Run Time: 2 hr 15 min
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%/77%
The long awaited Black Panther movie has finally arrived and it stars Chadwick Boseman, Micheal B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke aka “My baby daddy”, Sterling K. Brown, Forrest Whitaker, and a couple of white dudes. With a cast like this there is no way this movie could have gone wrong…or could it??? We were given a sneak peak of what Black Panther (T’Challa) was capable of in Captain America: Civil War but it was only enough to wet the pallet, we were definitely hungry for more. We are reunited with T’Challa after the unexpected death of his father King T’Chaka. He has now been crowned the new king of Wakanda and he soon learns that the life of a King can be a challenging one. With the conflict of keeping Wakanda a secret from the world and continue life as is versus sharing their (Wakanda) most valuable resource (Vibranium) with the rest of the world ; T’Challa is torn between keeping up tradition or paving a new way. It doesn’t help the that a family secret is revealed that rocks Wakanda to it’s core. To say there has been a crazy buzz around this film would be a great understatement! Unfortunately, when a film is surrounded by a great deal of hype it can either rise to the occasion or crack under the pressure and I (like so many others) was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst when waiting for this movie to premier. Now that the dust has settled did Black Panther live up to the hype or was it a complete crash and burn?
I’m just going to start with the soundtrack for this film that was executive produced by Kendrick Lamar. Prior to watching the film I loved the soundtrack but after watching the movie and taking a second listen I now know that this soundtrack is no less than GENIUS! Kendrick Lamar is known for telling a story through his music and and the way he broke down the “feeling” of Black Panther through music was simply remarkable. With song titles like “X”, “Paramedics”, “Bloody Waters”, “King’s Dead” and “Redemption” you can tell that Lamar was so strategic in the production of this soundtrack that you have to respect how exceptional this soundtrack truly is.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this film was the young, vibrant feel of the movie. We have seen a lot of great uses of technology in Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even Thor but it was something about the way the use of advanced technology was presented to us in this Marvel film that seemed fresh and mind-blowing. I would imagine this was intentional since Wakanda is so far more advanced than the rest of the world but it was still awesome none the less. The CGI was breathtaking at times and just added to the vibrancy of the film. I was really immersed with this fictional world and just felt warm and positive once it was over. I haven’t felt this way after attending a movie showing since Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (don’t get me started on LOTR!)
Oh snap! You didn’t see this coming did you?! There were things happening in this film that referring to them as good would be disrespectful! One of those things was the female presence in this film. When I watched Wonder Woman I was so excited to see a woman on film kicking ass, taking names, and being no one’s damsel in distress. Mannnnnnnnnn, the women of Wakanda took it to a whole other level! There was not one single woman asking for or looking for a man to save her. Lupita, Danai, Letitia, and Angela did the damn thing…period! To see the depiction of a strong black woman, wielding a weapon, snatching off wigs (her own), relying on their smarts and charm versus sex appeal and no stereotypical finger snapping, neck rolling attitude on the big screen was so refreshing and something that Proud Mary tried to pull off but could not (yes…I said it!). I would be all the way here for a movie starring the women of Wakanda and I have a feeling I’m not the only one.
Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger was such a good casting choice but with Ryan Coogler directing you had to know Michael B. Jordan was going to have a role somewhere in this movie. Who is Ryan Coogler you say? Well he’s the man that directed Fruitvale Station, Creed, the upcoming Creed 2….so that’s why I said Micha….never mind, ya’ll get the reference….anyway! Killmonger was a relatable villain and his story was heartbreaking at times and while some of the stuff he did was jacked up, you understood exactly where he was coming from. There were moments when I sat there thinking, “Bruh, my guy is right though! Should I be cheering for him? He is the villain, right?!” Michael B. Jordan did an amazing job bringing T’Challa’s main nemesis to life and one can only hope some of the original comic book story’s and events involving Killmonger are added to this new franchise (not a spoiler unless you’re familiar with the comic book).
I know I already mentioned the Women of Wakanda but I really feel like Letitia Wright needs her own shine for a minute. Whenever you see a technical wizard in movies it is usually played by a nerdy, scraggly, couldn’t get friends even if they were sold in a vending machine, white guy. But Shuri (Letitia Wright) was anything but that! She was by far the funniest and coolest character in this movie. When she was on the screen you looked forward to her one-liners and you were as excited to see the “toys” she unveiled as much as she was excited to try them out in real situations. The fact that there was a young woman pushing Wakanda far ahead of the rest of the world in the technology game was great to see and I am so happy young black girls (and just girls in general) were exposed to such a character on the big screen!
The attention to detail paid about the most seemingly minute things did not get missed by me. At first I was turned off by the different accents that I was hearing and how some actors were speaking with a distinct clicking of the tongue at times while others weren’t. But I had a “duhhhh girl” moment when I realized that although the King’s closest confidants were from Wakanda they all still represented the various tribes of the Country and of course they would have different languages and dialects. So the second time I went to the movie I appreciated the different “accents”, the slight color choices that each character wore to represent their tribe, the intermingling of the tribes, the acknowledgement that not all African tribes have heavily patriarchal, male dominated traditions. There are some tribes where women make some serious moves and are in charge. They even briefly tackled the gross practice of kidnapping young girls and selling them as wives but other than that that they pulled from a lot of the beautiful things that exist in the Motherland and put it in this fictitious setting.
So look…my job is to review movies and I have said time and time again…NO MOVIE IS PERFECT…though some come very close. I had a couple of small issues with Black Panther and the first issue I had was with how underwhelming the presence of Black Panther was in the movie. They applied the typical Super Hero formula to the story of T’Challa, which was disappointing to say the least. In Civil War, Black Panther had tons of action scenes and we got to see T’Challa kicking ass without the suit (with the strength of the Black Panther). And yes I know, he did that in this movie but the intensity was not the same. I wanted to see that elevated to the next level in his feature film. For me, they let me down there. The moments when Black Panther was in action the scene was shot so dark that it was hard to tell what was going on. And while I loved the updated suit, the new added feature (again no spoilers) was used so often that it took away from us seeing Black Panther just kick ass in hand to hand combat.
There were also moments when the CGI was just a bit too fake and it was one of those, “Dammit Marvel I thought we were passed this” moments. CGI can be used to make things look larger than life and can give some amazing action scenes. But if we look at films like Raid: Redemption, John Wick, and even certain scenes in Civil War we see that it is possible to have fight scenes without a bunch of jump cuts, and CGI and can still get some memorable action.
Everyone has said that this movie was necessary for the culture and I couldn’t agree more! To see all these strong black characters on the big screen telling an entertaining story without all the usual stereotypical “black themes” was empowering. I saw this movie twice in 4 days and I plan to see it at least once more. There are people out there who want to dumb down the impact of this film and that is unfortunate. Now our babies can choose to be T’Challa, Killmonger, Nakia, Okoye, W’Kabi, Shuri, M’Baku (my baby daddy), Zuri, and even Ramonda for Halloween or just every day make believe that children love to do. This film needed to happen and it happened the right way! This Sista Gurl overwhelming recommends you go see this incredible film and from a movie-goers standpoint I am giving this movie a FLAWLESS VICTORY! So make sure your passport is up to date so you can take a much needed trip to Wakanda!