This is a review by Thomas Rodriguez
I was afraid that it would buckle under expectations.
I feared it would be a bad movie.
The pre-release reviews were very positive. But was it because it was a good movie, or because the good intentions behind the film overrode its entertainment value.
It had burned me with Ghostbusters, the remake. I wanted to root for the film’s success because unlike some Neanderthals, I’m not afraid to root for a female protagonist. One of my favorite films of the last decade was Hunger Games. While the sequels were okay, that first film showed that a strong woman, both emotionally and physically, was nothing to be afraid of.
Another protagonist not to fear? The Black superhero.
This wasn’t the first African American Lead in a major superhero film. Wesley Snipes was the day walker in Blade. Before that, Michael Jai White donned the cape and cowl of the supernatural hero Spawn.
But those didn’t have the almost all black cast that Black Panther boasted. and they didn’t feature an African American Director. Black Panther would change the landscape and prove that representation matter.
But it had to be great.
I’m happy to say that Black Panther exceeded even my high expectations.
The film’s brilliance is in the way it’s able to use the fictional country of Wakanda to present questions on isolationism and what a monarchy’s responsibility is to its people when the rest of the world screams for help.
It presents a villain who, much like Magneto in the X-men films, has a valid reason for why he does what he does. It’s a villain with such a solid motivation that, if it were any other film, he would be presented as the hero.
But this movie is not about him. It’s about T’Challa.
The film starts with the history of Wakanda. An alien meteor strikes earth on the land of Wakanda, bringing with it Vibraniam, an alien metal that will allow Wakanda to flourish. It also infects some of the vegetation on the earth. When eaten, the flowers give the consumer powers far beyond those of mortal man. The first Black Panther is born, and like a kingdom, the responsibility is passed down from father to son.
The film then starts in Oakland California in the early nineties. We witness a betrayal. The results of that betrayal will reverberate in T’Challa’s life.
That’s not to say he’s having it easy. He has claimed the throne in the most heartbreaking of ways. While he tries to navigate his newfound responsibilities, his rival, Eric Killmonger, is planning to infiltrate the secure country of Wakanda and reclaim a throne that he believes is rightfully his.
Though the above description may make it sound like the movie is a total drag, it’s anything but. There are many funny moments, especially the interaction between T’Challa and his sister Shuri.
And the Dora Milaje, a group of women warriors, is worth admission alone.
All in all, it’s a fantastic film with thought-provoking commentary on what the responsibly of a country with means is to the world. T’Challa learns that isolation is not the best strategy. Given the oppression minorities have faced, it’s obvious that the black panther feels he must make amends in some way.
The harm that his people did nothing to stop.
Any film that brings forth thought arguments for and against a nationalistic approach and doing it through the entertaining means of superheroism, is a film worth watching.
And re-watching, if you have the chance.