Black Panther: a Spoiler-Free Review

I will start this off by saying when it comes to Marvel Comics I am still what you would call a newb. Most of my knowledge comes from watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I knew nothing about the Black Panther before his subplot in “Captain America: Civil War,” but after seeing this movie, I can safely say Marvel has converted me into a fan once again.

This movie is about T’Challa, the Black Panther and Wakandan prince, who must step up as king after the death of his father in “Civil War.” As King and Black Panther, he must rule over his secret technologically-advanced and prosperous kingdom and protect it from outsiders who threaten to exploit it and reveal its secrets to the rest of the world. When arms trader Ulysses Klaue and vengeful ex-soldier Erik Killmonger threaten Wakanda’s security, the Black Panther and his female warrior friends must protect their country and ultimately decide Wakanda’s future.

There are many reasons fans and I love this movie, but I will narrow them down to two.

The first is the setting. Out of all the Marvel movies, this story’s location is without an argument the most exotic. It’s rare to see a superhero movie set in Africa, or in Marvel’s case, anywhere that isn’t urban or in America when it’s on earth, so it’s a welcome expansion into new territory.

With that said, I need my fan girl moment. I love everything about Wakanda. I love Wakanda’s architecture, the landscape, and the culture. It’s a blend of African traditions with modern technology and sensibilities. Their skyscrapers still resemble traditional tribal housing. Their clothes are updated versions of traditional African clothing. Their warriors use technologically-advanced traditional weapons and armor. I love how well tradition and modernity are blended together in this world. It’s a near-perfect balance of both honoring roots while advancing towards the future.

The second reason is the characters. Arguably, the biggest reason that uninitiated western audiences with little knowledge of Africa have connected to this movie as strongly as they have is because of how relatable and amazing these characters are.

I confess, at first, I thought T’Challa was not a very interesting character, but on my second viewing, I realized why I was wrong. T’Challa is a very subdued man. He has emotions and struggles with knowing what to do sometimes, but he only shows it to the people he’s closest to. He is very controlled and calm just as every diplomat should be. T’Challa desires to solve problems without violence and is willing to show mercy, but he’s never hesitant when he must act. He embodies Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” He’s a leader who must be strong even as he struggles with unsettling revelations and knowing what to do with them.

T’Challa is a stark contrast to the villains who are probably among the most interesting Marvel movie villains ever. Klaue is over-the-top and unhinged but hysterically funny. Erik Killmonger is driven by his anger and his rage, and while I can’t give everything about him away, he is crazy while still being sympathetic.

In addition, for my second fan girl moment, the women in this movie kick all kinds of butt. T’Challa and his family are protected by a legion of female warriors called the Dora Milaje. Okoye is the strongest of them and she is amazing! She accompanies T’Challa as his guard for most of the movie and is more ferocious than any other superheroine I’ve ever seen in cinema. She can be calm and even funny, but she’s also tough and no-nonsense. If T’Challa didn’t keep her in check, I’m pretty sure she would have impaled Agent Ross with a spear before the movie’s second act. Nakia, T’Challa’s ex, is just as interesting. She’s stubborn and compassionate and carries a different vision for Wakanda’s future than he does, but she’s still there to support him. My favorite, though, is Shuri, T’Challa’s teenage genius sister who designs the technology on all his equipment. I love her so much! She’s brilliant but does not act like a stereotypical nerd at all. Shuri’s funny, outspoken, irreverent, confident, and full of so much positive energy.

The relationship between the actors feels natural and relatable. It is easily the best part of the movie in my opinion at least. Others will cite the movie’s conflicts, the issues it addresses, and its great action scenes, but for me, they are the icing on this Marvel-lous cake.

The few problems I have with this movie relate to how the special effects in a certain scene was not up-to-par and the fate of a certain psychotic arms dealer, but honestly to me, they’re hardly worth mentioning. They fall more to preference than actual problems that hurt the film.

I predict this Marvel movie will stand out and rank highly among the others in the same way “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2” do. It’s more cinematic evidence that the Marvel franchise can take any unconventional or lesser known story and turn it into a hit that converts casual viewers into fans. Check it out for yourself!

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