Black Panther

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Centuries ago, five African tribes warred over a meteorite containing vibranium. A warrior ingested a “heart-shaped herb” that was affected by the metal and gained superhuman abilities. He became the first “Black Panther”, and united all tribes (except the Jabari Tribe who declined) to form the nation of Wakanda. Over time, the Wakandans used the vibranium to develop advanced technology and isolated themselves from the world by posing as a Third World country.

In 1992, King T’Chaka visits his undercover brother N’Jobu in Oakland, California. T’Chaka accuses N’Jobu of assisting black market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue with stealing vibranium from Wakanda. N’Jobu’s partner reveals himself to be Zuri, another undercover Wakandan, and confirms T’Chaka’s suspicions.

In the present day, following T’Chaka’s death at the hands of Helmut Zemo,[N 1] his son T’Challa returns to Wakanda to assume the throne. He and Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje regiment, extract his ex-lover Nakia from an undercover assignment so she can attend his coronation ceremony, along with his mother Ramonda and younger sister Shuri. At the ceremony, the Jabari Tribe’s leader M’Baku challenges T’Challa for the crown in ritual combat. T’Challa defeats M’Baku and convinces him to surrender rather than die.

Klaue and Erik Stevens steal a Wakandan artifact from a museum. T’Challa learns that Klaue plans to sell the artifact in an underground casino in Busan, South Korea. W’Kabi, T’Challa’s friend and Okoye’s lover, urges him to either kill Klaue or return with him. T’Challa, Okoye, and Nakia travel to the casino where T’Challa learns CIA agent Everett K. Ross is the intended buyer. A firefight breaks out, Klaue escapes, and Okoye, Nakia and Ross pursue. With Shuri’s help, T’Challa captures Klaue.

While Ross interrogates Klaue, Klaue reveals that Wakanda’s international image is just a front for a technologically advanced civilization. They are ambushed by Erik, who extracts Klaue; Ross is severely injured intercepting a bullet for Nakia. T’Challa notices Erik is wearing a ring identical to his own. T’Challa decides to take Ross to Wakanda, where their technology can save him, rather than pursue Klaue.

While Shuri heals Ross, T’Challa confronts Zuri about what happened to N’Jobu. Zuri explains that N’Jobu planned to share Wakanda’s technology with people of African descent around the world to help them conquer their oppressors. As T’Chaka arrested N’Jobu, N’Jobu attacked Zuri, forcing T’Chaka to kill him. They left behind N’Jobu’s son, Erik, as returning with him would complicate their lie that N’Jobu had disappeared. Erik would eventually grow into a U.S. black ops soldier, earning the name “Killmonger”.

Killmonger kills Klaue, then takes his body to Wakanda. He is brought before the tribal elders, revealing his identity and claim to the throne. He challenges T’Challa to ritual combat; after killing Zuri, he defeats T’Challa and hurls him over a waterfall. Nakia extracts one of the heart-shaped herbs before Killmonger orders the rest incinerated. Killmonger, supported by W’Kabi and his army, prepares to distribute shipments of Wakandan weapons to operatives around the world. Nakia, Shuri, Ramonda and Ross flee to the Jabari Tribe for aid, where they find a comatose T’Challa, rescued by the Jabari in repayment for sparing M’Baku’s life. Healed by Nakia’s herb, T’Challa requests aid from M’Baku, who declines.

T’Challa returns to fight Killmonger, who commands W’Kabi and his army to attack T’Challa. The Dora Milaje, joined by Shuri and Nakia, battle Killmonger, who dons his own Black Panther suit. Shuri instructs Ross to remotely pilot a jet to shoot down the planes carrying the vibranium weapons. M’Baku and the Jabari eventually arrive to assist T’Challa. When confronted by Okoye, W’Kabi and his army stand down. Fighting in Wakanda’s vibranium mine, T’Challa disrupts Killmonger’s suit and fatally stabs him. Fearing imprisonment, Killmonger declines an offer to be healed, instead choosing to die a free man.

T’Challa establishes an outreach center at the building where N’Jobu died to be run by Nakia and Shuri. In a mid-credits scene, T’Challa appears before the United Nations to reveal Wakanda’s true nature to the world. In a post-credits scene, Shuri continues to help Bucky Barnes with his recuperation.

REVIEW:

Perhaps the most anticipated film to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the past few years, Black Panther has finally arrived! Much like Iron Man, was when his first film was released, the Black Panther isn’t a household name when it comes to superheroes, but perhaps this will do something to change that. There is so much riding on this film. Will it live up to the hype? Will it show that an almost exclusive African-American cast can have success at the box office? Will there be a sequel? Most importantly, though, is this worth watching?

What is this about?

After the events of Captain America: Civil War, King T’Challa returns home to the reclusive, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to serve as his country’s new leader. However, T’Challa soon finds that he is challenged for the throne from factions within his own country. When two foes conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero known as Black Panther must team up with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross and members of the Dora Milaje, Wakandan special forces, to prevent Wakanda from being dragged into a world war.

What did I like?

His time. Black Panther is the first African-American superhero to appear in comics. He is revered as one of the smartest beings alive, alongside Tony Stark and Reed Richards. In other media, he has been featured prominently as a member of the Avengers and was even given his own animated series, Marvel Knights: Black Panther. It seems like the only thing that was missing was for T’Challa to appear in the MCU, which he finally did in Captain America: Civil War. Since then, we have been patiently counting down the days until the release of this film to see more of Chadwick Boseman’s take on this important character. A friend posted a video on facebook over the weekend showing a couple of boys playing as Black Panther and Killmonger. The caption she put on it was something to the effect of “This! Not pretending to be hard gangstas!” That is all you need to know about how needed this film was.

Technology. Wakanda is known for mining vibranium. What isn’t known is how much vibranium is used in everything from their clothing, to medicine, to advancements far beyond the rest of the world. The best example of this happens fairly early on in the film as we see Black Panther and his companions go on a high speed car chase through a city in South Korea. One of the gadgets used allows Shuri, T’Challa’s genius little sister and tech guru, to drive the car from her lab in Wakanda. The use of this and all the other gadgets and gizmos we see in the film will just wow the audience! Q has nothing on these people!

Balance. A few film critic friends that I have were under the impression that this would be a very dark, serious film, akin to the Daniel Craig James Bond films. Having not reached those Bond films, yet, I have no basis for comparison. However, I can say that this is not as serious as you would think. There are jokes and moments of levity, serious moments that will make you think, and of course, kick-ass action. There is a perfect blend and balance amongst these differing tones, that it creates an interesting cacophony that is a welcome change from the norm.

Humanism. Of all the heroes in the MCU, I can’t think of one that we really have had the chance to get to know on a human level. I guess Captain America, given his origin in Captain America: The First Avenger, but other than the opening scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we haven’t had the chance to see him do much other than lead the Avengers and defeat evil. Spider-Man, perhaps, but I still feel like something is missing there. Ant-Man? Perhaps, but the thing that we don’t get from those three is a genuine sense of they are actual human beings. T’Challa, for all his royal riches, stoic demeanor, and enhanced abilities, still gets nervous around his ex-girlfriend. He bickers with his little sister, but also shows his love for her. The pain in eyes when he learns of a dark family secret was clearly there. These are things that make this character relatable and I applaud the director for giving us that extra little insight into this man.

What didn’t I like?

Hype. The hype for this film has been unprecedented. I’ve seen people show-up to screenings dressed like they were going to a formal African shindig. This causes me to wonder, where was this support for the other African-American superheroes that have had cinematic releases? Meteor Man? Blankman? Spawn? Steel? Or how about this little film that many say is responsible for kicking off the superhero craze, Blade? As I was telling my best friend the other day, people are treating Black Panther like cured cancer and freed the slaves! When this film was released Friday, I know there were a few high schools that took field trips to see it for Black History Month. Man, I wish I could have gone to see a superhero film when I was in high school for Black History Month! Don’t get me wrong, the hype is more than deserved, but isn’t it a bit much?

Politics. A couple of weeks ago, I read an article about how T’Challa is like Trump. W…T…F?!? As I was watching, I was careful to see if there were any similarities, which there weren’t. T’challa is kind,  respectful, cares about his people, and isn’t a petulant child. If anyone is like Trump, it would be Killmonger, at least in his beliefs and the way he insisted that he run things. Politics are laced all through this film and, in the world we live in it is needed, but don’t accuse the film of leaning one or the other when it does no such thing. Just enjoy badassery!

Step aside, ladies. Last I checked, this was supposed to be a movie about Black Panther. However, like almost everything else these days, the females take over. Nothing against Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, or the other ladies, but we finally get a Black Panther movie, can he have his moment in the spotlight before ya’ll take it away? The overuse of these women didn’t make T’Challa weak or anything of that nature, but rather at times he felt as if he were a secondary character in his own movie.

Copy-paste. Kilmonger has been praised as one of the best Marvel villains to date. Some even have compared him to Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. Admittedly, Michael B. Jordan gives a great performance as the film’s antagonist. My issue doesn’t rest with him, but rather this cut and paste formula that Marvel seems to keep using. Iron Monger, Abomination, Yellow Jacket, all are reverse copies, to some extent, of their adversary. Kilmonger is the same, what with his gold jaguar suit. I don’t even know where that came from because Kilmonger in the comics has his own style; a style that is hinted at in the film with the African mask. They should have gone with that, but instead they ruined a perfectly good villain, by making him a close of the hero.

What is my final verdict on Black Panther? This is a film that people in the African-American community have been looking for. It shows a strong, educated black man with no ties to drugs, pimping, alcohol, or any of those things. There are no negative stereotypes in this picture, only positive images. Can those who aren’t African-American relate to this film? By all means, yes. There is something for everyone here. As I sat in the theater this afternoon, when I really should have been at work, I was awestruck by how well-crafted this film was. The script, the visuals, the attention to detail. It truly is a work of art with very few flaws. Do I recommend it? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Stop reading this and go see this again and again!!!

5 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Black Panther”

  1. […] briefly covered Highlander the other week and i meant to use it as the trailer for that week, but Black Panther took precedence. Now, the time has come for you to enjoy this […]

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