Movie Review: ‘BLACK PANTHER’ (2018)
The latest Marvel Studios offering in ‘Black Panther’ is a fun filled movie into a new kind of adventure with an emotionally moving story as its foundation. Featuring an all Black cast, the film is being heralded as an event film for minorities, which it most definitely is. And despite a few hiccups, ‘Black Panther’ is a highly enjoyable film worthy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Marvel Studios’ ‘Black Panther’ lives up to its hype, but not without a few missteps in character development.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)
First introduced in ‘Captain America: Civil War’, the movie takes a deep dive into the origins of its titular Black Panther. After losing his father, the King of the fictional country of Wakanda, prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to inherit the throne, and all the complications that come with it. While at the same time, a threat from the outside conspires to destroy the technologically advanced way of the life and culture of Wakanda.
‘Black Panther’ has a great narrative running through it of xenophobia, exposure to other cultures, maintaining a nation’s culture and way of life, as well as political themes of opening ones’ borders to others in need, and becoming involved in the world’s problems as a result. It has themes that are very relevant today, and it’s a narrative that is weaved subtly in the background, enhancing the already vigorous world building that the movie engages in.
The story brings us closer to Wakanda and its people, revealing their technological advancements, thanks to an abundance of the fictional mineral Vibranium in their country. The story takes us through the history and the current hierarchy of the country, that ends with T’Challa and his family. Having recently lost his father, T’Challa must seek help from those that are his closest, and figure out what kind of King he needs to be. His first opportunity arrives in the form of an old enemy, who eluded capture from even his father, and T’Challa sees this as a way to right a wrong from decades ago.The fictional country of Wakanda as seen by T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman in ‘Black Panther’.
At its core, ‘Black Panther’ is a movie about how the world of Wakanda, and its new ruler, Black Panther himself, fits into the larger Marvel universe. By the end of the film, the status quo of the MCU is further established, with now, Wakanda’s role determined. But the process of getting there is a bit muddled.
Writer and director Ryan Coogler does an amazing job of showcasing a setting that we’ve never before seen in a Marvel movie, or any other superhero movie in general. The representation of a culture like the one depicted in ‘Black Panther’, (which is definitely inspired by a medley of African influences) is extremely progressive and so much fun to be a part of as an audience member.
Despite how much I enjoyed the movie, my first impression with ‘Black Panther’ was one of uncertain excitement. I knew I liked it, but I didn’t love it, for reasons I couldn’t figure out. I definitely had issues with the third act, and the final fight scene, but it wasn’t enough to dislike the movie in general. However, a quick conversation with the wifey, enlightened me.Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman and Leticia Wright in ‘Black Panther’, directed by Ryan Coogler.
While the movie has stunning visuals, amazing action set pieces in the first half, and a pretty good story, we still leave without knowing much about the character of Black Panther, or T’Challa himself. We’re unfortunately not treated to much back story about why the character is the one we see. T’Challa’s arc throughout the film is one of uncertainty of being able to uphold the legacy of his country’s isolation by his forefathers. However, how those values are instilled in him and why he’s deserving of the mantle, isn’t shown to us. It’s almost like we’re just supposed to accept that he’s the hero, because he’s the hero.
He definitely is a capable warrior, a proud Wakandan, a great brother and son, but we know very little about his motivations as a person, and the movie doesn’t really expand on those aspects of the character. The third act would have been better if there was an emotional resolution to his internal conflict, instead of a soldiering on attitude that we’re left with.Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o in ‘Black Panther’, directed by Ryan Coogler
Boseman plays T’Challa with grace and a quiet cool that comes off every time he is accompanied by his troupe of women bodyguards who, are just as awesome as him! (If not more.) However, beyond the intense looks, theres’s not much else there. T’Challa is best when he’s with his tech wizard sister Shuri, (Leticia Wright) and the rapport they share humanizes the hell outta the man. However, one would think that the same sort of insight or moments would be shared between T’Challa and his mother, especially when she’s played by the amazing Angela Bassett.
This lack of characterization happens throughout the film. While the first act establishes a friendship between T’Challa and, who seems to be his closest friend W’Kabi, (Daniel Kaluuya) their friendship doesn’t seem to have an impact in the rest of the movie. Same can be said about the relationship between W’Kabi and Okoye, (Danai Gurira) who also happens to be the General of Black Panther’s royal guard. While it seems like these relationships will play an important role in the story, they end up more as throwaway references.Michael B. Jordan and Daniel Kaluuya in ‘Black Panther’, directed by Ryan Coogler
Despite this, ’Black Panther’ is chockfull of amazing performances! The entire cast is supremely mesmerizing, and there could easily be multiple spin-offs of the other characters from the movie into their own solo feature films. Okoye and her warrior crew of the Dora Milaje are one of the greatest things ever! The all women group of Royal Guards bring a level of action that is incredibly unique and definitely sets the movie apart. Gurira brings her ‘The Walking Dead’ brand of ass kicking to the movie, and it’s wonderful seeing her in a different role, where she still brings the same level of charisma and strength.
Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia is T’Challa’s lover, and one of the many strong women in the movie. She’s the perfect example of a love interest who isn’t defined by, or whose importance isn’t reliant on the male protagonist. But the most surprising character has to be the main antagonist of Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan. Jordan is able to humanize a villain that should be hated and despised, but his performance is able to make the character something more than the one-note villain that Marvel Studios is often accused of having.
‘Black Panther’ stands out as the next generation of Marvel Studios movies, featuring an incredible display of diversity that hasn’t been done on this level before. The move opens doors to a different kind of superhero storytelling, and a variety of stories that prior to weren’t seen as being possible.