Movie Review: Black Panther

Story By: Reem Salem, Organizations Director

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Since its release across the U.S. on February 16, 2018, Black Panther received high ratings from critics and already broke multiple box office records making its weekend debut very successful. The fantasy/science fiction film is very significant as it is Marvel’s first film directed by an African-American – Ryan Coogler – and it stars predominately people of color.

The movie takes place after the UN conference scene in Captain America: Civil War where Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) witnessed his father’s death due to a bomb explosion. Consequently, T’Challa who is the Black Panther, returns to his country Wakanda to take over the throne and become king. Wakanda is a highly advanced country built on its rich resource of Vibranium: the metal backs up the whole country including their high tech system. However, to the rest of the world, Wakanda is known as a third world country and its greatness is hidden from outsiders in fear of the country getting plagued with war like everywhere else. The peace in the country is shortly disturbed when arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who knows the truth of Wakanda, steals some vibranium from them. The conflict gets really complicated though when Klaue’s partner Erik Killmonger Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), a former US military operative, turns out to be more than just an American guy trying to make money. Killmonger quickly becomes T’Challa’s enemy and T’Challa finds himself in a whirlwind of conflicts that not only put his life at risk but also puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk too. The plot-line, actors, scenery, and cultural significance set Black Panther apart from other movies and makes its one of the greatest superhero movies of all time.

From beginning to end, the plot line doesn’t fail to keep the audience interested. It is packed with action, drama, comedy, and even romance. Throughout the movie, there was multiple flashbacks that seemed very calculated as they helped provide insight on some characters’ actions later on. Those scenes were intelligently executed in which they were interwoven with some of the plot twists the movie had and were shown at the right moments. Speaking of plot twists, the film had a variety of them but there was one big plot twist that spiced things up and aided heavily in creating the main conflict. Aside from the intense flashbacks and plot twists, there was also moments of comic relief that made the experience two times better. The funny remarks said by some of the characters even in the serious and action-packed shots helped create a perfect balance in the scenes and successfully managed to get a laugh out of the audience even when they were most nervous for the characters. It is impressive that the movie was able to keep the audience at the edge of their seats one second yet make them laugh the next second. On top of that, the movie also managed to put romance in the equation. Although it would have been better if there was more romance scenes between T’Challa and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), you can still see the deep love they have for one another through their immense respect and care for each other as Nakia stands by T’Challa during his struggles and T’Challa eventually listens to Nakia’s ideas about the future of Wakanda and the world.

Generally speaking, there are some cases where a good plot line is ruined due to the acting that takes place,but fortunately, this was definitely not the case for Black Panther. The movie had an absolutely amazing cast who were all able to shine in their own way. In this case, it is hard to name only one or two cast members who stood out as there was multiple of them that were impressive. First there is Boseman who was able to capture T’Challa’s emotions perfectly when he was mourning his father’s death, when he was talking with the ancestors, and when he learned the truth about Killmonger. T’Challa starts out scared and nervous on how to rule the country but by the end he was able to find his own way on how to be a good leader. Next there is Jordan who nails his role by showing the complexity of Killmonger through his bitter and resentful attitude and powerful speeches that not only show his motivations but also leaves the audience speechless. Although he is T’Challa’s enemy, Killmonger is more than just a villian. Unlike other Marvel villains, Killmonger’s motives are not to destroy the world but to save it. This makes him a very complex character whose past is filled with grief because of the suffering he witnessed hence why he wants to help the world through Wakanda. Jordan’s portrayal of Killmonger made the character emotionally resonant and also made it easier to understand his viewpoint. Then there is Winston Duke who played M’Baku, the leader of the Jabari tribe who lived in the mountains away from everyone else. Duke gave a refreshing twist to M’Baku (spoiler alert!) who although is the enemy at first, ends up changing and came to aid T’Challa. Duke did not have many scenes in the film but everytime he was on, the audience were laughing. He was able to take the mysterious, stern character and transform him into one of the best by his hilarious lines and the way he executed them.

The movie did not only do a good job on painting many unique and complex male characters, but they also did fantastic with the female characters. There were four female actresses that were groundbreaking and they all played important roles to the plot. For starters, there is Nyong’o who plays Nakia, one of Wakanda’s spies and a war dog, who Nyong was able to accurately show as a passionate hard working woman whose goal is to keep Wakanda safe and aid the helpless around the world. Through Nyong’o’s acting, the audience can see the dedication and commitment Nakia puts in her job and her deep love for T’Challa. Then there is Angela Bassett who articulately depicted Queen Ramonda’s sheer elegance and never-wavering support for her son through the way she talks and carries herself. Next there is Danai Gurira who tackled the role of Okoye the leader of the Dora Milaje (the special forces team created to protect the king), a general of Wakanda’s army, and also the country’s leading intelligence officer. Gurira remarkably showed Okoye’s strength, devotion, and faithfulness to her country by her action-packed movements, strict demeanor, and also through her humor. Lastly, there is Letitia Wright who plays Shuri, T’Challa’s little sister and the 16 year old behind many of the systems that helped make Wakanda the technologically advanced country that it is. Wright brilliantly captured Shuri’s intelligence, courage, and witty nature in every scene she was in through her easy going and confident nature. The women in Wakanda are simply like no other: they meticulously carried out their roles and served as an inspiration through their power and strength.

Needless to say, without the remarkable acting skills carried out by the cast, Black Panther would not be on the same level of excellence it is.

The third groundbreaking aspect of the movie is the visuals. It is through the scenery that the beauty of Wakanda and the true value of the place is painted. The creators were able to make a whole radically different yet extremely beautiful world that showed why Wakanda is on another level compared to other places. There is three specific scenes that are completely breathtaking: the first scene that shows Wakanda, T’Challa’s crowning scene, and T’Challa’s first visit to the ancestral plane scene. Along with other scenes, those three show the rich and vibrant life found in Wakanda and the various ancient rituals still carried out. If Wakanda was a real place, it would no doubt be on every bucket list in the world. Although the country had both modernized areas surrounded by advanced technology yet also simpler areas surrounded by nature, the two drastic images did not clash together, but rather harmoniously flowed and showed the charm of Africa. Both pictures are crucial as one highlights the superior innovative level found in Wakanda while the other one highlights the close cultural tie the people of Wakanda still preserve. The visuals are not limited to the scenery but they also expand to the people. The way the Wakandan people dressed is majestic, because it was able to capture many of the different cultures found in Africa. The two costume designers Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler used pieces from the Basotho people of Lesotho, Ndebele people of South Africa, Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania, and Tuareg people of Algeria, Mali, and Niger. There are also many other cultures featured in the clothes and accessories the people of Wakanda wear.

The fourth and arguably the most important factor that makes Black Panther striking is the fact that it tackles real issues that are still apparent in today’s world. The film addresses problems that relate to institutionalised racism, poverty, and foreign intervention. The movie did a great job connecting those issues to the plot by making them crucial factors in the plot line. What truly deserves an applause is the fact that those issues were well developed in the movie and the actors were able to represent drastic different perspectives. The film sheds light on just how complex those issues are and the fact that they need to be addressed more. Marvel does not clearly state a solution but they do lean to one side more than the other. What they clearly demonstrate though, through the characters’ actions, is that those problems will only be fixed through leadership, careful planning, and guidance from those who are powerful. Good movies are ones that make their audience feel entertained but great movies are ones that make their audience think. And Black Panther successfully did that by picking serious topics and providing a debate on them with insight from both sides. The high level of intellectual conversations that were in the movie is priceless.

To conclude, Black Panther is a must watch movie with exciting fight scenes, beautiful visuals, a deep message, and incredible acting. Pro-tip: stay for the post-credits scenes, there’s two of them and they give hints for a certain upcoming Marvel movie! : )

 

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Movie Review: Black Panther