Black Panther Review
Black Panther is not only the newest Marvel blockbuster, it is a film that connects to the African culture and the African spirit. Marvel’s Black Panther is one of the first films to showcase an African country (albeit fictional) in such a positive light. Black Panther’s showcase of Wakanda, its people, and the traditions is not only a step in the right direction, it’s a step forward. Black Panther is a strong film overall and its main strengths lie in its performances, the music, the directing, and the storyline.
It is well organized in its structure and the viewer quickly feels a connection to T’Challa, the now king of Wakanda, even though his introduction in Captain America: Civil War was short. This is a testament to Chadwick Boseman’s acting and the writing in the film. The performances in the film are spectacular, with standouts being Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, and Winston Duke.
Yet, even with those standouts, the entire cast of the film gave their all. Letitia Wright’s Shuri was a welcome surprise. Usually, the role of the lead’s sister is underwritten. Yet, the character of Shuri lit up the room whenever she walked in. And the brother-sister relationship between Shuri and T’Challa was admirable. In Hollywood, sibling relationships are either presented as negative or similar to a parent-child relationship where their older or younger sibling dies. It was refreshing to see a change to how these relationships are portrayed.
Danai Gurira’s Okoye, the General of the Dora Milaje, may be one of the best fighters in the Marvel Universe. Gurira commanded the screen every time she entered and her fighting was spectacular. She was a true knockout, especially in the South Korean action sequence. Winston Duke’s role was small, but he was an attention grabber with his well-timed comedic lines. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia was a small role, but she played it well. Both Boseman and Nyong’o made their characters’ past history prevalent and their relationship was believable. Nakia’s beliefs were highly influential to T’Challa and both the writing and the performances made this clear as well.
Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger presents the conflict in the film. Black Panther presents a question that has a very complicated answer. The question: should those who are more fortunate, especially in the black community, reach out to help others who are less fortunate than them? Throughout the film, many characters suggest to T’Challa, the idea that Wakanda should use their technological advancements to help others outside of their country. Yet, T’Challa is conflicted because Wakanda has always been hidden in secret and has posed as a third-world country.
It is only when T’Challa is met with Killmonger’s radical views that his position is challenged. In the film, Killmonger is presented as the Malcolm X figure while T’Challa is presented as a Martin Luther King, Jr. figure. Both are fighting for the same cause, yet have different ways to approach it. Black Panther’s philosophical discussion is the highest point of the film and it was interesting for such a discussion to be presented in a Marvel blockbuster.
The music in Black Panther is also remarkable. Both Ludwig Goransson’s score and Kendrick Lamar’s album bring life to the film. Although quite different with Goransson’s African beats and Lamar’s modern rap/hip-hop music, both complement each other.
One of the few weaknesses of the film is the lack of action sequences. There are only two true action sequences in the film, and in a Marvel blockbuster, there needs to be more. When compared to a film like Captain America: Civil War, a film that was constantly moving between action, dialogue, and some more action, Black Panther should follow that example. If the next Black Panther film has as much fascinating, philosophical discussion with even more eye-catching action sequences, it will be the perfect film.
Overall, Black Panther is a fantastic film that highlights a culture not usually brought forward in a positive way. In light of recent discussion, Black Panther is an example of a blockbuster film that should be considered Oscar-worthy, for its stellar performances, well-written plot, and interesting questions poised to the audience.