Black Panther (Non-Spoiler Review)

Jordann Sadler ’18, Perspectives Editor

ALERT: Black Panther just hit $1 billion at the box office. We did it! We finally did it!

Through all the hype and promotion around Black Panther, many fans were worried that Black Panther would not live up to their dreams. But, I have to say that Black Panther was excellent. I found myself tearing up during the movie. I was in awe seeing a superhero with the same skin color as I portrayed as royalty and technologically advanced! The African-inspired costumes were also beautiful. Marvel surely did their research as the costume set was not a bunch of colors thrown around but had traces from different African tribes. Marvel put meaning into the costumes, colors, and ensemble. The world of Wakanda was also as beautiful as the costumes. In the past, Marvel struggled with creating intricate, abundant worlds in their movies (Asgard was the only memorable Marvel world), but this time Wakanda felt real. Wakanda was not just there for T’Challa, Black Panther, to live in but was a separate entity of its own. I would love to see a spin-off movie or a one-hour special focusing on Wakanda.

Black Panther also had an amazing soundtrack. Black Panther The Album featured Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Khalid, Future, and many more. My two personal favorite songs are All The Stars ft. Kendrick Lamar and SZA and Paramedic! ft. SOB x RBE (DaBoii). I also heard Pray For Me ft. Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd playing on the radio. Many were concerned that the movie would just have bunch of rap music, but the rap music was placed very strategically. When in Wakanda, the music had African drums and African-inspired sounds. But, the hip-hop was placed where hip-hop was appropriate.

In addition to the music, the cast was very strong. The main cast is as following: Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther/T’Challa), Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger), Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Andy Serkis (Klaw), and Martin Freeman (Everett K. Ross). Surprisingly, Black Panther had its A-List actors and actresses in minor roles. For example, Angela Bassett (Ramonda) and Forest Whitaker (Zuri) did not play a major role despite having a longer and larger career than even Boseman and Jordan. Andy Serkis, who did not play a CGI character for a change, was very refreshing and enjoyable to watch in his role as a crazy-madman-villain archetype. Martin Freeman was a bit tagged on in the movie. Freeman seemed like a “token white” character as many movies seem to have a “token black” person in their cast.

Focusing more on the movie, the two highlights were the villain and the Dora Milaje. The Dora Milaje is a group of female warriors, serving as protectors to the throne. Gurira as Okoye was awesome-tastic! The women who played these warriors were so committed to their roles that they shaved their heads. Even Gurira herself can be seen on the red carpet with a smooth head. One of the main messages in Black Panther was tradition versus doing what’s right. Since Wakanda is isolated from the rest of the world, the battling question was Are we going to reveal ourselves to the rest of the world? Okoye was a prime example of that as she is loyal to the Wakanda throne but faces many dilemmas.

The second highlight of the movie was actually one of my biggest concerns: the villain. Along with world-building, Marvel also struggled with its villains. No one cares about the elves from Thor: The Dark World or the guys with the bad eye shadow from Doctor Strange. I argue that even Dormammu from Doctor Strange, one of the key villains in the Marvel Universe, was not that memorable. In short, the villain was always the main downside because they focused so much on the hero that the rest flopped. Erik Killmonger and Klaw were different. Especially Erik Killmonger who was actually…kinda right. Exploring the theme of tradition versus modern, Jordan as Killmonger expertly and perfectly deciphered Black Panther’s underlying message. As an outsider of Wakanda, Killmonger’s character also explored the disjoint between African-Americans and Africans. Killmonger was the new, modern, young man who grew up in Oakland, California while T’Challa was an African King who grew up in royalty. There was certainly some tension there. Erik Killmonger was a very relatable villain. He had a reason for doing what he was doing (Klaw was just crazy). I even nodded during certain scenes where Killmonger was speaking. There is a lot of truth in his script, especially concerning the African-American population. The only part of Killmonger that made him a “bad-guy” was the fact that he…well…wanted to take over the world. Killmonger had actual Black Panther Movement, militant-vibes. At first, I thought Michael B. Jordan would be “too-nice.” He proved me wrong. Very, very wrong.

Notice how less I talk about Chadwick Boseman’s character Black Panther. He was not the highlight of this movie, but that’s because the movie wasn’t about him. This movie is a statement. Some people criticize it for being political, but that’s exactly what it is. I stated in a previous article that it has been 14 years since we’ve seen a black superhero—it’s hard not to get political. Also, T’Challa and his family were people. They weren’t there to create a tragic backstory or be background characters—they had depth to them. It was as if the audience was seeing a snippet of their life, not a creation for a movie. Specifically, Letitia Wright’s character Shuri was a crowd favorite, earning her the title as a Disney Princess. Shuri deserves all the praise as she is unique, relatable, and relevant. Also, Shuri is a black female nerd who loves technology and that’s rarely shown in Hollywood.

A major downside to Black Panther, which didn’t bother me too much, was its CGI. Some of the movements could come off as weird. Even parts where Wakanda was being shown, the CGI was too fake. Some of the fight scenes were not a big as they could have been. Any scene with Okoye and the Doja Milaje was awesome, but when it came to Black Panther, it wasn’t jaw-dropping. This could also be due to the recent super-hero boom. Maybe I’m hero-ed out. The third-act, nearing the end of the movie was a bit rushed. They could have gone fully in depth during the third-act, but Black Panther is already 2hr15m. Making the third act longer would make the movie nearly 3 hours.

Seeing Black Panther in a packed movie theater, sitting in the very first row where my neck was bent-backwards at a 90-degree angle, and nearly crying during the opening scene—this movie meant everything to the black youth. This was also an educational experience to those who weren’t black to see that black-cast movies had more to offer than slaves, Tyler-Perry, and criminals. Summarizing the whole experience, I give this movie a 9 out of 10. This movie is one of the greats when it comes to superhero movies. I am placing Black Panther on the superhero pedestal right next to The Dark Knight (which I gave a 9.5), Deadpool (9), and Avengers (9.1). Black Panther is certainly not a 10 out of 10 because I reserve that rating for titles such as Shawshank Redemption, The Wizard of Oz, Forrest Gump, or The Godfather. Black Panther hasn’t reached THAT caliber of movie (classics, masterpieces, and timeless movies). But Black Panther 2 might surprise us!