By Rich Heldenfels

You already know the Marvel movie is hit, a big one. Chadwick Boseman, its star, saw this movie make more money in its first weekend than all of his previous non-Marvel movies have earned in theaters – combined. You know that it has a predominantly black cast, from Boseman through Michael B. Jordan, Lupita N’Yongo, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Sterling K. Brown and more, which makes its runaway box office success even more important – because it shows audiences will flock to a movie starring people of color, even in previously mostly-white genres.

And the movie deserves all the praise it is getting. Here are some things I’ve been pondering since seeing it.

Black Panther” is a superhero movie in name only. From director and co-writer Ryan Coogler we have received a drama that happens to be about a superhero. While it does fall into some superhero-movie tropes such as the humongous battle at the end, even that has a personal quality sometimes lacking in these movies. Just as Coogler turned the “Rocky” saga into a character piece in “Creed,” so here we are delving into relationships, responsibility and personal tragedies which in superhero movies are usually just in service of big action; here the action is secondary to the drama. And rather than offer a fate-of-the-world or fate-of-the-universe conflict, this is much more about a single nation, Wakanda, and what it owes the world. Which brings the second point.

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“Black Panther” is a Trumpian allegory, a meditation on the philosophy of “America First.” Although Wakanda has vast, hidden resources which have made it powerful and wealthy, it has not shared those resources with other countries, in Africa or in the world beyond. In fact, within the Wakandan hierarchy there is an ongoing debate about whether the nation should use its power beyond its borders, whether to help others or to expand its rule to other lands. Indeed, the film pivots repeatedly around the idea of Wakanda’s greater responsibilities. Of course, this reflects not only a long-standing question about American policies going back to at least the Marshall Plan, but the insistence by Trump that all decisions about America should be based solely on what suits its demands, not on what makes the world a better place.

“Black Panther” is also about race – and what can come from racial oppression. It is no accident that the major conflicts are rooted in racial ones; the flashy white villain Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) is also a white South African, and the most sorrowful current in the movie begins in the strife-ridden streets of Oakland. The pondering of what Wakanda should do with its wealth holds worries about what others will do when faced with a powerful, black nation. (Here the first consequence of global racism is fear, but the second and more powerful one is hate.) Even at the end, the film’s most tragic figure is also one who believes it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

Unfortunately, race has also spilled offscreen, too. Because no departure from white-boy-hero norms is allowed by some fantasy fans, you may also have seen the reports about racist trolls putting out fake posts claiming white people have been assaulted at screenings of “Black Panther.”A better story to tell is the kind I have, where a young black man told my wife and me not to leave the theater too soon, since we had seen one post-ending scene but not a second one. The young man and I proceeded to have a thoroughly nerdy chat about the scene, happily bidding farewell to each other as we left the theater. And that story is true.

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The women are crucial. Just as the movie deals with race, it also offers some powerful gender representations. Although T’Challa is both the king of Wakanda and the latest incarnation of the Black Panther, he is strongly dependent on the women around him – whether it’s his technology prodigy of a sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), or his cordon of bodyguards led by Okoye (Danai Gurira), who is also Wakanda’s commanding general. Women preserve and protect Black Panther’s powers as well. I’d buy tickets to an Okoye movie in a heartbeat.

Check out some other credits for Boseman and Jordan. Where performers such as Bassett, Whitaker, Serkis, Brown and Nyong’o may be familiar to you, Boseman and Jordan deserve your closer attention. Boseman  played Jackie Robinson in “42,” Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall” and was a terrific James Brown in “Get On Up.” He also has a fun role in the Cleveland-set “Draft Day.” Jordan is the standout in “Black Panther,” both through rage and pain in his Erik Killmonger; still, he also impressed in the movies “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed” (both directed by Coogler). His TV credits include “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights.”

Then go see “Black Panther” again.