Black Panther Review
Now that I’ve had time to settle, it’s time we talked about Black Panther. I admit that while I was confident going into this, I wasn’t sure if this would be the phenomenon it would end up becoming. It has nothing to do with “black characters can’t sell films” because I do think if the movie’s good enough anything can sell, but Black Panther isn’t a humongously well-known property, until now. It wasn’t Iron Man or Captain America or any of the other iconic Marvel heroes. But I’m happy to be proven wrong. Because a film like this was sorely needed.
This world needs movies that focus on global entities. Exploring places other than America or even the UK are films that need to exist. Add a pure marketing campaign and a reason to care about the cast and you have a formula for success. Black Panther is a film like no other. In addition to being based in Africa, it shows that these types of characters can be relatable badasses without relying on huge amounts of cinematography and special effects. Yes, Black Panther has some of that, but it’s the world and the story that draws me in. I want to be invested in these characters and this film succeeded in every way.
So today, I’m going through my thoughts on Black Panther and what I liked about it.
The Overall Story
The story begins in California where the father of Erik, our villain, is discovered by the previous king of Wakanda, T’chaka. He ends up taking Shuri back and killing Erik’s father, forcing a chain of events that lead to the events of the present.
Today, T’Challa, the current king after the events of Civil War, goes on a mission to stop a group of bandits from kidnapping young women. Despite his confidence (“I never freeze.”), He is rescued by Nakia.
Afterward, the events begin to unfold describing how T’Challa becomes the king of Wakanda, and how he uses the powers of the Black Panther to gain the ability to see his deceased father and his ancestors.
I won’t go through the entire thing since my words will not do it justice. It really is a stellar film and the kind I expect from the MCU. T’Challa is an interesting character. Laid back, but has a small sense of arrogance that isn’t full blown. He is put through the test of being king and despite his humorous attitude towards Okoye, Nakia, and Shuri, he isn’t fully confident in his ability to fight. Whether it was with the bandits, or against Erik himself.
It’s a powerfully told tale that has a sense of mysticism and a loving nod to African culture you don’t see often, if ever. These kinds of stories make me learn about the culture that most don’t bother telling you. I say this film is needed since too often we see media try to portray a group a certain way. But this film made me learn, which was what it should be doing. I want to feel like I belong in this society, even if I’m not. I want to imagine myself as a guest to this world. To me, the characters and the world are who I care about.
The Beauty Of Wakanda
The city of Wakanda is a sight to look at and is a marvel (pun definitely intended) to behold. The mix of tech with old life makes for a unique vibe and gives off a science fantasy feel. The thought of such a country, based in a land torn by colonization and conflict, being hidden from the rest of the world is unique. I would have liked this to be a full-fledged country (similar to Numbani in Overwatch) but the thought of a hidden city is cool. I do see people comparing this to Hogwarts in Harry Potter, and I definitely see the comparison. I also see people saying “this place can’t exist.” Well, when has that ever stopped anyone? It’s a superhero universe with gods, magicians, and talking raccoons, for crying out loud.
Anyway, the level of detail is incredible and the fly-by overview of the city sealed it the moment I laid eyes on it. It’s been a while since I had such an extreme sense of wonder in a movie or any media for that matter. I love when stories showcase the world so that they can show that it’s not just a technological city, but it’s beautiful at the same time.
I should mention the level of detail involved in the culture of Wakanda. Many of the people are based on actual African traditions and customs. Possibly the most unique was the lip plate body modification. Having never seen anything like it before, it took me by surprise. My mentality with that is seeing the body distorted in ways you wouldn’t expect them to. It’s fascinating to see, really.
But all sorts of African customs are present and the level of detail is extraordinary. The director really went through so much effort to promote the good of African culture that I applaud him for it. More movies need to do this and I think it’s a good thing for everyone to see how people can promote culture through media such as this.
T’Challa as a Hero
I think T’Challa is an interesting character. He’s very neutral but interesting at the same time. He is friendly, but not entirely confident, and he doesn’t like to fight for the sake of it, only when necessary. A lot of characters fall into one of two extremes. Super serious or super goofy. Not that either side is bad (I do like characters on either side of the spectrum) but I like it when a character is perfectly normal, yet super amazing to work with. A character with flaws is what makes them interesting.
Being thrust into the life of a king without letting it go to his head is an interesting level of development for him. I see a lot of king characters who are either too nice or too evil. T’Challa isn’t positive about being a leader and often makes plenty of mistakes. He also knows how to fight and can hold his own in combat. He could easily have been too Sue-ish, but he’s not.
Yet there’s something about him that I don’t see that often. This kind of neutral personality that speaks so much more about his character than having a personality on one end or the other. His accent gives him this calmness to him and while some examples in the film he does lash out, he doesn’t do it to be evil (in that instance, he’s learning about what his father really did to make Erik who he truly is).
Having lost his father, no doubt he’s struggling to learn to be a king and how to best dictate the future of Wakanda. I think he’s very admirable and is a stark contrast to make characters of his type, a kind that’s sorely needed in numerous portrayals of African media.
On another note, him being from Africa is also a bonus. I’m not entirely against seeing the “black guy from New York” character, but seeing someone from this lifestyle breathes new life into the world. Again, this is a character I feel is sorely needed in our lives and I’m glad a superhero like him exists to such high praise. I feel in ten years from now, he really will be along the same lines as Marvel heroes like Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk. If Marvel can push that and perhaps make another Black Panther film, then that will be one step closer to true diversity.
Erik is one heck of a villain. I love the types of villains that you can’t help but say “they’re absolutely right.” Motivated by his hatred towards those who claim they’re more powerful due to who they are and not what they’ve done, his goal is to give those who are weak, especially nations torn by colonialism from Europe, more power to fight against those who would deny their freedom.
But what makes him interesting is he bring us a common plot point that is challenging to pull off yet effective. You know he’s right, you know he has a point, yet you still disagree because he’s the bad guy and his motivations aren’t right. Even if the outcome would benefit everyone and true peace can happen, the idea of the main lead (in this case, T’Challa) defying someone who is right is one people really have to consider.
Yes, those of European descent have done horrible things. Horrible, irreparable things that changed our world for better or worse. How do we fight against that without going mad with power and be blinded by our goals? What we think is right might not be the best answer, even if the outcome is better for everyone.
We’re looking at two differing oppositions here, one who seeks peace through diplomacy, the other through power. It’s a fine line that I think makes great villains. It’s not about being so bad the world hates you, but it’s defying those that think their path is the right one. He’s become one of my favorite villains, probably in any medium, and Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal is amazing.
I knew going into this I would expect the same level of quality that I could get out of any MCU film. This kind of film is not like any other superhero film we’ve seen so far. It’s not about gods, tech geeks (though Shuri definitely qualifies) and super soldiers made through science. It’s about a world full of myth, culture and scientific wonder.
I always want to be enveloped in a culture other than my own, to see the world through the eyes of another. Black Panther isn’t just another movie starring a black protagonist. It’s proof that these kinds of characters don’t have to rely on stereotypes and pigeonholing to be interesting. This is what diversity looks like. Black Panther is no different of a character than heroes like Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanov or even Bruce Banner. He can kick as much ass as any of them and still be his own person.
I don’t expect everyone to declare Black Panther the next big hero, or even the best. But more heroes like him need to exist. Even still, more stories from cultures across the globe, mythologies that have long been ignored. For every Black Panther, you can have another Captain America or heck, even another Wonder Woman or Supergirl alongside them. This is the beginning of a new future, one where anyone can be whatever hero they desire. And as long as we play our cards right, the future looks bright.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.