- *SPOILERS AHEAD**
The day has finally come. My fiancee got us tickets to see Black Panther as a Valentine’s Day gift at a very nice theatre. After watching the movie 24 hours ago and writing about why Black Panther matters so much, I decided to put together a review.
I absolutely loved it. I enjoyed it for so many different reasons and on so many different levels. I had a feeling that I was going to love it, but I didn’t know that I would love it so much. I took some time to elaborate on some tangible elements that jumped out to me that really made the film incredible.
The Plot Was Well Paced
Pacing in a movie is an art in and of itself. Even though you have technically just three parts to work with (beginning, middle, end) making sure that you develop each proportionally is difficult to do. Too much setting the stage with character development in the beginning and you either have to rush the end or risk not taking enough time to establish the conflict between characters in the middle. Each part of the story bears importance, but not more than the other two.
The BP storyline nails the pacing problem perfectly balancing the three acts. The very beginning sets the storyline for the origin Wakanda and the Black Panther and it picks up right after the death of his father which was depicted in Captain America: Civil War. Even if you didn’t see that film, the flashbacks that T’Challa has as the movie unfolds bring the viewer up to speed that makes sense and feels unforced.
There are various characters that are being devleoped through end of the beginning and into the middle of the plot. This ongoing develpoment in the middle along with steady stream of action as well as conflict being introduced kept me engaged and invested. Doing much of the heavy lifting in the first two scenes set up a final culmination that was very climactic and didn’t feel rushed.
Wakanda Was Depicted Amazingly Well
I was surprised with how multifaceted and the detail to which Wakanda was depicted. I enjoyed seeing how the country was “hidden in plain sight” with the invisible force field. The countryside of farmers agriculture was the part that the world knew but as they fly into the protected air space you are taken past the invisibile barrier to the real Wakanda. It’s such a little thing but I enjoyed it so much.
Also the depth and vastness of the Vibranium resources inside the mountain was incredibly demonstrated. It seemed infinite with teams of magnetic trains transporting the resource throughout the mountain. I have seen it in a couple of different cartoons, but BP displays it in such a way that you can really get a sense of the abundance of the metal.
Lastly, the tech of Wakanda was impressively displayed. From weapons to gadgets to T’Challas new and improved nanite suit that absorbs and redistributes kinetic energy. Another piece of tech that I enjoyed was the ability to control and drive cars in another part of the world from the lab in Wakanda remotely. The technological reputation of Wakanda was upheld very well and didn’t disapoint.
The Layers of T’Challa
Chadwick Boseman masterfully pulls the curtain back giving us a unique glance into the many levels of tension that are working underneath the surface of the T’Challa/Black Panther. He’s a prince who, though he has earned his throne, doesn’t feel prepared to be a King. He’s trying to feel out a relationship with his ex. He’s an older brother who enjoys his camaraderie with his younger sister. He’s a hero flipping cars and landing on other cars, tearing wheels off of axels while moving, and taking gunfire without flinching. He’s a son who has to come to grips with the sins of his father and try to mitigate the repercussions as a the new king and Black Panther. T’Challa displays a range of amazing, fearless, vulnerable, and human and Chadwick emotes these all in a way that is very believable.
Legendary Leading Ladies
The women of BP shine so spectacularly bright. They are given room to display the strength and wisdom that proves to be incredibly valuable to T’Challa/Black Panther and the film overall. T’Challa’s main general and captain of the guard, Okoye (Danai Gurira) is known as Wakanda’s fiercest and most skilled warrior. She travels with T’Challa as his bodyguard and is devoted to protecting the throne. A stand out moment is when her love interest (W’Kabi-Daniel Kaluuya) gets in between her and her duty and she informs that she would kill him without question if he persisted.
T’Challa’s little sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is not only princess of Wakanda, but she is a brilliant scientist and the mastermind behind all of Black Panther’s tech. Much like Q is to 007, Shuri’s gadgets and enhancements to Black Panther’s suit keep him one step ahead. She is witty and funny, but more than that very intelligent.
I am here for these ladies commanding these roles because it provides such an inspirational example to young girls, especially young black girls. It shows that they can be strong enough to lead an army, and smart enough to be an awesome scientist. Seeing these roles acted out gave me goosebumps similiar to the ones I had watching Gal Gadot kill it as Diana in Wonder Woman.
A Sympathetic Villain
It’s easy to not like the villain, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in this film, but it easy to understand him. He grows up poor, disadvantaged, and in a broken home in Oakland. He finds his father murdered and later discovers he was killed by his uncle King T’Chaka. From that realization he begins his journey for vengence and the throne of Wakanda leaving a trail of killing in his wake. Further fueling his rage is seeing and knowing the struggle of black people across the globe while also seeing Wakanda’s perceived indifference.
I found myself being able to understand that Killmonger was more of a product of his circumstances than just someone who is pure evil. He’s trying to make sense of his circumstances in the way he knows best. I was sad that he rejected T’Challa’s offer to heal him. It made more sense as I thought about it because his life purpose became getting revenge to the point that when it couldn’t be realized, he couldn’t see a reason to continue living. In either world life would mean becoming a prisoner. Outside Wakanda, he would surely answer for his crimes and be imprisoned. In Wakanda he would likely be imprisoned or be relegated to some position taking orders from the King painfully reminding him of the loss of his father. Though he was sinister, I totally understood where he was operating from. I could see the hurting human acting out underneath. I appreciated the detail in displaying the dichotomy of sinister versus sympathetic.
Overall, this was a grand slam on the biggest stage. Marvel took a insanely huge risk pouring 200 million dollars into a film of a lesser known character, with a 90% black cast, and hiring a black director, but in reviewing the box office projections and social media buzz only one day after the release date, it’s very apparent that risk paid off. Black Panther exceeded my very lofty expectations. There were moments I felt the glee and amazement of a child. There were moments I was touched. There were moments I was geeking out at all the technology. The entire time I was so proud that this movie was made. This movie felt like it was very “for us” from an African American standpoint, but it didn’t alienate other people.
The acting was done exceptionally well. A lot of times with acting you get an actor playing the part rather than the actor being transformed into the character of the film. Every actor delivered their character to the point that I disassociated them from who they are in real life. Bottom line: Marvel & director Ryan Coogler took their time with this project and they got it very right. They brought a film unlike anything they or anyone else has ever done before and it has and will continue to transcend.