Jean-Paul’s Rating: 5/5 stars
Bottom Line: Good story. Good villain. Good design. Good god go see this movie.
You don’t necessarily expect a Marvel movie to have depth to it. You go in expecting a fun little story with some comedy and wonderful visuals woven around some impossibly strong beings with imaginative backstories fighting a one-dimensional villain that is used to push the plot. “Black Panther” completely breaks the mold by combining all of the best elements of all the movies and intertwining them with legitimate and deep social commentary.
Wakanda is an extremely reclusive, technologically superior, and imaginary African country run by a monarch which practices a policy of non-intervention with the outside world unless Wakanda’s immediate interest is concerned. Wakanda has the resources and the expertise to help those around them, they just decide not to in order to preserve their way of life. Wakanda’s newest monarch, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is theoretically amenable to changing that fact, mostly because of the influence of his girlfriend, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). Wakanda’s isolationist tendencies come back to bite them when a poor decision by the previous monarch shows up in the form of Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) to reclaim power from T’Challa. Killmonger runs on a campaign of Wakanda First with a side of Make Wakanda Great Again and wrests control from T’Challa.
Eric Killmonger is probably the best single-shot villain that Marvel has ever produced for a movie. His story is a bit over the top, but his ambitions make sense and his motives are clear. Plus, he’s kind of right except for the whole “enslave the world” thing. It is absolutely irresponsible of Wakanda to sit in absolute comfort while those around it suffer. Killmonger rips that conceit right open while showing the dark half of the interventionist spectrum. He also exposes the fact that blind loyalty to tradition can have chilling and devastating effects. Not bad for a Marvel villain day’s work.
“Black Panther” is also spectacularly beautiful from start to finish. The costume designs are exactingly perfect and if the people behind it do not win an Academy Award, it is a true travesty of movie justice. They pay homage to so many African traditions and put a futuristic spin on each. The graphics, too, are outstanding. Wakanda is a stunning blend of traditional design with technological elements. Afro-futurism at its best. All this is also tied together by a steady backbeat of a melange of African and Hip Hop. Basically, the entire movie exudes so much cool, you’d expect to see Jidenna traipsing in the background of each scene. Excuse me for a second while I go watch the “Classic Man” video.
I am guessing most of the arguments around “Black Panther” will be whether it is the best or second best Marvel movie ever made. Other’s number one and number two picks will vary, but “Black Panther” will be either or in just about everybody’s estimation. Except racists. And I’m not saying you’re necessarily a racist if “Black Panther” isn’t in your top two, but you’re on the same side as racists. That’s all I’m saying. Regardless whether you’re racist or not, you should definitely go and see “Black Panther”.
I would be remiss if I did not mention how culturally significant “Black Panther” is. I went to a 10:40 AM show, which is usually populated by my brother and myself and a couple of older folk who have been awake since 5 AM. This showing was in the largest theater and was probably about 80% full. And while the showing is usually predominantly White,, this was easily majority Black. I have never seen so many Black teens at a movie in my life. There was also a fairly large showing of older folk, some dressed in traditional African garb! It was a delightful movie watching experience made even better by the diverse audience. Maybe Hollywood is finally coming to realize that there is a massive audience for well made and minority led movies.