I’ll admit that as big of a Marvel fan I am (and super hero fan in general), Black Panther has never been high on my list of favorite characters. Maybe it was because he was never really pushed that much, maybe it’s because of the eye-roll inducing clichéness of the black man/animal powers motif, maybe it was because he’s African and I don’t have much personal connection there outside of a long lost heritage, or maybe it was because of all of those things and more. But, after Captain America: Civil War and learning more about him, his debut solo outing quickly shot up my list of most anticipated movies of 2018. To put it lightly, this movie had a ton of pressure riding on it to succeed, and as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, boy does it deliver!
Without giving too much away the story is all about family, duty as a king, and trying to correct the sins of your father. The fact that Black Panther is a King adds a different dynamic and feel to the movie than any other MCU film yet. The story is concise and relatively small scale for a super hero film but thanks to some absolutely stellar performances from the cast, it’s main themes and messages hit home emphatically. While T’Challa is the main star of the movie, Forest Whitaker, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright are the movies true heart as Zuri, Okoye, and Shuri respectively. It’s a community affair as no one just sits around waiting for him to save the day; they all hold their own and are his equals in many regards. These are easily some of the strongest female characters I’ve ever witnessed on screen (including Wonder Woman) and it’s refreshing. Not to mention that Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is hands down Marvel’s best cinematic villain yet (sorry Loki) and he absolutely steals every scene he’s in. Almost all of the movie’s strongest emotional moments all involve him. In fact, T’Challa might be the least likeable character out of the entire cast, in large part due to him have to constantly play the straight man, but he does become more relatable as the movie goes on.
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I found myself actually getting choked up, something that’s never happened in a super hero movie before.
Coogler handles some tough topics with admirable deftness, driving home his points in brief but extremely emotionally poignant moments or dialogue, all while not rubbing your face in it. I found myself actually getting choked up, something that’s never happened in a super hero movie before. It’s unapologetically black and as an African-American I found myself really relating to Killmonger and his feelings although I didn’t agree with what he was doing. Sure there are some wonky moments of CGI and unnecessary characters, and although it deals with many black themes and mentions some things that may only hit home with a certain part of the audience, at its core it’s still just a really fun and well done super hero movie that’s still relatable for anybody and everybody and I couldn’t help but walk out of the theater beaming with pride and optimism for the future – and at the end of the day isn’t that what super heroes are all about?
* SPOILERS *
Killmonger’s ultimate plans to arm all Wakanda’s agents and incite revolutions around the world seems pretty shortsighted and childish but it makes sense when you understand all of the trauma and rage he’s been filled with over the years. He never got a chance to really develop past a certain emotional stage, thus his child like response to everything. Thus his anger towards T’Challa for his father being killed by T’Chaka. He represented everything he wanted and thought he deserved. It’s all a veiled representation of the many African-American generations growing up without fathers. Albeit in reduced form.
A large part of what made him so great and relatable is that he was kinda right.
I damn near shed a tear when Killmonger met with his father in the spirit plain. Because he was never brought home and given a proper burial he’s been stuck in that same apartment, lost from his people. Again, another veiled allegory. When Killmonger just shed that single tear…sigh
We do get Man-Ape and I’m glad he’s not as over-the-top as he is in the comics. He’s actually really likeable and more of a frenemy than a straight up adversary.
Since all the heart shaped herbs were destroyed does that mean T’Challa is the last Black Panther? I doubt it, but still we never know.
We do get an easter egg of sorts as Shuri playfully challenges him for the role of Black Panther. In the comics, she has actually had the role of Black Panther and actually desires it, unlike this first film. Some impending family drama in the future?
If you stayed past the end credits you’d get a glimpse of Bucky Barnes aka the White Wolf, and the White Wolf is an important character in the Black Panther comics. Maybe he’ll be taking up that mantle in the future.
This is the one instance where I really hope they bring back a character from the dead. We need more of Killmonger in the future, he’s just too good for one movie.
You almost forget that Klaue was a major adversary for Black Panther. He was used as a pawn for Killmonger and killed off unceremoniously. A bold decision, but the right one.
Have you seen Marvel’s Black Panther yet? What’d you think about it? What were your favorite moments? Do you think Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is the best MCU villain yet? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave your own ratings and reactions to the movie.
Black Panther may not be perfect in the technical department but incredible roles by its cast, the MCU's greatest villain yet, an impossibly cool setting, and a super hero with real emotional bite more than make up for any of it's shortcomings. I couldn't help but walk out of the theater beaming with pride and optimism for the future - and at the end of the day isn't that what super heroes are all about?