Black Panther is not your ordinary Marvel Comics film. It has begun a cultural movement all its own. As a black man, I can’t remember the last time a movie with a black director and a predominately all black cast has made such a splash in the mainstream cultural consciousness in such a positive way. It’s so amazing to see all these young black kids (and adults) coming out and supporting this movie, its cast and director Ryan Coogler. It’s an astonishing and humbling site to see.
Is it a good movie though? I’m not going to let my blackness get in the way of looking at this film with a critical eye…. but the answer is yes. So lets talk about it.
The general plot of the movie is that Wakanda is an isolationist nation that has never been conquered or colonized by an outsider. This due to the mountain sized vibranium deposit that was left when a meteor crashed in Africa millions of years ago. The vibranium powers all of their technology. Everything from medicine and transportation to the weapons of war and self defense. As a nation that is entirely self sufficient, they are also loathe to lend aid to others. A similar analogy would be like feeding the birds at the park. It starts with just one, but before you know it, you have a whole flock at your feet.
— Read More: Black Panther: Where is Wakanda?
This movie takes place after the events of Captain America 3: Civil War where King T’Chaka was killed by an explosion leaving young T’Challa in charge of a nation. Wakanda and its new king T’Challa, played exceptionally by Chadwick Boseman, want to protect their isolationist way of life from Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan.
Killmonger feels like Wakanda is hoarding its technology and wants to use Wakandan advanced weapons and technology to wage war on the rest of the world. Particularly those who he feels are currently oppressing peoples of color be it local police on up to governments.
— Read More: Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?
The movie is beautifully shot with epic sweeping cinematography. Wakanda is fleshed out with vibrant bustling streets, techno-organic skyscrapers, kids rushing off to school, young people jubilantly carousing about in cafes, waiting for sky car taxis, cooking street food and generally going about their business. It’s definitely the most life like city in all of the Marvel Universe.
And the costumes. Oh my god, the costumes. Ruth E. Carter, costume designer completely nails the afro-futurism look by blending the history and traditions of tribes from all over Africa. With 30 years of movie experience and two Oscar nominations for her work (on Malcolm X and Amistad), Carter understood the role clothing would play in shaping the film’s world. “Wakandans are serious about fashion,” Carter via said The Atlantic, of the inhabitants of Black Panther’s tech-forward, eco-conscious, never-before-colonized country. Her vision for Wakandan dress draws from traditional and contemporary African fashion. Sartorial cues help viewers understand the social geography of a fictional place—its political ideologies, cultural norms, etiquette. It’s easier to convey these unspoken elements when a film is set in a space and time the audience already has some reference for. For example, American viewers can read the message of a certain dress or hairstyle in, say, 1960s Alabama, which worked in Carter’s favor when she was designing the costumes for Selma.
The impressive score is crafted by Ludwig Goransson. The score is as textured and layered like the costumes as it blends and layers traditional African drums and vocalizations with a sweeping grandiosity usually reserved for epic films like Lawrence of Arabia, Out of Africa and dare I say it, Star Wars.
The cast rounds out the movie with powerhouse performances. Chadwick Boseman is a bit understated bringing a quiet maturity and presence to each scene, however I felt that the movie would have benefited from a bit more range from him.
The runaway star of the show, the scene-stealer is far and away is Shuri, the younger sister of T’Challa and played by Letitia Wright. She’s insanely smart, developing most if not all of the “Panther-tech”, plucky, irreverent and best of all: absolutely fearless. If you are a fan and reader of the Black Panther comics, you already know that at some point Shuri dons the mantle of the Black Panther and becomes the protector of Wakanda. I’m hoping this is something we will seen in the inevitable sequel as word has it, Kevin Feige has already asked Ryan Coogler to return.
Shuri steals the show! Do we have a new Disney princess in our midst?
This film does have some issues however. So lets talk about those too.
First off, the fight choreography isn’t my favorite. While Danai Gurira shines bright in her scenes as General Okoye, leader of the all female Dora Milaje, the same can’t really be said for most of the scenes involving hand to hand combat. The shots are cut quickly and the camera is way too close to see any meaningful movements. It’s tends to be a jumble of arms, legs and other flailing limbs. Aside from this action scenes (the car chase aside) end a few short minutes after they begin.
The CGI (especially during the final fight between Killmonger and T’Challa) is just plain bad. It looks unfinished is really the only way to describe it and seeing how well everything else is in the movie it’s really unfortunate and distracting.
This shouldn’t deter you from seeing the movie however. Not in the slightest. It’s a cultural milestone and I am anxiously looking forward to revisiting T’Challa, Shuri, Okoye and Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther 2.
Go see it. Now. This isn’t just a movie. It’s a movement.
— Read More Black Panther Posts here:
- Black Panther
- Black Panther Categories
- Black Panther vs. Kraven the Hunter (Black Panther, The Man Without Fear #519)
- Black Panther & Wolverine vs. Sabertooth
- Emma Frost tries to read The mind of the Black Panther.
- Black Panther: Klaw kills King T’Chaka
- Black Panther: T’Challa avenges his father.
- War Machine, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk and Black Panther vs. Thanos (Civil War II)
- Black Panther 50th Anniversary – NYCC 2016 Panel Highlights
- Images from the Black Panther premiere!