Feb 16, 2018

[Movies] Black Panther (2018) Review

When I first heard that Marvel had plans of making a Black Panther movie, you can't fault me for being skeptical about the project. While being one of the oldest Marvel characters, he still wasn't the most popular one around for obvious reasons.

But given the colorful politcal times we live in, perhaps Black Panther is in fact the perfect movie for these times. And one that recognized its value beyond just telling a classic superhero story and thus elevated itself into something else entirely.

This movie is a celebration of a culture that doesn't always represented well in Hollywood. It's still faithful to many concepts from the comics but it's also a clever statement on many issues of our times presented in a masterful way.

This movie does an amazing job of showcasing precisely why Black  Panther is such an awesome character and why he has remained a mainstay of the Marvel Universe for so long. And this movie will only elevate him into something far greater.

Synopsis: Black  Panther is an American superhero movie directed by Ryan Coogler. The screenplay was written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole as based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

The movie begins a retelling of the origins of the fictional land of Wakanda, which is the result of a meteorite made of vibranium crashing into Earth and eventually becoming the site of this country. Five tribes warred over control of the territory but it wasn't until one shaman leader ingested a concoction derived of the "heart-shaped herb" that granted him superhuman abilities. He becomes the first Black Panther and unites four of the five tribes to form the nation of Wakanda. Over the centuries Wakanda prospers given their access to vibranium, but also treat the source of metal as a near holy mission in terms of needing to keep it safe. Thus they hide Wakanda's propsperity from others to keep them safe.

In the present day we join the T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the current Black Panther given the death of his father T'Chaka (John Kani) during Captain America: Civil War as he returns to his homeland. He is now due  to formally take on the crown as King of Wakanda, but only after he completes the ritual combat ceremoy that allows any tribesman of royal blood to challenge him for the crown. Meanwhile Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis), who had once infiltrated Wakanda to steal vibranium, is on the move again with plans to again take Wakanda's precious resource.

What I Liked: So I was already a fan of Black Panther from the comics as he's actually one of the smartested characters in the Marvel Universe and has been involved in rather geeky titles like The Ultimates and they managed to showcase that all of Wakanda is of this nature to varying degrees. As arrogant as they may come across as a people, there's a basis for things given how technologically advanced they are versus the rest of the world. I suspect that the similiarities of the aesthetic of Wakanda and the Game Masters' world in Thor: Ragnarok aren't totally a coincidence. Wakandans are practically alien versus the rest of Earth.

And what an aesthetic though - I loved how the Wakandan look was really taking various African cultures and elevating them into a theoretical future had they never been conquered or subjgated by foreign powers. Thus Wakanda is colorful yet also an elegant blend of the the modern and the ancient. Marry all this with a classic story strucure that pits family against family while bringing in the question of the role of such "superior" nations with  respect to the rest of the world.

This movie covers a lot of minorities in terms of representation with things like the all-female Dora Milaje military force and the fact that this movie is very black indeed.

What Could Have Been Better: Some elements of the movie felt like they got too stuck in some of tropes of stories we've come to associate with Africa. Sure, a lot of that was immortalized by The Lion King, and thus we get the whole connection between father and son and the importance of family and their legacy. It's not entirely bad, but it is a sort of a running gag.

The core story is a little weird at times, especially when you really try to consider Killmonger's (Michael B. Jordan) journey and his plan. It's a tad convoluted and he seems deliberately designed to defeat Black Panther but that's about it. Klaw was fun, but in the end felt somewhat underutilized.

TL;DR: Black Panther is an amazing movie that is more than just an action-packed superhero movie. There's a lot of complexity and nuance woven into it and it manages to balance different characters with its storytelling and its play on different emotions. Thus it gets a full 5 examples of Wakanda's otherworldly technology out of a possible 5.

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