One of my husband’s and my favorite heroes of the Marvel Universe is Black Panther. While we aren’t as familiar with the comics, we’ve loved the character in animated films and some of the Avenger books. We were hoping that the film would be true to the character and have a Wakanda centric story with the spotlight on African characters. We not only got that, we got kick-ass female warriors, a smart and thoughtful hero and a story exemplifying unity.
The story begins with sharing the history of Wakanda and the five tribes including the origin of the Black Panther. It also gives viewers information on why Wakanda wishes to remain isolated from the world and hide their advanced technology. It quickly shows that not all agree with that isolationist viewpoint, jumping to thirty years prior to present events and a disagreement between T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani) and his brother, Prince N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown)who wishes to share Wakanda’s wealth with the oppressed in America and around the world. Unfortunately, doing so has prompted him to collaborate with arms dealer Ulysses Klau (Andy Serkis) to steal a cache of vibranium. T’Chaka is forced to mete out justice on his own brother.
The story moves to present day where T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is on a mission to extract one of his spies, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), also an ex-lover from a covert mission among human traffickers. With the aid of Okoye (Danai Gurira), head of the Dora Milaje (royal guard) he succeeds and heads to Wakanda to take up the mantle of leadership. We meet more of the royal family, his mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), wise-cracking sixteen year old technological genius and one of his closest friends, W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) chief of the border tribe and Okoye’s love.
T’Challa faces challenges in taking up rulership of Wakanda, starting with a tribal challenge led by Shaman Zuri (Forest Whitaker). T’Challa faces the chief of the mountain tribe, M’Baku (Winston Duke) in the trial.
T’Challa defeats M’baku but wisely leaves him alive to continue to lead the mountain tribe. But there are other concerns. Nakia wishes him to bring Wakandan aid to the wider world and word also reaches T’Challa that Klau had been spotted with an Wakandan artifact stolen from a London museum. Klau is aided by a young man, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). In the pursuit, T’Challa is joined by Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman). But Klau is only the beginning of T’Challa’s troubles and he soon faces an unexpected adversary along with secrets about his father emerging from the past.
My husband and I both loved the movie. On why, some reasons we agreed upon and some we differed. Since we had different opinions, we’re going offer both sides.
Duncan-It doesn’t immediately start with action and while it may be a touch slower, it has that action spread throughout and more dialogue. This isn’t a bad thing. One of the quotes that resonated with me was “Are you going to build bridges or barriers?” Will you go out to help all the people of the world or will you try and hide behind walls? One of the central themes was humanity. One of the points brought up in the movie is life started in Africa so aren’t we all one tribe? With the ongoing social concerns, I loved that they delved into this. White people have said “How are they supposed to see themselves in the film but everyone else has had to do that. I personally love that as my interests peaked by a non white characters.
Andrea-I personally see myself in the humans in the film. I thought the action was well balanced with the story, it allowed for an exploration of building bridges and being connected to the world, of unity. I love the that the writers built into the story the idea of people divided by being part of the solution or whether they were going to be part of the problem. Were they going to build bridges or tear down the world? That allowed for conflicted loyalties and a sense of division within the characters, a complexity that allowed the characters to be three dimensional.
D-I love that we get to see Wakandan society and the female characters are as important. Woman warriors make up the royal guard and are given every chance to be as kick ass as T’Challa the main character of the movie. I love that the women are as important as any of the men.
A- I thought it was empowering, not just to women but in general as one woman of color viewing the film said. Shuri, T’Challa’s sister is every bit as interesting as him. She’s even smarter and is the genius of the family when it comes to technology. Okaye is as capable as T’Challa and Nakia is more insightful to the needs of the world, what Wakanda should do to be part of the solution. I also like that all the characters have a purpose, even Martin Freeman’s character. He’s part of what is needed to save the day. But as D says, he’s not the big savior.
D-While there are some predictable moments, like the challenge from the comics, that’s a big part of how the Black Panther is passed on and how the monarchy goes forward. It’s more than ritual, it’s proving that T’Challa has the strength to be a leader. That’s important to the character and just can’t change that much.
A-You have to have that aspect in an origin story. From a critical standpoint, there were very few beats they missed. I especially liked that Klau’s part didn’t go how I expected, I like how he ended up being the key for Erik to get into Wakanda. A nice zig when I thought they were going to zag.
D- I thought as a villain he’d play a different role, a bigger part, just because the character was really interesting. I kind of wish there’d been a little more to it but I can’t fault the movie. I just really like Andy Serkis and I liked what they did with his character.
A- I agree and I also like that M’Baku is not actually a villain. You think he’s going to be a villain but he’s not. He ends up being an ally. I love the conflicts between the characters as well as the division in loyalties throughout the film.
D- On tiny aspect for me, I felt like they scoured the African regions or at least identifiable tribes and grabbed a bunch for the elders. I understood what they were trying to do, to include details and realism but would have preferred for them to use the tribes to extrapolate a unique culture for Wakanda and felt it wasn’t as creative as it could have been.
A- I disagree, I like that it added weight and was done purposefully to build details and add to the traditional elements within the film. I felt that it honored the various tribes and loved the blend of music, the drums during the challenge as well as the way they greeted each other. Even the blend of technology into the traditional architecture made Wakanda a unique place and part of the story. Even the element of the flower being created vibranium infusing the ground added to the depth of the world.
D- I liked the influence of the animals, like the gorilla and rhino in the tribes just would have liked to have seen more.
A-I like the mannerisms of the animal spirit, that each of the tribes has a totem animal that shows in the leader of the tribe, each man moves like the animal.
We both agreed that the blend of technology for the film was amazing. Shuri uses a three dimensional space to drive vehicles remotely and creates a suit that fits into necklace. There is use of sonics that not only are incredible in design but are an important aspect later in the film when T’Challa is fighting for his life.
The characters are complex. T’Challa is true to the character as we know him. He’s shown to be intelligent and uses that wisdom to make better choices for his people, to be an example of how to build bridges. That is key to who the Black Panther is, who T’Challa is as a character and the writers have done a impressive job of capturing who he is.
It is not just the writers who have done such an incredible job, though. Without Chadwick Boseman, there is no T’Challa. He has embraced his role and brought the character to life. While we’ve seen other incarnations of the character, I can’t imagine anyone performing more naturally in this part. But it’s not just Chadwick Boseman. The whole cast is downright thrilling. Letitia Wright is funny, bright and warm as Shuri, T’Challa’s sister. Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia as both caring and wise, but impulsive and a risk taker. Both Danai Gurira as Okaye and Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi play such conflicted roles and do so brilliantly. Sterling K. Brown as T’Chaka’s brother Prince N’Jobu presents his part in such a way to allow you to see his vision for Wakanda and how much he cares about the world, not just his home. Michael B. Jordan is amazing as Killmonger, allowing for a complex presentation and even at the end showing a character unwilling to bow, to be in chains like his ancestors. Not one actor did less than their best performance in this movie.
This is now our favorite Marvel movie. It has such a complexity, such a story that lends empowerment and stands as an example of jaw dropping skill from the writers, the director and the actors that like Wonder Woman, it shows that there is no longer an excuse for lack of diversity in film. Really, the only question is, when can I have more? With such compelling characters and great writing, I want to see more as soon as humanly possible.
Rating: 5 stars.
“Black Panther” stars Chadwick Boseman (“Captain America: Civil War,” “Get on Up”), Michael B. Jordan (“Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”), Academy Award® winner Lupita Nyong’o (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “12 Years a Slave”), Danai Gurira (“The Walking Dead,” “All Eyez on Me”), Martin Freeman (“The Hobbit” trilogy, “Sherlock”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out,” “Sicario”), Letitia Wright (“Urban Hymn,” “Glasgow Girls”), Winston Duke (“Person of Interest, “Modern Family”), with Academy Award® nominee Angela Bassett (“American Horror Story,” “London Has Fallen”), with Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Lee Daniels’ “The Butler”) and Andy Serkis (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”).
Ryan Coogler (“Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”) directs from a screenplay he wrote with Joe Robert Cole (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”). Kevin Feige is producer with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Nate Moore, Jeffrey Chernov and Stan Lee serving as executive producers