So anyway, Black Panther was set to break all superhero related box office films before it was even released! It outsold Dawn of Justice for presales and seems to have even outsold previous fan favourite Guardians of the Galaxy. Not bad at all! And considering this is (to my knowledge anyway) the first superhero flick with a mostly black cast, that’s a huge achievement.
Now, full disclosure – I know next to nothing about Black Panther from the comics. All I know about him is that he’s King of Wakanda, he is an on and off member of Fantastic Four and Avengers, and he was married to Storm from the X-Men. That’s pretty much it. However, I did enjoy his role in Civil War and thought he was one of the most interesting characters in that film. So naturally I was gonna take a look at this film.
So, let us “paws” no longer (god, that joke was terrible even for me!) and get down to our review of Black Panther. All right, Marvel, let’s see if you can hit another home run!
After the events of Civil War, T’Challa (Black Panther) is now promoted to King of Wakanda, Africa. The prologue states that Wakanda, whilst appearing as a Third World Country, is actually home to an advanced scientific community, due to the use of Vibranium. Vibranium was discovered many centuries ago and it eventually led to the tribes fighting over it, before being united (with the exception of one tribe) and then deciding to hide away from the world rather than share their technology.
Problems quickly arise when Ulysses Klaue (returning from his cameo in Age of Ultron and now sporting his sonic weapon arm) shows up and T’Challa is determined to capture him. However, the real enemy lies with Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, who has a personal grudge to settle.
WHAT I LIKED
Much like Spider-Man: Homecoming, the fact that Black Panther already appeared in Civil War meant that we could skip the “origin” story and just go straight in. In fact, this film is more a continuation of T’Challa’s story, allowing the character to progress. As the new King, T’Challa finds that he has a lot more responsibility on his shoulders than in Civil War, but due to the lessons he learned in that film, he feels he can take them on and be a wise ruler.
Chadwick Boseman is quite honestly one of the most charismatic actors to take on a superhero role. He oozes with confidence, playing him as a wise royal, and yet vulnerable enough to make him relatable. This is further emphasised when he learns that the creation of Killmonger (who I’ll get to later) was his father’s doing – all to protect his home. It’s a big thing that shows him what sacrifices are needed to protect their city, but whether he should keep to these “old ways” or find a way to break from them. Either way, Boseman gives a strong performance here.
I also think that this film has one of the strongest (if not the strongest) female casts I’ve seen in an MCU film. There wasn’t a single “Damsel in Distress” among them; which I loved. Shuri (Letitia Wright – no relation, that I know of!) is T’Challa’s sister and resident techno-geek, akin to Q from James Bond. She provides a lot of the humour and heart of the show. Lupita Nyong’O is Nakia, T’Challa’s former lover, and she is equally as badass. But my personal favourite (played by The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira) was Okoye. She was the leader of an all-female bodyguard and she just kicked so much ass that I honestly think she could give any of the other MCU heroes and villains a run for their money. And then there was T’Challa’s mother Romonda, played by legendary actress Angela Bassett. All in all a very powerful female cast that brought a lot to this picture.
Martin Freeman returned as CIA Agent Everett K. Ross, and he kinda just milled around in the background for a bit, mostly helping at the end, but I like Martin Freeman so I’ll let this one slide. Even Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, who gets to ride into battle on top of a freaking rhino – what’s not to like about that? And who can forget the ever wonderful Forrest Whittaker, bringing out a similar technique he used in Last King of Scotland, albeit a lot nicer than the character he played in that film.
Onto the villain of the piece – or at least I THOUGHT was the villain – Klaue! Andy Serkis once again gave a brilliant performance that was both psychotic and funny at the same time. However, in a surprise twist, he turns out to NOT be the main antagonist when he is killed halfway through by the true villain Killmonger, played by The Wire’s Michael B. Jordan. Of all the villains in the MCU so far, I think Killmonger has to be the one that has the most legit gripe with Black Panther, seeing as it was his father that killed his dad. Admittedly, his father was a traitor to Wakanda (as he was sneaking out Vibranium in the hope to use it to “help” his people), but even so, it gave him a lot of gravitas as a character. In some ways, he and T’Challa were alike (well they are related), but he believed that Wakanda’s technology could help liberate their people from their “oppressors” by exterminating them all.
I really enjoyed Jordan’s portrayal of this character (who again I know nothing about), he had real nuance and, dare I say it, sadness behind him that makes him a true standout character in the MCU.
But in the end, I guess he had the biggest effect on T’Challa, as he did decide to go out and use their technology to help people in the world – so in that respect, Killmonger did get his wish. And his death scene, I thought, was pretty poignant. I won’t spoil too much, suffice to say there is some manner of redemption in there.
I loved the set of Wakanda – mixing in tribal settings with futuristic tech. It created an environment that felt alive and beautiful to watch. There was tons of colour that made it vibrant and a joy to the eyes. Also, the story moved pretty quickly and, before I knew it, I was halfway through, meaning that there wasn’t much in the way of downtime. Tone wise, the story was a bit more serious than other MCU films, but they still managed to pack in some humour so that was great.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The fact that there was hardly any white actors in there offended me greatly! How dare Marvel forget about us! Call that diversity?!?
No, no I’m joking! Put your pitchforks and lanterns away! The casting was perfect, so don’t worry about that!
There actually wasn’t too much I disliked about it, although I was kinda disappointed that Klaue got killed off too quickly. I would have preferred to have him stay on longer, but at least we had a great villain in Killmonger so that’s something.
Also, at the beginning, there was this fight that was pretty much completely in the dark, which made it hard to see what was going on. Thankfully that was the only one, so that’s not a problem.
One thing that was a headscratcher was why Captain America wasn’t around to help? We know he was in Wakanda after Civil War, why didn’t he help T’Challa? I guess Infinity War (which looks awesome by the way!) will explain that.
AND, OF COURSE… THE AFTER CREDITS SCENE!
If you don’t want the surprise to be ruined, skip ahead to the end!
We all know that the after credits has become a huge thing for Marvel fans – in fact I know some people that go to a film purely for the after credits! These ones didn’t tease too much, but we did get to see Winter Solider return at the end, talking to Shuri. It seems that the mind control he was under is wearing off and he’s getting back to his old self again – but Shuri says he has much more to learn. Only time will tell if he can escape the programming.
Whilst I’d be lying if I said this was my favourite MCU film, I highly enjoyed and thought it was extremely well done. It’s great to see many talented black actors have a chance to shine in the comic world – and boy did they all shine here! People often complain that Marvel is too diverse in their comics, but I don’t see anything wrong with giving other cultures a chance. So in that respect, Black Panther does break a lot of new grounds. It adds depth to the growing MCU film and expands the horizons to greater heights – with dazzling performances and a story that is socially aware, but not preachy.
Black Panther is worth a watch – and with Infinity War on the way, you’d better catch up with the story as soon as you can!
However I STILL don’t know what woke means!
FINAL SCORE: 5/5