'Black Panther' (2018) Review

Updated on February 26, 2018
ChrisSawin profile image

Chris is a Houston Film Critics Society Member and a contributor at God Hates Geeks, Slickster Magazine, and What Culture.

The IMAX poster for Marvel Studios, "Black Panther."
The IMAX poster for Marvel Studios, "Black Panther."

Big Trouble in Little Wakanda

I did not love Black Panther and I put off writing this review because I wanted to allow the film to bask in the successful spotlight that it absolutely deserves. Now that director Ryan Coogler’s superhero film crushed the box office over the four day weekend ($235 million domestic and $404 million worldwide) and the film has had a chance to flourish in the glow of sterling reviews from across the world, it seems like the perfect time to dive into why this film wasn’t quite as impressive as most are making it out to be.

Michael B. Jordan is fantastic as Killmonger. Many were calling him the best MCU villain since Loki, the best MCU villain period, and one review even claimed Killmonger was the best on-screen comic book villain since Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight. The character has legitimate beef as to why he is the way he is, which adds a ton of weight to the character. However, many seem to be overlooking that that same purpose is also a curse. An explanation is required, but it also includes some minor spoilers.

Killmonger’s birth name is N’Jadaka and he is the son of the Wakandan traitor N’Jobu (played by Sterling K. Brown), who is the brother of King T’Chaka; the original Black Panther and T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman’s) father. In 1992, N’Jobu partnered with the black market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) since he believed Wakandan technology and vibranium in particular could make Wakanda the most powerful country ever rather than the poor nation that they pretend to be. Klaue’s assault on vibranium mines in Wakanda cost many their lives and N’Jobu is to stand trial, but he resists and is hesitantly killed by his own brother for the sake of their home country and people, T’Chaka leaves a young Erik Stevens behind and Erik would evolve into the vengeful Killmonger in the present day.

While Killmonger’s reasoning for vengeance is warranted, he also seems to turn a blind eye to the fact that his father was in that position based on decisions that he made willingly. T’Chaka leaving him behind is something that’s worth getting revenge for, but aiming that hatred towards his son who had nothing to do with it and based solely on the same blood pumping through his veins feels like how a loan shark attacks surviving family members when the original borrower passes away. It also seems a bit odd that no one else has ever really seemed to make a play for the throne before other than M’Baku (Winston Duke) of the Jabari, the outcast Wakandan tribe from the mountains. While the other tribes seem to agree with T’Challa’s decisions, he butts heads with nearly everyone who isn’t direct family over the course of the film. If W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) wanted bloodshed so badly, why didn’t he opt to elect a king who had the same mindset?

Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther.
Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther.

If anyone in the film is like Heath Ledger’s Joker, it’s Ulysses Klaue. Andy Serkis is psychotic in the role relishing in the sheer amount of chaos he causes, the way he taunts his enemies, and how he makes a strong impact despite only being a minor factor in a greater equation. Klaue is used sparingly and for good reason, but it’s easy to see why the argument is made that Andy Serkis is highly underutilized here and one of the most underrated actors working today.

What Black Panther offers its audience is different than what you’ve come to expect from a Marvel or even a superhero blockbuster. That full-on embrace of the African culture along with a nearly all African-American cast is something to boast about and be proud of. What the film stands for and what it means to people who have never fully related to superheroes in the past is something special and the film should absolutely be praised for that. But Black Panther feels like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The sheep aspect is that the story structure of the film is as formulaic as any other Marvel film. Our hero is still trying to escape his father’s shadow while a former ally becomes a deadly rival. The storyline of the main characters is incredibly similar to that of The Lion King; T’Chaka and T’Challa are Mufasa and Simba and Killmonger is Scar while the ancestral plane is awfully similar to when Simba sees Mufasa’s ghost in the night sky. Maybe this was intentional or it is something that is faithful to the comics, but the film struggles to establish a fully independent identity because of it.

The breathtaking challenge for the throne sequence in, "Black Panther."
The breathtaking challenge for the throne sequence in, "Black Panther."

The highlights of Black Panther are the initial challenge sequence where T’Challa fights M’Baku and the casino sequence that leads into the car chase with Klaue. The challenge feels unique due to not only its setting but the gathering of so many people wearing so many vivid colors; it’s a visual spectacle that cannot be forgotten. Meanwhile the hunt for Klaue juggles laugh out loud humor, jaw dropping action, and some of the best special effects in the entire film.

As a Caucasian man writing this, Black Panther wasn’t specifically meant for me. Last year, Wonder Woman spoke to the hearts of nearly every female who managed to see it. A muted voice of an oppressed civilization is finally being handed a live microphone with no restraint and the encouragement to embrace their culture while showcasing it to the world. Black Panther represents the ups and downs of being prideful to your own upbringing while exploring the gray area that lays in between what’s right and wrong. I was disappointed the film didn’t speak to me the way that I had hoped, but it serves as a stepping stone for something so meaningful for so many others and you can’t downright hate a film for that. I admire what Black Panther stands for, but underwhelmed with how it's executed and its lethargic pacing certainly didn't help matters. With a film beaming with a culture that has never been fully explained in the superhero universe and such a talented cast, it’s a shame we received a storyline that felt so familiar especially when everyone involved gave everything they had to make Black Panther as marvelous as possible.

Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman as N'Jadaka and T'Challa in, "Black Panther."
Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman as N'Jadaka and T'Challa in, "Black Panther."
3 stars for Black Panther (2018)

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Chris Sawin

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • ChrisSawin profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Sawin 

        6 weeks ago from Houston, TX

        I don't...really understand what you're asking. Am I trying to persuade readers with my opinion of the film? Not really. Reviews are opinions of the ones that write them. All I can do as a writer is tell you or whoever reads this my thoughts on what I saw. If you find yourself interested in a film, you should see it regardless of what one review says. I guess my thought process is I'll post a review of a film, someone will then gain interest in said film regardless of what I thought of it, see it for themselves, and then come back to my review to have some sort of discussion about it either privately or publicly. Film discussion is enjoyable even if the two or more individuals have differing opinions.

      • profile image

        AW 

        6 weeks ago

        To which extent do these scripts hamper different readers analytic view? That takes on as if the review did not reflect over the author's plot.

      • Ian Rideout profile image

        Ian Rideout 

        4 months ago from Alberta, Canada

        Nice review. I enjoyed reading it. While I did enjoy Black Panther overall, I think you raise a lot of good points. In particular how, beneath its strong representation of African culture, the story is formulaic. I do agree with you in that the movie didn't quite live up to the hype for me. I liked it, but I didn't love it.

        I thought Wonder Woman was fantastic, though. I enjoyed it more than most Marvel films.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)