Last night I actually left the house and stayed up past my bedtime to go see Black Panther. Currently it sits at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, so you don’t need me to do an actual serious review of it when there are much better critics out there singing its praises.
However, here are five things I found absolutely delightful and wanted to share.
My auto-correct is trying inform me that Afrofuturism isn’t a word, and it’s wrong because it is and this movie is it. Wakanda is possibly the most technologically advanced nation on Earth for reasons discussed in the film. It is a breath of fresh air to see people of color amid high-tech surroundings living their best lives. I also loved the joke that the rest of the world views Wakanda as a third-world, backwards nation and the Wakandans propagate that view, as it keeps them and their culture safe from would-be invaders. My autocorrect is also informing me that Wakanda and Wakandans aren’t words and it needs to get with the times.
For a more in-depth understanding of Afrofuturism please see:
The Wakandan Royals
Angela Bassett, the living embodiment of ‘Yass Queen’ except for Beyoncé, and I think the only reason Beyoncé didn’t appear is because they are saving her for the sequel where she will appear as the goddess Bast. That’s my theory and you heard it here first. Let’s spread that around and make it happen. Anyway, getting to see Ms. Bassett as Queen Ramonda was DELIGHTFUL. Strong, proud, but also a realist, she has a lot to do with little dialogue, but makes it happen.
Chadwick Boseman possesses all the gravitas of a king as T’Challa. In several scenes the weight of rule lies heavy on him, which he conveys through tensions in his jaw, lips and eyes. And yet he still manages to be funny and approachable at times, as he jokes with his companions and family, or weeps for his father, the dead king T’Chaka.
Princess Shuri acts as Black Panther’s Q outfitting him with new and improved tech, and it was adorable seeing her geek out over her STEM accomplishments. Letitia Wright, who plays Shuri, has some of the funniest moments in the film.
Lupita N’yongo finally shows her beautiful face as Princess (?) Nakia – I haven’t seen her physically in anything else but I know her voice from the new Star Wars movies and The Jungle Book. I pictured her as older, but she is not. Other people quicker on the uptake have seen her in things (I will not watch 12 Years a Slave – I can’t do it), but having heard her name so much and finally having a physical presence to go with the voice is great. I’m guessing this might be her intro to a lot of other people and if so, WHAT an intro.
My god. Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger was just magnificent – many complain about weak or throwaway villains in the MCU. Killmonger is not one of them. In fact he’s really more like Black Panther’s Winter Soldier, as he is so charismatic and compelling. At times his points urging Wakandan domination of the world sound kind of… not that bad.
I am still blown away that weedy little Wallace from The Wire grew into such a towering oak of a man. So many actors don’t know how to convey proper menace with their bodies – Jordan is amazing at it. I want him to play more leads. I want him to have a happy ending in a movie. I didn’t see Creed but I saw Fruitvale Station and that was amazing. And sad.
Instead of having a single literal villain, the bigger conflict is divisive politics and international elitism.
The Supporting Cast
There are no wasted characters in this movie. The Dora Milaje, an elite group of female warriors who act as royal bodyguards, are a joy to watch. Their synchronized movements, their spearwork, their stunts – all made me want to hit the gym ASAP and not to get abs. Abs are for hungry, tired people. Danai Gurira as Okoye, the Wakandan General, accompanies T’Challa on his missions and provides both sounding board and counsel, often reminding him of his duties to the throne and Wakandan people.
I even enjoyed Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue and Martin Freeman as Everett Ross as the Tolkien White Guys. I wish I could take credit for that but I totally stole it from Twitter. Klaue is a fun lunatic, and Ross acts as an audience proxy to the wonders of Wakanda (“You have hoverbikes?”) and even gets to do his part to save the day by utilizing his skills as a former Air Force pilot.
Hands down, this installment of the MCU has some of the best writing I’ve seen. Tight character development, dialogue, and humor are all seamless and shine without being distracting.
There’s an interesting subtext to Wakanda as heaven that is touched on, and provides a foundation for the main conflict. I won’t spoil it but there’s a strong argument to be made where T’Chaka must deal with the sins of the Father, who have produced a kind of Lucifer in the form of Killmonger. And like Lucifer, Killmonger’s words are very tempting.
So those are my initial thoughts on Black Panther! I hope you enjoyed this and if you saw it, what did you think?
EDIT: I had another thought I needed to add, so here is a bonus thing:
“Wise men build bridges, fools build barriers.” ~ not an approximate quote but still, relevant.
This had been circling in my mind ever since seeing the film and I didn’t realize it, and I also didn’t realize how much it resonated with me, like a bass note you feel in your bones. It’s a heartening thing to hear these days; a message to every American who reads the news while forcing down an anxiety attack.
There was so much to discuss but in the wake of the most recent shooting (and it’s strange how often I find myself writing that here, in this blog) I didn’t have the brainpower to really dig in to the delicious layers of Black Panther. Besides, there are much smarter people than me who can do that.