The ground floor of Filmhouse IMAX Cinemas in Lekki was packed full of eager Lagosians who had thronged the box office to purchase tickets for the new Black Panther movie directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and King of Wakanda.
The massive turn-out was on account of the huge publicity campaign launched in anticipation of the movie’s February 13 and 15 release dates in the US and Nigeria.
News reports indicate that pre-booking estimates for the movie have gone past $172m for its opening weekend making it the highest grossing Marvel movie since Deadpool.
Nestled within the crowd at the Imax cinemas in Lekki on Thursday February 15, 2018 were a select group invited by the US Consulate General to watch the official Black Panther premiere in Nigeria. The consulate had added the Black Panther screening to the activities commemorating this year’s Black History month.
Guests who included Olu Jacobs and Joke Silva; RMD; Pastor Paul Adefarasin; French Consular-General, Laurent Polonceaux; German Consular-General Ingo Herbert; Nella Hengstler of the Austrian embassy, Ovation Editor, Mike Effiong; celebrity dancer, Kaffy; movie director, Tope Oshin; artist, writer and photographer Victor Ehikhamenor and wife; Artiste manager, Efe Omoregbe; Tuface and Annie Idibia and many more were treated to cocktails and hors d’oeuvre before being ushered into the Imax cinema where pop-corn and soft drinks were provided.
Kene Mkparu, CEO of Filmhouse welcomed the guests before playing a special message that showed key staff of the US consulate mocked-up as Marvel Comic super heroes. There was also a special message from Marvel to Nigerian filmgoers which was quite approrpiateseeing that Nigeria gets a fair mention in the movie with the second or third scene set right in Sambisa forest.
Next up, the US Consular General, F. John Bray addresed his guests before introducing a US black studies scholar who made a few remarks before the movie kicked off.
The Black Panther movie is a cinematic moment, a ground breaking film that references movies and TV shows from James Bond to Game of Thrones to black movies by John Singleton and Spike Lee. Princess Shuri is clearly Q in Bond and the representative kings in T’Challa’s council chambers remind us of kings from the 7 warring kingdoms in Game of Thrones.
But references to Popular Culture aside, Black Panther delivers on many levels underlining the fact that it is fully deserving of all the hype.
Black Panther is many stories rolled into one – rage and revenge, love and loss and love, black consciousness and power as well as insularity and inclusiveness.
T’Challa’s brooding, though plucked from the pages of a comic book are elevated to Shakespearean heights. One moment he is a Black African king torn between keeping his people’s pristine ways or joining the rest of the world and the next he is prince Hamlet “to be or not to be-ing” his way through a crisis
There are as many stories as there are binaries but the blackness is undeniable. This movie is a white man’s creation appropriated by Black people and the story it tells is so achingly African there is no way a non-black director could have gotten all the nuances.
Black Panther is a morality tale for the ages but it is more than anything else a love story on many levels – T’Challa and Nakia, Erik Killmonger and his father, Prince Njobu, General Okoye and her husband W’Kabi, T’Challa and his sister, Princess Shuri, as well as the love of King T’Challa and his nascent queen, Nakia for their country Wakanda.
Coogler humanizes his characters, presenting us super heroes with not just heart but flaws and our all-too human frailties.
There is also a message for those who wish to be rulers. T’Chaka tells his son T’Challa – “you are a good man with a good heart and it is hard for a good man to be king.”
Or a politician for that matter.