This film was much anticipated and there were worries in some camps as to if it would be able to live up to the hype. In my humble opinion it does so easily. Is it transcendent? No. Is it perfect? No, but what it is, is inspirational and highly enjoyable because of what it delivers to many members of the African diaspora as well as everyone else on this planet. The plot is well thought out. The cast is amazing through and through. This film has a weight to it when it explores political themes without throwing everything in the viewers faces or being too preachy, and it solves what has been Marvels achilles heal when it comes to the MCU. In case you hadn’t guessed it by now I absolutely love this film! I’ve seen it twice, pre-ordered the UHD version and will likely see it a few more times while it’s in theaters. First I will go over what I had an issue with then I will continue to sing its praises and break down why I feel as I do.
My one and only gripe with this film is the over use of CGI in the late battle scenes. I feel they could have inserted more practical effects to make them more visceral and up close and personal between the two main opponents. If they had done that I think they could have given us more Wakanda than we got. I know we are at the height of using pretty CGI and I love effects but when it comes to hand to hand combat battles I want to see more actual action, especially between two opponents who are on level footing with each other because they both have the same advantages. When Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa faces off against Michael B. Jordans’ Killmonger in the end I want to see them get down not two video game characters flipping around. Now before anyone jumps down my throat that is just my opinion and everything else in this film was spot on for me.
For those of you that have been living under a vibranium filled rock Black Panther was introduced to us cinematically in 2016 in Captain America Civil War. If you’re a comic book fan you should already know this as Black Panther has been around since the 70’s. Wakanda is the worlds most technologically advanced society that chose to remain hidden from the rest of the world in East Africa. We get a few tastes of this place but would love to fully explore it further as it is a place that has achieved a level of harmony not seen anywhere else which in itself is amazing considering what they have there. That brings up an interesting conundrum I will discuss later. This representation of an African nation despite it being fictitious is wonderful after constantly seeing only images of impoverished or highly primitive settings that are usually presented. To be honest I know for a fact primitive and impoverished places exist but that is not the whole of the continent, and to be fair there are some comparable places here in the United States that are impoverished and on par with the third world. We don’t constantly advertise that to everyone. This for me as a viewer was a nice change of pace. I write science fiction and later in life wondered why more people of color wasn’t represented as much as if we aren’t expected to be here in the future. If you don’t think that meant anything search through the pictures of African people that came out to see the film in their traditional clothing and see the joy exhibited as well as African Americans who looked for anything African and colorful to help them display their enthusiasm for this film. I have not seen it myself but I even heard there were Asians who came in their traditional clothing in some places. To me that’s a beautiful thing.
Aside from the feelings I had watching this film my thoughts on it were that when not over saturated with CGI the action was awesome, the music was a good mix of rap when it was needed and then more traditional sounding songs that fit and the cast was phenomenal. Like the entire cast. One of my friends on FB was asked if this was better than Wonder Woman, and they asked in return if they were out of their minds because…Gal Gadot. I disagreed wholeheartedly with my good friend and the main reason was because of the cast. Chris Pine and Gal Gadot were excellent and I enjoyed WW but the rest of the cast were a little underwhelming in my opinion. You could have literally replaced them and kept the story moving along. Not so with Black Panther. This film was chock full of heavy hitters. Danai Gurira probably best known as Michonne in the Walking Dead gets to show out here and has a stand out performance. Lupita Nyong’o,Daniel Kaluuya, Florence Kasumba and Martin Freeman all do stellar jobs. Andy Serkis who I am more accustomed to see hidden behind motion capture is a great character in this film even though it’s a departure from the comic book character but I loved his energy when he was on screen. Sterling K. Brown was great and Angela Basset and Forest Whitaker were incomparable as usual. A pleasant surprise for me was Winston Duke who was a fierce rival for Chadwick Boseman but also inserted some good humor. Letitia Wright was outstanding as Shuri who also sprinkled in some youthful levity when needed. My point is there were no throw away characters who you could simply toss off and still properly move the story along. It’s the greatest strength of this film.
The other thing I loved about this film was the way it touched on somewhat political issues without being too pushy or rubbing our noses in it the entire time. Some of these themes can be examined and applied to the black community as well as our country as a whole when it comes to our connections and responsibilities to others here and around the world. It poses a very real question as to how would the world react to a nation that had nearly all the answers yet chose to stand by as the rest of us fell into chaos time and again through time? That concept can be applied to nearly every current advanced nation that looks at the strife and struggle clearly visible around the world. It’s a real thing and they used a fictitious nation in a comic book setting to explore it and in my opinion that was well done. It explores duty versus following your heart as Okoye (Danai Gurira) expresses her loyalty is to the throne no matter who sits in it. Now as a former active duty member of the military this hits home for me as I am sure it does now with active duty personnel as my fellow veterans. Again very well done, it was touched on and then they moved on but they did not skirt the issue or ignore it. I like that they had something to say, said it and went on with kicking ass.
I know some of you are like “hey he said he really liked the cast but left someone out!”. I saved him for last and he was easily my favorite character of the film because I related to him the most. The fact that Michael B. Jordan’s version of Killmonger was a departure from the original character did not bother me as the changes made a lot more sense to me. His motivations for most of his actions were believable and for once in a comic book movie this was definitely not a paper tiger. He was intelligent, an elite warrior and he had major swagger. His anger and the reasons for it simmered for years and you saw and felt that when he was on screen. I probably enjoyed Okoye the most when she fought but I was all in for Killmonger. The things he brings up when discussing his differences with T’Challa are poignant and I think I could literally feel everyone around me shaking their heads in agreement when the Wakandans had no answers to his queries. Bravo Mr. Jordan I know other than awards for effects comic book films usually don’t fare well but I’m pulling for you.
Of course this film is now heavily tied into the rest of the MCU and it will be interesting to see how they expand as we get closer to Infinity Wars. I would like to commend Ryan Coogler on directing this film as well as for throwing a bit of his home town of Oakland into it. Other than Fruitvale Station and Creed I am not too familiar with anything else he has done but this to me was a daunting task in a day and age where lots of people are complaining about inclusion with Hollywood claiming to be very progressive yet often telling you if you have too much of one group or another then it won’t sell. We’ve also seen folks at the helm of the comic book industry express similar sentiments. It’s good for this film to prove them wrong. This was a story we have not seen before and that is a good thing. Everyone should embrace it just as we had Superman, Thor, Batman, Lord of the Rings and a myriad of other stories that were greatly successful. I’m here for all of it and you should be too. If you haven’t already go out and see this film. Until next time.