Movie Review: Black Panther
Black Panther made an intriguing debut in “Captain America: Civil War.” Its standalone story has real bites.
T’Challa (Chadman Bosewick) returns to his home country following the assassination of his father T’Chaka, King of Wakanda, during the attack at the United Nations in ‘Civil War.’ Accompanied by the head of the all-female royal forces, fierce General Okoye (Danai Gurira) and reunited with his on-and-off love, spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’O), he returns to ascend the throne.
To the outside world, camouflaged from the air, Wakanda is an impoverished, third-world country. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Blessed with a vast natural resource, vibranium (the same mineral that makes up Captain America’s shield), Wakanda harvests its spectacular power and thrives on supremely sophisticated technology, infrastructure, weaponry, science and medicine.
Wakanda is a unique society and locale with retro-futuristic style, steeped in mysticism and modernity. Invisible spaceships, magnetic levitation trains, soaring skyscrapers and force-field shields blend in with long spears, bustling old streets, thatch huts, steep rocky walls and waterfalls. The contrasting details in the designs, colors and textures are incredible.
As advanced as the society is, it’s a kingdom that adheres to rigid code and honor, as shown in the regal ritual combat, where T’Challa is stripped off his Black Panther power and face his challengers. Black Panther gains his power; strength, speed and instinct from drinking an elixir crushed from a heart-shaped herb.
When word goes around there’s black market transaction on vibranium in an underground casino in Busan, South Korea, T’Challa, Okoye and Nakia infiltrate with the intention to capture the seller, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis).
What follows are hyperkinetic action sequences involving a remotely piloted car and high-velocity chase with agile T’Challa hanging on to a sharply tilted moving car, and Okoye wielding a gold spear in a billowing red gown, fighting and landing safely on the street after the Nakia-driven speeding car breaks apart. The remotely piloted car, Black Panther’s stealthy and bulletproof bodysuit, among other high-tech gadgets, are courtesy of Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s ‘James Bond Q’ sister. She steals the scenes with her braininess and playful nature.
The stolen vibranium doesn’t end with Ulysses. He’s connected to a bigger fish, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Like Thor’s Loki, Killmonger is more like an anti-hero than a villain, which makes him very impactful. The best antagonist is a human one, one that believes he’s doing what’s right, one that we can relate to and understand his motivation on some level. When Killmonger’s true identity and intentions are revealed, it presents a difficult dilemma for the Wakandans and divides the nation.
Beyond visual majesty, “Black Panther” is layered with rich history and culture and fluid relationships. We want to know more about these people and how their relationships came to be.
The movie has a compelling storyline of contrastive ideologies. Beneath T’Challa’s regal and dignified portrayal, he’s understandably conflicted. Torn between the duty to his nation as king and representation in the global community. What has always been done to protect the prosperous country and preserve its national security and tradition may not be right for its future. With so many things happening in the world at large, Wakanda is on the verge of deciding its identity, between enforcing barriers or building a bridge to the world. It’s a superhero movie with a political message that resonates.
The post-credit shows a reappearance of a familiar face from MCU. No doubt this person will play a role in the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War,” premiering on May 4, 2018.
10 years into the the ever-expanding and connected universe, Marvel has outdone itself. “Black Panther” roars and reinvigorates; one of the best, most important superhero movies of all time.
Copyright (c) 2018. Nathalia Aryani.
Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at email@example.com.