4.47 over 5 stars.
A superhero movie with a story to tell – “Black Panther” is another critically acclaimed Marvel production. This time around, it’s not all for the humor, the cast, and the score. It’s more about its plot and its themes. In fact, this film can stand alone on itself, without the “Avengers” brand tainting its glory. Kudos to Director Ryan Coogler for this well-polished neo-African tale!
4.56 over 5 stars.
The film opens with the story of how Wakanda, home of the Black Panther, came to be. This African nation rose from the remnants of a meteorite which abounded in vibranium, the strongest metal on Earth. This element affected a heart-shaped herb which gave extraordinary powers to a warrior who ingested it. Later on, the Wakandans learned to utilize vibranium for technological advancement, and opted to mask their nation from the prying eyes of the entire globe.
Fast forward to the present, the Black Panther, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his homeland in order to claim his late father’s throne. But of course, being king was not just pure luxury – it comes with a handful of challenges to conquer. One of which is the resurfacing of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), a long-time vibranium thief. T’Challa’s best bro, W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), pushes the king to bring Klaue to Wakanda so that the criminal may once and for all answer for the murder of W’Kabi’s parents. With the aid of Okoye (Danai Gurira), one of Wakanda’s strongest female warriors, and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), a spy-slash-T’Challa’s-ex, the Black Panther goes on a mission to bring Klaue to justice.
In the aftermath of a high-speed chase across the streets of Busan, Klaue is put under the custody of intelligence agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman). However, Klaue is rescued by “Killmonger” (Michael B. Jordan) and his team. As the Black Panther tries desperately to go after them, Everett is critically wounded in the affair. Hence, the Black Panther has no other choice but to bring Everett to Wakanda for appropriate treatment.
As the Black Panther and his group returns home, Killmonger reveals his ulterior motive, and shoots Klaue to death. He then offers his body as a gift to W’Kabi, and divulges his Wakandan ancestry to the elders. With this revelation, he challenges T’Challa for the throne, and defeats him by throwing him over the waterfall. This makes him the new King of Wakanda. Following his ascent to the throne, Killmonger orders vibranium-powered weapons to be distributed to black people across the world so they can kill those who oppress them. Meanwhile, Nakia and Everett help Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Queen Mother, and Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’challa’s sister, flee from the Wakandan empire.
The group seeks assistance from the Jabari Tribe, and finds T’Challa there, on the verge of dying. Fortunately, T’Challa wakes up. After his recovery, he goes back in an attempt to finish his duel with Killmonger, and save Wakanda from his rule.
Black Panther’s story is so strong and well-written that this film can be regarded as a standalone from all the other Marvel superhero flicks. It dwells on the nature of Wakanda itself – a country which is rich in resources, but opts to isolate itself from the rest of the world in order to protect its citizens from power-hungry nations who will do anything to lay hands upon its vibranium reserves. However, Killmonger sees this act as a selfish one – that Wakanda is choosing to neglect all those African people out there who are suffering from oppression. He is somehow right after all, despite being misguided as he was.
Even with its heavy theme, the movie balances the story with good punchlines. Most of the film’s humor can be attributed to Shuri whose antics and vibranium crafts prove to make the audience share a laugh or two.
The Sights and Sounds
4.55 and 4.25 over 5 stars, respectively.
Wakanda is a futuristic nation set in the middle of Africa’s green mountains. Indeed, it is spectacular how skyrocketing buildings and modern living blended with nature and traditional African lifestyle. Praise to those who conceptualized Wakanda, and brought it to life in this film!
The Wakandan wardrobe is a sight to behold as well. The incorporation of tribal elements and earthen shades are pleasing to the eyes. Oh, and the Black Panther suits also look cool.
Of course, a superhero movie is not complete without adrenaline-pumping action sequences, and Black Panther does not lack in terms of those. I particularly love the challenge scenes by the waterfall. They looked hardcore with the fantastic set.
Also, the story is complemented by the film’s epic-orchestral-slash-tribal score. Many of the pieces in the soundtrack sounded genuine-African, with some having that “Circle of Life” vibe. Well, this is thanks to composer Ludwig Göransson who actually recorded local African musicians for his musical score.
4.50 over 5 stars.
Black Panther is led by an authentic-feeling cast who delivered very well. Chadwick Boseman is somehow a diplomatic and peaceful king. Yet, he was able to execute his fight scenes wonderfully. His demeanor is in stark contrast with that of his challenger, played by Michael B. Jordan. He is an outspoken ruler who makes it clear to everyone what his intentions are. The clash of their personalities gives the film a spicy flavor.
Danai Gurira’s Okoye, and her team of female warriors, are badass. Certainly, you would never want to mess with them. They reminded me of the Amazons from DC’s “Wonder Woman”, but much fiercer. Meanwhile, Lupita Nyong’o gave a stellar performance as Nakia, and Letitia Wright brought perfectly-timed comic relief as Shuri. Angela Bassett also exhibited queenly cadence and grace to the character of Ramonda.
However, I think that Martin Freeman did not shine as Everett K. Ross in this film. Perhaps I liked him speaking British more.
Overall, Black Panther has undeniably captivated me in its spell. Equipped with a story that has pure heart, the movie braves to tackle isolation, oppression, and humanitarianism. It does so with colorful costumes and sets, well-choreographed action scenes, an epic score, a cast who delivered, and just the right amount of humor. Truly, the Black Panther has risen to become one of Marvel’s greatest superheroes. I bow my head to his highness, King T’Challa.