Movie Review – Black Panther (2018)

Mother of God, 3.5 readers.  Look what some rapscallion posted on Twitter:

Shameless plug: if you follow @bookshelfbattle you can read snarky commentary like that all the time.

And now, on to Wakanda!

Short version – Malcolm X and Martin Luther King (or at least their dueling philosophies on black empowerment) were put into superhero form and left to duke it out.

Longer version – Wakanda has long existed as a hidden utopia of technological greatness, all made possible to large reserves of vibranium, the magic, do-everything metal that makes Captain America’s shield so awesome.

At the core of Wakandan politics is a central question – should Wakanda remain hidden from the world, hoarding its technological secrets to ensure the country’s continued survival, or should it reach out and arm oppressed people of African descent all over the world?

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), newly crowned king, takes the former position.  Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) a Wakandan-American with a desire to challenge T’Challa’s claim on the throne, takes the latter.  The stakes are high as whoever holds the throne is able to claim the power of being “the black panther” i.e. the superhero with amazing abilities that can be wielded for good or evil, depending on who is wielding them.

No superhero is complete without his entourage or “Scooby Gang” as Buffy used to call them.  T’Challa’s feisty younger sister Shuri serves as her brother’s James Bond-style “Q” or master of technology, coming up with all sorts of fun and interesting gadgets for the king to use in his war against evil.

Danai Gurira (“Walking Dead” fans know here as the samurai sword wielding Michonne) gets her long overdue big screen debut as T’Challa’s general, Okoye while Lupita Nyong-o is the big cat’s love interest.  Angela Basset rounds out the royal family as T’Challa’s mother.

Meanwhile, Andy Serkis, long relegated to behind the scenes work where his movements are recorded to create CGI characters like “Lord of the Rings'” Gollum hams it up big time as Killmonger’s partner-in-crime/internationally evil weapons dealer Ulysses Klaue.  I got the impression that Andy was waiting a long time to become a real life character and thus enjoyed every minute of it.

Martin Freeman connects the film to the ongoing Avengers plot line as Agent Ross.  Ross is loyal to America while T’Challa’s allegiance is to Wakanda, so somehow they have to set aside their differences to engage in some buddy cop shenanigans.

You know 3.5 readers, one thing I always notice about a super hyped movie is that it is always a let down if the movie doesn’t live up to it.  This film does.  I noticed a lot of African Americans at the theater wearing traditional garb so I imagine there’s a lot of pride in seeing the first black Marvel superhero on screen.

I mean, there was Falcon (Anthony Mackie) but he’s really Captain America’s sidekick and hasn’t been given his own movie yet.  And there’s Blade (Wesley Snipes) who had a whole trilogy but he’s not an Avenger and his powers are more occult/vampire related whereas the Avengers’ powers usually have less scary origins.

However you slice it, Black Panther is the first blockbuster super hero and he’s raking it in at the box office.  Further, as the Marvel cinematic universe enters its tenth year, the cat is breathing new life into the franchise.  While the older characters we’ve grown used to are a lot of fun, we’ve gotten used to their story lines and new additions like this one will keep interest going into the future.

Special effects wise, there’s a lot of cool stuff going on.  Typically, I don’t like it when movies put a certain brand of car into the film as an advertisement, but there’s a pretty cool chase scene in which a Lexus is driven in an unusual way.  I’ll let you watch it rather than spoil it.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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4 thoughts on “Movie Review – Black Panther (2018)

  1. Steph says:

    We just saw it yesterday and loved it! Also loved seeing some badass ladies kick some serious butt.

  2. sledpress says:

    I just read a very thoughtful critique by a Columbia University professor who saw the film in Harlem and agonized over the villainization of Erik Killmonger, because T’Challa was to him Uncle Tom apparently. Disclaimer in that I am an old honkie chick who has never had to face racism (though shithead sexism can give you a feel for it) I think you summed it up better in one sentence: MLK vs. Malcolm. Depending how you hold the glass in the light they were both right. Same here. When Killmonger uttered his last line about being buried in the ocean, it felt like a ghost walking through me. I wanted to seize him by the shoulders and say We Failed You. I don’t know how common my reaction might be.

    I’ve read that in the non-stunt scenes, the Amazon royal guard was filled out with young black comics nerd women who were recruited somehow in a casting call. Yowza. Gurira was amazing; I want her to be her own superhero.

    • I’ve read similar criticism and ultimately, I don’t think there was a better outcome than the one written. That Killmonger was a villain and that’s it is a cursory read, for those that really watched the film critically realized both sides had some points to make. In the end, if you look at T’Challa’s face, it’s up for interpretation but I’m not sure prison is what he had in mind for Killmonger but perhaps some kind of rehabilitation to see if they could learn to work together.

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