolves around T’Challa’s apparent death and return. Watching the cast mourn his loss and then celebrate his “resurrection” really felt different now. On first watch, you know that T’Challa can’t be really dead. But now, the pain the viewer feels matches the pain of the characters. It puts us emotionally in touch with what a resurrection really means – with the truth that there is no power in Resurrection Sunday without the darkness of Good Friday.

My other realization on this rewatch, so focused on Chadwick, was the power of his extremely humble performance. He is the main character of the film, and his acting and presence are superb while never being showy. This is not RDJ in Iron Man, or Chris Pratt in Guardians, or any of the other MCU that rightly needed the strong through-line provided by a charismatic actor letting loose.

In fact, none of the performances in the movie are very showy, except maybe Andy Serkis as Klaue, but his screen time is short lived. Even the writing and directing, which are extremely polished and flawless, do not overtake the film itself. Every aspect of this film serves its role precisely and expertly, and all of it becomes more than the sum of its parts. It’s a wonder of a film that carried (and still carries) so much cultural relevance and meaning. You can tell watching it, knowing how important this movie is it so many people, that everyone involved in the film seems to know that and is in service to it.

It’s a vision of what the Church was made to be, the Body that by the Spirit of God becomes more than the sum of its part only when each member completely sells themselves out to the glorification of one another and to the Spirit. I’m reminded of the stories in Acts, when the church completely relies on one another, sharing all that they have as a witness to the Way, and in a few short years the Gospel lights half the world on fire.

The goddess Bast, statued over Wakanda as a black panther, looms over everything in the film. I can’t help but see her now as the representation of the film itself. Everyone serves her, and no-one does anything for themselves. It’s a beautiful vision of what’s possible when a group of gifted individuals work selflessly toward something bigger than themselves. Their work becomes something more than they could ever imagine, crossing over the world of the screen and shaping the lives of generations.

And now Chadwick belongs to that other side, the world of our imagination and meaning-making. I don’t know how Black Panther 2 can hold the weight of it’s own cultural importance AND the legacy of Boseman, but I trust this same team to do the impossible again. 

The king lives.

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