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Movie Review: “Black Panther”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Black Panther

Theatrical Release: 2/16/2018

Theatrical Release: 2/16/2018

Synopsis

The people of Wakanda are still mourning the death of T’Challa’s father, their king. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has returned home and it is now time for him to be crowned king. With the power of the Black Panther, and his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) creating innovative tech for Wakanda, T’Challa must decide what kind of king he wants to be for his nation. Does he do as his father and every king before him have done and maintain the secret of Wakanda‘s vast Vibranium resources, with tech that is decades ahead of the rest of the world? Does he expose Wakanda‘s secrets to help raise brothers and sisters of Africa—who are now spread across the world—from poverty and discrimination while bringing the entire world into a new age of advanced technology?

Sharing Wakanda‘s secrets does not come without risk, as doing so would surely make the country a target for exploitation, international crime, and terrorism. As T’Challa is deciding the future of Wakanda, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) makes a new ally, a young man named Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Ulysses Klaue is a known terrorist of Wakanda, while Erik Killmonger is a mysterious young man from America with a dangerous rap sheet. The two steal vibranium from a museum in the United States, and when he learns this, T’Challa sets out on a mission to stop Klaue and retrieve the vibranium before it gets into the wrong hands.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then awarded for each Pro and taken away for each Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points ranging from 0-10 allowing me to convey to you how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Wakanda (+10pts)

Evil Black Panther (-3pts)

T’Challa & Killmonger (+8pts)

Predictable (-2pts)

Nakia, Okoye, and Shuri (+6pts)

Ross & Klaue (-2pts)

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Pro: Wakanda (+10pts)

Wakanda was so incredible to see on the big screen. The culture, the scenery, and the colors were visually fascinating. There were a bunch of tribes that made up the culture in Wakanda. Each tribe seemed to have its own personality, specialty, and rich history. Any tribe could challenge the to-be King, through combat, for the right to the throne. However, they all had tremendous respect for T’Challa, despite this. I was so fascinated by all of this, and I would love to learn more of these tribes and their differences in future movies.

I also liked seeing how the people of Wakanda used their tech, and the scenery was something to behold, visually. Unlike many of the other locations in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wakanda was entirely fictional. The filmmakers clearly took bits and pieces from real-life African culture as inspiration, but they brought it all together in a way that made a fictitious culture that felt rich with history. It was a setting that was fascinating to see from beginning to end, and I am excited to visit it again in future sequels.

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Con: Evil Black Panther (-3pts)

I am really not a fan of making the villain a more sinister copy of the hero. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been pretty guilty of this, but the superhero genre as a whole has been no stranger to this issue. They did it with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, then they continued the trend through the majority of their movies, right up through this one. I will be honest, Marvel is not the only culprit here. The Flash television series has had almost exclusively speedsters as their seasons primary antagonists, to the point where it removes the spectacle from the titular character.

I liked Killmonger a lot. His story was compelling and Michael B. Jordan did a great job with it, but the climax of the movie ended up being somewhat uninteresting, because the audience was basically just watching to CGI versions of Black Panther going at it. I have become tired of watching two identical characters fighting each other. We have seen this format way too many times before. What I want to see—and I feel like I am not alone here—is the hero using their unique abilities to take on the villain who possesses their own unique abilities. I want to see something different, and in this specific area, Black Panther gave the audience more of the same.

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Pro: T’Challa & Killmonger (+8pts)

What did Marvel finally do right? They delivered a fascinating and well developed villain. Erik Killmonger ends up wearing the Black Panther suit, and in doing so, created an uninteresting climax. However, the character got a ton of compelling character development. I do not want to go into the details, but this guy had a grudge against Wakanda for a pretty valid reason. There was a lot that went into this and I enjoyed seeing this story unfold.

T’Challa was cool to see again, as well. We saw him briefly in Captain America: Civil War, but now we learned about who he was and where he came from. We saw him weighing his options as he decided what kind of king he should be, as he was torn between two very different ideals, regarding what direction to take the country in. I thought this was an interesting story for the character, and it was fun to see how Erik Killmonger played into that.

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Con: Predictable (-2pts)

The movie could be split in half pretty evenly, almost as if it was two movies smushed into one. The first half was fascinating and unpredictable. Then there was a Klaue related event that happened at about the halfway point of the movie. After this, the rest of the story became pretty predictable. This was when we saw the pay off of a lot of the rising action of the story. We saw Killmonger meeting T’Challa, we saw the fallout from that meeting, and we saw T’Challa forced into deciding what kind of king he needed to be. After that Klaue related event, the rest of the movie played out pretty much exactly as you would expect to. It was still an entertaining finish to a great movie, but I thought it lost some of the greatness that the first half of the movie was.

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Pro: Nakia, Okoye, and Shuri (+6pts)

These three characters were just awesome. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and ShurI (Letitia Wright) were three strong and impressive female characters. The women in this movie were not the focal point, but they were so much more than just love interests or damsels in distress. They were essential to the story, and were any of them not around, T’Challa would not have made it very far.

Shuri was the comedic tech genius and T’Challa’s little sister. The banter between these two characters was a lot of fun, but this character’s tech was essential to the story. Okoye was essentially the head of Wakanda's royal guard. She was a fierce warrior and sworn protector of the throne. Nakia was T’Challa’s love interest, sure, but she was also a spy, a fierce warrior in her own right, and she was the moral compass for T’Challa. These three character‘s were essential in T’Challa’s survival and character growth, and they each had their moments to shine, and I enjoyed watching all of it.

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Con: Ross & Klaue (-2pts)

I liked both these characters and the actors playing them. Unfortunately, I thought they were handled poorly in this movie. Let me first address Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman). This character was completely unnecessary and irrelevant to the plot. It felt like he was forced into this movie simply to provide another familiar face to the movie, and to make it feel more tied into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He ended up just feeling unnecessary and it took time away from other characters.

Ulysses Klaue was severely under-used in this movie. He is a major comic villain to Black Panther and he was a major enemy of Wakanda in the movies. In this movie, he took a back seat to Killmonger. I loved that Killmonger was the focus here, but if Ulysses Klaue was not the main focus, why put him in here at all? They made the character feel less important as he did not really do anything noteworthy in the movie. Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman are always fun to watch—this movie was no different in that regard—but they were not necessary to the story and the time spent on these characters should have been spent further developing others.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: A- (92pts)

Black Panther was a great movie. It had awesome superhero action set in the visually fascinating country of Wakanda and featuring a cast of great, complex characters. I also loved the culture that was in this movie, but the characters were the best part. We had T’Challa, a new king deciding the future of his country and his role as its leader. We had Erik Killmonger, a young man with a valid grudge against Wakanda who was on a warpath against those responsible for his misfortune. Both of these characters got strong character development both were compelling to watch as a result of that.

As strong as the lead men were, the women were just as strong. Sure, the ladies were not literally as strong as T’Challa—the power of the Black Panther is not easily matched—but they represented all of Wakanda’s strengths. Nakia was the moral compass, Okoye was the fierce warrior, and Shuri was the brains behind the advanced tech. Unfortunately, the movie became pretty predictable toward the end and it had a few unnecessary characters that took precious screen time away from the ones that mattered more. The movie had its issues, but its strengths far outweigh its flaws. It is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it definitely stands on its own. Whether you are a die hard Marvel fan or have yet to see a single superhero movie, I highly recommend watching this one.