Distributed By: The Walt Disney Studios
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I havenít really been interested in seeing many of the movies out there based on Marvel Comics characters. Iíve seen a couple of recent X-Men flicks, the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, the first Iron Man film and some of the first Thor film, but really had no interest in seeing othersÖuntil Black Panther. Just the concept and the number of excellent actors involved in the film peaked my interest, but then I received the soundtrack and that sealed the deal. Unfortunately, I had to wait until quite some time after the film came out to get around to seeing it.
As the movie opens, we are told a story about the African nation of Wakanda, a land where wars were waged thousands of years ago over a meteorite containing vibranium. After a warrior ingests a heart-shaped herb affected by the vibranium, he gains superhuman strength and speed and becomes the leader of Wakanda, the first ďBlack Panther.Ē Using vibranium to develop advanced technology, the nation thrives, but to all outside appearances, they are a poor nationÖa Third World countryÖtheir technology hidden from the world.
We are transported to the present in which T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to Wakanda after the murder of his father (John Kani) to assume the throne and the role of Black Panther. At the ceremony, TíChallaís rein is challenged by a Jabari Tribe leader named M'Baku. TíChalla wins, sparing MíBakuís life. Shortly afterwards, TíChalla is advised that a black-market arms dealer named Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) has stolen a Wakandan artifact from a London museum. When TíChalla makes plans to retrieve the artifact, his friend and head of security W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) urges him to bring this terrorist back to Wakanda. Years ago, Klaue invaded Wakanda and stole vibranium, causing an explosion that killed many Wakandans, including WíKabiís father.
What TíChalla doesnít know is that Klaueís accomplice, Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), is his cousin NíJadaka. When TíChalla was just a child, his uncle (Sterling K. Brown) had been sent as an undercover agent to Oakland, California, but TíChallaís father learned that his brother, NíJobu, was planning on sharing Wakandaís technology with people of African descent around the world to conquer their oppressors. TíChaka could not allow this and planned to take his brother back to Wakanda for judgement, but when NíJobu attempted to attack his friend turned informer, Zuri (Forest Whitaker), TíChaka killed his brother, leaving his young son behind. Erik Stevens grew to hate what was done to his father, but also to champion his fatherís cause. He trained as a US black ops soldier, code name Killmonger and bided his time, working with Klaue so he could eventually gain access to Wakanda.
Upon setting foot in Wakanda, the truth about his parentage is exposed and he reserves his right to challenge TíChalla for the throne. After the battle, TíChalla is assumed dead, but found alive and comatose, kept safe by MíBaku in return for the mercy shown him after tribal combat. Together with his former lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), Wakandan special forces leader Okoye (Danai Gurira), his sixteen-year-old sister and technology specialist Shuri (Letitia Wright) and CIA Agent and friend Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), TíChalla must wage war against his own people to fight for the safety of them all. But can he finally defeat Killmonger or will the guilt of what his father did to his cousin weigh to heavily on his soul?
There is so much to say about this movie, I hardly know where to begin. For one thing, the musical score is amazing, featuring traditional tribal instruments and music which lend dramatic flair, exoticness and an adrenaline boost to the visuals and action of the film. The acting is amazing Ė there is not a single soul in that cast that I thought didnít fit in their role or didnít perform adequately in it. In fact, the acting was more than just enjoyable, it made a comic book hero story believable as if it were a real-life saga. The cinematography was amazing, showing us the beauty of the African culture and its environment. Even the technology of Wakanda flowed with beauty, a testimony that the technology had enhanced their ways of life, not changed it. Even during the ritual combat for the throne, the Black Panther must relinquish his powers and fight as an regular man, his only possible advantage being his combat skill and his wits. This is testimony that the technology is seen as a blessing, but not any more important than tradition.
The storyline is wonderful. I was worried that I might not be able to follow the storyline if it tied too much into the other Marvel movies as I had missed most of them. But one could watch Black Panther as a stand alone without worrying about getting lost. I loved the idea that there were many Wakandans who believed that they should be sharing their technology with the world, helping others less fortunate than they. Some of the Wakandans believed that this technology should be used to fight their oppressors thanks to what they had seen over the generations Ė slavery, civil rights violations, murders and more. Though this is not the way of his people, Black Panther can understand why they would feel this way, but he can hardly turn a blind eye towards the plight of the people all over the world who could benefit from what the Wakandans have long tried to keep secret. The debate is this: can they offer the help without that same technology being used against them? Quite a conundrum.
So, this is a thinking manís movie, right? Well, of course, it is also an action fanís film as well. Itís a Marvel movie after all and Black Panther has the advantage of superhuman speed, agility and strength, in addition to some pretty awesome technology. This makes for great, breathtaking fight scenes and some rather awesome car chases. Loved the technology that can turn vehicles into your special drones, allowing you to operate sports cars or even jet fighters anywhere from a lab in Wakanda. And the special effects Ė in a word: WOW!
So, in short, Black Panther is easily watched as a stand alone film apart from the Marvel Universe, has an easily followed and relatable storyline that makes you ponder moral conundrums, has everything an action fan can ask for in the form of fight scenes, car chases and more, features some terrific acting, amazing scenic views, awesome special effects and a soundtrack that you canít help but love. What more can a movie fan ask for?! Black Panther is a must see, not for any specific group of movie fans Ė itís a must see for any fan of movies, period!