Starring-Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan
Scott’s Review #805
Reviewed August 23, 2018
For the record, I am not a huge superhero fan nor an obsessive follower of the popular Marvel comic series. I see a handful of, but hardly any of this particular genre of film, usually those (if any) receiving year-end recognition.
Having heard many positives regarding Black Panther (2018) I was looking forward to something creative and left of center from the typical genre film.
While the film has some standard super-hero elements, the fact that most of the characters are ethnic is an enormous plus and worth the price of admission alone.
To elaborate further, admittedly Black Panther plays out like a superhero film is “supposed” to play out fight scenes, machismo, action, and villains, with the standard good versus evil storyline thrown in.
This is all well and good and will undoubtedly please the traditional Marvel comic book fan. However, the nuances that the screenwriters and director, Ryan Coogler sneak into the film are what sets it above a mediocre rating.
The fact that nearly all of the principal characters are black is tremendous, and the female black characters portrayed as strong is huge.
Furthermore, the visual treats of Africa, Korea, and multi-cultural clothing and colors are noteworthy. While I wish the actual story would have steered further away from the tried and true, I was left happy with the other qualities.
The film begins with a quick story of how one African nation, Wakanda, came to be and proudly brought into existence the first “Black Panther” with superpowers obtained from a special plant.
As the action moves to Oakland, California, circa 1992, we learn that the King of Wakanda is visiting his brother who works undercover.
Following the King’s death, his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) takes over the throne but is soon challenged by his cousin, N’Jadakan (Michael B. Jordan), who deems himself the rightful heir to the throne.
Another subplot involving a black-market arms leader named Ulysses Klaue, leads T’Challa, along with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) to South Korea and back to Wakanda.
Black Panther feels ambitious to me- like seeing something of worth and something inventive and cool. The film is stylized and the direction that Coogler provides is spectacular, with bright, colorful, visual treats, especially as he features lavish African locales.
Admittedly, in a mainstream comic book film, laden with CGI effects, it is tough to know what is real or not real, but as a viewer, these aspects were a treat and pleasing to the eyes.
The plot of the film itself feels admittedly mediocre and tough to follow and a “been there done that” evaluation. By the same token, the story seems predictable, and is it any wonder that T’Challa will reclaim the throne as King of Wakanda?
After inevitable clashes with warrior-type men who want the throne and/or feel that they are the rightful heir to the throne, it does not matter too much.
This is not to say the film is not good, it is, but the plot is not the highlight of Black Panther, feeling fairly standard.
The male-female roles are an interesting study and progressive-minded. Granted the male characters (T’Challa, N’Jadaka, and M’Baku) are all testosterone-laden and fierce with machismo.
But despite being manly men they also contain some sensitivity and there is a unique family element to the characters.
On the other hand, the female characters are incredibly strong and empowering- a dynamic approach for a superhero film sure to be seen by millions. One female character is even an Army General! So the portrayal of women as strong warriors rather than merely secondary or arm candy is impressive.
The comic book or superhero genre is notoriously filled with gender stereotypes and specific, oftentimes generic aspects. With this work, it is nice to see some of these barriers broken down.
Between the recent Wonder Woman (2017) and Black Panther (2018), women and the black community have been represented positively.
Here’s to hoping that the LGBT community may be next.
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Original Score (won), Best Original Song-“All the Stars”, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design (won), Best Costume Design (won)