Hail to the King: Two Cents Remembers Chadwick Boseman with BLACK PANTHER

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick:

Like the rest of the world, we at Cinapse are still reeling from the shocking loss of the great Chadwick Boseman to cancer last week.

Not only was Boseman an incredibly gifted actor and screen icon, by all accounts he was a brilliant, thoughtful artist and a genuinely kind and decent man. Our world is poorer with him gone.

Boseman rose to prominence with bravura performances of iconic black figures, including Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get On Up. Yet it was only in the last few years that Boseman became a fully-minted movie star, thanks to his world-changing, culture-redefining work as King T’Challa, the Black Panther.

Black Panther was originally created in 1966 by Jack Kirby (Kirby had grown tired of the stereotypical black characters in comics and created the regal T’Challa to break from that mold) and some movie version of the character has been in some form of development since the early ’90s, when Wesley Snipes actively sought to headline a Black Panther film with himself in the title role.

When Marvel Studios kicked off, Black Panther was one of the characters that producer Kevin Feige cited as being a priority. But it was producer Nate Moore who fought behind the scenes to bring T’Challa to the live-action fold. It was Moore who suggested that Black Panther be introduced in Captain America: Civil War, immediately establishing T’Challa as a character on equal footing with the rest of the Avengers (Black Panther’s role was also greatly expanded when studio shenanigans put a damper on Marvel’s hopes to include Spider-Man in the conflict).

Boseman was the first and only choice for the role. Feige was so assured of the pick, Boseman didn’t even have to audition. Thanks to his performance, King T’Challa was a game-changing cinematic icon from the moment he was introduced, Boseman fitting in right alongside the other larger-than-life stars, but with a regal bearing utterly distinct from any other character.

And when the time came for Black Panther to have his own movie, Boseman was heavily involved in defining not only his own character but the entire movie, including the Afro-futuristic nation of Wakanda. In his beautiful tribute to his departed star, writer/director Ryan Coogler credits Boseman with being the creative mind behind many of the most distinctive details of Wakanda, not to mention the incredible final line uttered by Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger (you know the one).

Of Boseman’s untimely passing, what can be said except that it’s not fucking fair. It’s not fair that someone who meant so much to so many should leave us so soon. It’s not fair that our culture has been robbed of decades of brilliant art that he could have gone to make. And it’s not fucking fair at all that someone who by all accounts was a kind, beautiful human should pass away so young.

But we’ll work through this grief by celebrating that art that does remain to us. Chadwick Boseman didn’t get enough time on this earth, but with that time he created a legacy that will last for generations, for as long as people watch movies.

So here is Black Panther.

Next Week’s Pick:

After a number of delays and false-starts, Tenet is finally here. Like all Chris Nolan movies, Tenet has been heavily hyped while being kept totally under wraps. We’re not sure when we’ll be seeing it, and we definitely won’t be going to a theater to do so, but soon all its secrets will be spelled out.

Let’s mark the occasion with the last completely original Nolan sci-fi epic: Inception. Inception is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co anytime before midnight on Thursday!

Our Guests

Husain Sumra:

Black Panther is a great movie that has a lot on its mind, including the scars of colonialism. When I first saw the film, I was impressed with how Coogler balanced its world building, a lovable cast of characters and a mostly tight focus.

But now, in the shadow of Chadwick Boseman’s passing, it takes on a slightly different angle. Now I can’t see how this movie works without Boseman. His steady, regal presence is the grounding mechanism for the entire picture. He is the foundation for this beautiful building, and none of it works without him.

The characters work so well because they have Boseman to work across. Wakanda feels real because Boseman is able to portray the weight of ruling it, stepping into T’Chaka’s shoes. One of the scenes that showcases it is when Killmonger is brought before the Wakandan council.

All the other characters are throwing out barbs and making declarations or protest or support, and Boseman’s steady glare brings you back. The moment is fraught, but you have no doubt T’Challa will do the right thing. What you don’t know is if his actions will work, and that’s the trouble or portraying a moral force. Boseman nails it. (@hsumra)

Brendan Agnew (The Norman Nerd):

When it was announced that Ryan “Creed” Coogler was going to be helming Black Panther, I was confident he’d deliver a knockout, but it was the first time we saw Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa appeared on-screen in Captain America: Civil War that I knew we were in for something truly special. Boseman walked into frame with Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Peter Parker and walked away with damn near the whole movie. And because he got an introductory/origin arc in that movie, it meant his solo film could practically be its own sequel with the richer, more personal, and status quo-altering narrative.

And no one really needs me to tell them how well Coogler, Boseman, and company pulled that off.

I include Boseman so prominently because, from both the commitment in his performance (even before we knew the personal cost he was paying) and his heavy collaboration and input on the shape of the film (from his choice of T’Challa’s accent to suggesting Killmonger’s iconic final line), it’s clear that he was building a living monument to the Black Panther as a character and what he and Wakanda mean. And given how breathtaking I found the “Lord of the Rings meets Batman meets James Bond” world that this film brings so vividly to life, I can only imagine what it meant to people who *haven’t* seen themselves represented as heroes on-screen their entire lives.

But more than that, Black Panther kicks serious ass! There are plenty of buried winks to other MCU movies, but this is a fully self-contained sci-fi/fantasy drama with one of the best antagonists in the genre. The two intervening years of several (quite enjoyable) superhero movies from both the big houses (including another bone fide masterpiece) since Black Panther dropped have done nothing to make this feel less singular, defining, or dramatically satisfying.

I won’t speculate on what was going through Chadwick Boseman’s mind while making this movie, but if his intention was to make as indelible a mark and as big a positive effect as possible with this movie on the off-chance that it was going to be his only shot? Simply saying that he succeeded feels like an understatement. (@BLCAgnew)

Austin Wilden:

Black Panther works as an amazing standalone superhero movie within the MCU and a movie that shows how the movies within it can benefit from past installments. One of my favorite acting moments from Boseman in this movie subtly builds on one of T’Challa’s establishing lines from Captain America: Civil War. When he’s processing the sudden death of his father and give a beautiful description of the Wakandan beliefs about the afterlife, only to end on denying any personal belief in it and committing to his quest for revenge. Emerging out of the emotional reunion with his father in the spiritual plane with the joyous declaration “He was there” captures the through line for the character between movies so succinctly and beautifully.

That moment further sets up how T’Challa’s idea of his father is permanently by the revelations his conflict with Killmonger brings with it. Culminating in Boseman’s best moment in any of his appearances as T’Challa. Once again talking to his father in the fields of the, confronting his ancestors and their isolationism with the line “All of you were wrong” and finally knowing what kind of king he needs to be. (@WC_Wit)

The Team

Brendan Foley:

Black James Bond.

That’s the role that Marvel envisioned Black Panther would play within their expansive cinematic universe. That was the pitch for the character when Ryan Coogler came on board.

Instead Coogler delivered a sci-fi/fantasy epic every bit as densely imagined and immersive as Lord of the Rings or Star Wars but utterly unique from any other fantasy/comic book world brought to life before. That Coogler also snuck in a 20-minute section that IS a perfectly-executed Bond movie in miniature, well, that’s just showing off.

It was easy at the time of Black Panther’s release to appreciate the work Boseman was putting in holding down the center of the film while being more wowed by the feral intensity of Michael B. Jordan, or the scene-stealing presence of Letitia Wright and Winston Duke. Or just to marvel (natch) at how Forest Whitaker never fails to be the weirdest thing in any movie, regardless of how weird the movie itself is.

But in the event of Boseman’s passing, it’s more clear than ever how perfectly he is threading impossible needles with this performance. Delivering an immaculate lead performance in a movie this massive is always a challenge, but to do with a role and film that was so hugely important, that takes a level of talent and focus that seems downright inhuman. And that Boseman did it so perfectly while dealing with his illness…the mind staggers and the heart breaks.

Black Panther remains a once-in-a-lifetime event. What it did, what is inspired, is the kind of thing that reminds you that movies and art really can change the world. Chadwick Boseman did that. All hail. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin Vashaw:

2020 is the year that keeps hammering away, and we’re all still reeling from the tremendous, utterly heartbreaking loss of Chadwick Boseman. I guess it’s in part because he passed so young, but it’s also because his powerful embodiment of challenging and heroic roles gave us such hope and joy. And suddenly learning of his secret illness — and how it must have impacted his life these past few years — was such a shock and gave us even greater awe of the tremendous body of work he produced with the time he was given.

Black Panther solidified the character as Boseman’s most iconic role, and considering that he played Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and James Brown, that statement says a hell of a lot.

Wakanda is a fictional nation, but that beautiful ambiguity allows it to stand in for its continent as a whole. The film leans hard into this, with its varied tribes, cultures, and incredible costumes on display, offering powerful representation and a spiritual motherland to any person of African origin, even whose bloodline can’t trace back to a particular country. It gives me chills to think about, and it’s both wonderful and deeply saddening to learn the Boseman was so integral to the development of this ideal. Godspeed.


Next week’s pick:


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