Black Panther: Review

Written by: Carlos Zotomayor

Film | Feb 18, 2018

Black Panther Marvel Marvel Studios

Every standalone Marvel movie superhero has their own gimmick. Captain America is a goody-two-shoes fossil from your grandfather's time. Ant-Man is a somewhat reformed criminal with a penchant for the hilarious. And Iron Man has the privilege of playing Robert Downey Jr. every once in a while.

But Black Panther? His shtick is that he combines both old and new into the most stylish superhero movie thus far.

This is the most disconnected film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the first Guardians of the Galaxy. After being crowned king of Wakanda in the wake of his father's death in Captain America: Civil War, new Black Panther T'Challa learns how to run a country whose long-standing tradition is to hide their high-tech vibranium lifestyle from the rest of the world. In the midst of this, a war-mongering Ulysses Klaue and a mysterious Erik Killmonger threaten his people's way of life.

Wakanda itself plays the biggest role in the film. Despite the advancements vibranium has brought to the country, the people's traditions and customs seem largely unchanged. Unlike other futuristic cities with flying cars and laser guns, this is a country whose culture plays just as big a part as its technology. Just look at the receding waterfall arenas, trippy herbs, and the giant panther-shaped cave.

This cultural significance extends to the story, which involves a nation who has spent generations hiding from the rest of the world. T'Challa is told that the best way to put his country first is to keep it secret, but Erik Killmonger's more extremist view on aiding those in need provides a compelling argument against years of tradition. This makes him a more memorable and realistic Marvel movie villain since... well, ever. By the end of the movie, you see Killmonger as more of a victim than a villain (despite his cliché bad guy music theme and penchant for carving people up).

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

Apart from Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan's performances as T'Challa and Erik Killmonger respectively, the rest of the cast does a great job of portraying a small but memorable band of characters. This makes them that much more memorable, even with their hard-to-pronounce names.

Danai Gurira as Okoye deserves special mention because her capacity for anger, compassion, and loyalty makes her seem like the main protagonist at times. To counteract her traditionalism, Letitia Wright as T'Challa's sister Shuri provides a lot of the movie's humor in addition to the Black Panther's gadgets.

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

Speaking of gadgets, Black Panther has a lot of them; making Tony Stark's Avengers tower look like a rotting tree house. Seeing as Wakanda was built on a mountain of vibranium, their technology far outclasses the rest of the world. This is great as it keeps the audience glued to see what new Wakandan-made invention will be unleashed on-screen.

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

So is there anything wrong with the film? Well, yes.

Even though Black Panther does almost everything with style, the overall narrative is very predictable and certain plot points can be seen a mile away. It does nothing new in terms of storytelling per se, and the entire plot can be summarized within a couple of sentences.

Not only that, but the Black Panther himself doesn't feel as relatable as other Marvel heroes. When we are introduced to him, T'Challa is already grown up and taken on the powers and responsibilities of the protector of Wakanda. There's no arc, no real evolution of the character from being an ordinary man to a superpowered furry.

Unlike the other characters, you never really see what drives him to do what he does. Sure he's out to protect his country, but what about his own personal motivations? We see glimpses of this in his desire to break free from tradition and his relationship with former lover Nakia, but it isn't given as much emphasis as it should have.

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

What the movie does instead is get ethical, political, and racial. Whether on purpose or not, it delves into issues which still plague humanity to this very day. From a country's choice of omission in the face of obvious hardship to the limitations of tradition, you will see a lot of themes which resonate with black people worldwide.

Black Panther isn't about the superhero you'll see in Avengers: Infinity War. It isn't even completely about T'Challa. What it is about is Wakanda: its people, its culture, and its connection the rest of the world. You don't need to watch it to understand the rest of the upcoming Marvel universe, you need to watch it to understand ours.

About the author: Carlos Zotomayor

Zoto can see your underpants. Mmm... tasteful.

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