Movie Review: Black Panther

Black Panther is definitely one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. People have been raving about this film on social media since the announcement of the movie’s release date last year. It premiered this week and so far it has been a smash at the box office. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Black Panther’s story, I will a give little background on it. Black Panther follows the life of T’Challa/Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman) who is next to rule the African nation of Wakanda after his father’s death. Wakanda is one of the most technologically advanced nations, but is also one of the most isolated as the people of Wakanda believe that they are better protected when they hide in plain sight. The nation is made up of four different tribes who thrive off the use of Vibranium. 

Wakanda has been a safe haven for the people who live for centuries and has been viewed by the world as a third world country for years, but what the world doesn’t know is that it is one of the most thriving and technologically advanced nations in the world. Things change drastically when a mortal enemy pops up on their radar and kills King T’Chaka so as a result his son, T’Challa is next up for the throne. T’Challa’s biggest obstacle throughout the film is finding his own way as a man and a king. He spent most of his life preparing to fit the mold that his father created during his reign over Wakanda. T’Challa finds out a shocking secret about his father that conflicts with his own personal morals and ethics, which causes him to question what really makes a man a great king?

What makes this film so important is that despite the fact that it is about a fictional African culture and nation it stayed true to portraying black people who wholeheartedly embrace who they are while fighting for what is right. Many of the characters possessed great skills, intellectual abilities, displayed honor, selflessness and strength that wasn’t solely physical. Representation matters especially for black people. It means a lot to see people who look like ourselves portrayed as kings, queens, strong warriors and intelligent people who run an African nation.

I really enjoyed how the film showed that it wasn’t just T’Challa who ran and saved the nation, but it was a collective effort from mostly women who brought just as much to the table if not more. Okoye (Danai Gurira) is the fearless warrior that is apart of the Dora Milaje. She protects T’Challa and fight alongside him. Then, there is Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) she is T’Challa’s lover, but her life and purpose is deeper than that. Nakia is native to Wakanda, but spends her time outside of the nation as a spy, warrior and a peacemaker. However, she is devoted to saving her nation when it is threatened. Last but not least, there is Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s teenage sister. Shuri is the brains behind Wakanda’s technological advancement. She created the weapons and gear used throughout the film.

The plot made me sort of made me play devil’s advocate once Michael B. Jordan’s character, Eric Killmonger was introduced. I was able to consider the perceptions of both T’Challa and Killmonger. I saw some good in the “bad” and I saw some bad in the “good.” There was a constant political and moral tug-o-war between what was best for Wakanda versus whether Wakanda should abandon their isolationist policies so that they can help the world with their resources. T’Challa’s only agenda was to protect his nation and preserve their livelihood while his cousin, Eric Killmonger who lived his whole life on the outside radically fought for the underdogs. Killmonger wanted to use Wakanda’s greatest resource, Vibranium to help people around the world and end struggling. 

I was really pleased to see such great black actors in this film like Angela Bassett who played the queen and T’Challa’s mother, Ramonda. Also, Forest Whitaker starred as Zuri an elder statesman and keeper of the heart-shaped herb. It was also really good to see rising stars like Daniel Kaluuya who played W’Kabi. Kaluuya is on the rise since the success of his lead role in the film Get Out. I remember seeing Kaluuya start out on the British series, Skins back in 2007 where he starred in the first two seasons and even wrote three episodes so it’s great to see how far he has come 11 years later. Letitia Wright has really be coming into her own over the past few years. I remember seeing her star in the British street drama, Top Boy, which aired back in 2011. Wright showed up on people’s radar at the end of 2017 when she starred in season four of Black Mirror.

It’s a known fact that black people lack representation in film so now to see black people  embracing African culture and donning African garb in a Marvel Superhero movie has me ecstatic. I can only imagine how children must feel when they see people who look like themselves portrayed as royal superheroes and warriors who fight to save their nation. It was also great to have black director and screenwriter, Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) apart of making Black Panther the greatness that we saw over the weekend. 

One of the really dope things about the film is that the filmmakers had the characters speak Xhosa throughout the film. Xhosa is a Nguni Bantu language with click consonants and one of the official languages of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Xhosa is claimed by 8 million Africans as their mother tongue. I hated the “African” accents the characters spoke with in the film, but I just attributed that to the writers coming up with a fictitious accent for a fictional nation.

Honestly, this movie lived up to my expectations and then some. I will admit I was a little apprehensive because of Marvel’s tendency to produce mediocre superhero movies, but Black Panther did not disappoint at all especially with Ryan Coogler on board. This film has come to the world at such a pivotal time where black people are now being represented a little more in films.

Overall, I was very pleased with this film. The actors were great. The plot was great. I will probably see this movie like five more times within the next couple weeks. I would definitely recommend seeing this movie if you haven’t already.

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