Now that the hype for Black Panther has calmed down, we can finally give it the review that it deserves. The movie raised a very interesting question for me: Why did I REALLY enjoy the film? Was it because of the excitement of seeing arguably Marvel’s most popular black superhero on the big screen, or did I like the movie because of Wakanda and what it represented? I can’t help but wonder if others had the same questions. Which aspect of the movie was most compelling to you? The notion that a technologically advanced country not only existed, but was inhabited and led by people of color, or the action-packed, heart-pounding adventure that you’re guaranteed to have with a character like the Black Panther?
My take was that the “superhero” component, when compared to similar movies was good, not great. On a scale of 1 to Dark Knight, I give it a 8.5. The movie did a good job of explaining how the Black Panther acquired his powers, the tragedy that led to it, and the responsibility that comes with such a gift. The movie also did a good job of introducing the romantic interest of T’Challa (the Black Panther’s alter-ego). The cast was certainly star-studded with A-listers such as Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, and Daniel Kaluuya, but it felt to me that other supporting actors made their presence known throughout the movie. The princess (and T’Challa’s little sister, Shuri), played by Letitia Wright and the villain Erik Killmonger, T’Challa’s cousin and antagonist, played by Michael B. Jordan. Shuri’s comic relief was refreshing and her timing was on point. She also kept the Black Panther on his toes by pranking him and being the foil to his somber and serious side. Killmonger’s character was unique, because he is the type of villain with whom the audience truly empathized. He wasn’t completely wrong in his way of thinking, in my opinion. Killmonger wanted to use Wakanda’s advanced technology to help people of color around the world to free themselves from systematic oppression. His quotes and outlook on society struck a chord with me, particularly when you place his philosophy in context with today’s society.
The movie did have some low points, too. For instance, the final fight scene could of have been more dramatic. Killmonger and Black Panther fought earlier in the movie, and that fight scene was more exciting to me than the final one. Another gripe I have is the movie didn’t incorporate the rest of the Marvel universe. Nearly all Marvel movies provide insight, or explain how the current film is intertwined with past and future MCU movies. Black Panther seems like it was disconnected from the Marvel Universe and is more of a standalone movie.
Now on to Wakanda – Wakanda is the fictional country that Black Panther introduces the world to. To the outside world, Wakanda looks like a typical third world country. However, beneath the surface is a culturally-rich techno-society that is light-years ahead of the rest of the world, having the world’s only supply of Vibranium. The movie explains that the Wakanda source of wealth and power is directly tied to this very rare mineral. Vibranium is used to make advanced weaponry, armor, and has many other uses that are beneficial to the Wakandans. It is also used medicinally to heal the sick and wounded. We also learn about the various tribes that inhabit Wakanda and how each has its own unique skills and powers. An underlying plotline is whether this tiny, yet magnificent African nation should preserve itself, or share Vibranium with the world to free its impoverished and oppressed people. This dilemma was woven throughout the film and challenged the audience to wrestle with this moralistic conflict. Wakanda is clearly a society that, once it revealed itself, could lead the world to a higher, more sophisticated, level of humanity.
Black Panther is a solid movie. It continues to draw huge audiences. While you are in the movie theatre watching and munching from your jumbo tub of popcorn, ask yourself this: Would you rather fight side by side, with the Black Panther, or buy a plane ticket and jet off to Wakanda? I’m not quite sure how I would answer this. I’ll leave it up to you to decide…