4.5 out of 5 Stars
PG-13 Rating, 2:14 run time
Opens to the general public: 2/16/2018
I was honored to receive an invite to attend an advanced screening of Marvel’s latest release, “Black Panther”. The Black Panther character first hit stands in “Fantastic Four Vol. 1” Issue 52, published in 1966. Ironically the Black Panther was created in July 1966, two months before the founding of the Black Panther Party although many people mistakenly assumed the name referenced the Party. This caused the renaming of the character to the “Black Leopard” for a short time – readers and the creators didn’t like it and the original name was reinstated and he has been the Black Panther ever since. I will be honest I didn’t know a lot about this character before reading about him recently and seeing the film. The story line crosses both racial and cultural lines which has made this super hero a fan favorite for more than 50 years and I really love him now too. He is a fierce fighter and is empathetic to those around him. He has a big heart and wants to do his very best. Marvel was daring in bringing this character to the comics in the 60’s and in doing so wanted to show the diversity of our world and our various societies.
The movie starts out with a little backstory to get people like me up to speed on the origins of our main protagonist – The Black Panther. It is 1992 and the King visits his brother who is living in Oakland, CA as a spy for Wakanda, an isolated, technologically advanced African nation. The King learns that his brother is working as a double-agent and confronts him about his activities. He wants to bring his brother to justice in Wakanda and tells him he must come with him. The brother disagrees and refuses.
Cue the opening credits and flash forward to present day where the main story picks up after the events of “Captain America: Civil War”. T’Challa, played again by Chadwick Boseman, is returning home to Wakanda after a blast at the UN kills his father T’Chaka – the King. T’Challa returns home to succeed his father and take his rightful place as king. However, a powerful old enemy reappears and T’Challa tries to make the situation right with Ulysses Klaue after 30 years of continuous attack by Klaue bringing death, destruction and trouble to the door of Wakanda. T’Challa also soon finds that he is challenged for the throne from factions within his own country when a stranger appears. T’Challa/Black Panther is faced with treachery and danger and the young king must rally his allies including C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) and members of the Dora Milaje, Wakandan special forces, to prevent Wakanda from being dragged into a world war which will secure the safety of his people and their way of life.
T’Challa is haunted by the mistakes of his father and puts a lot of pressure on himself to be the best king he can be for his people. During his transformation to King he goes to the land of his ancestors and is able to have a brief talk with his father. His father assures him he will be a good king but it will be hard because he has a good heart. This is a weakness according to the story line and something he has to figure out how to balance with his leadership and superhero roles. I really enjoyed watching Mr. Boseman as this character and he brought not only a fierceness to the role but also a sensitivity and a humor that was just so human and optimistic. Things might be hard but he tried to come with an openness and we saw more of that come to fruition as the movie progressed.
This movie boasts some huge names: Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o to name a few. I loved the entire cast of this movie and felt like the right people were put into the right roles. I can’t imagine anyone else playing these characters. The performances were incredibly strong although I definitely felt like Shuri, T’Challa’s sister played by Letitia Wright, stole the show. I just loved her character! She was strong, funny and intelligent. She is the force behind inventing much of the Wakandan modern technology and most specifically the Black Panther suit. On top of all that, she is a character girls are going to look to and be inspired by. She is a female scientist and engineer and an unexpected warrior and that was such a great thing to see. I really loved the chemistry between all of the characters and felt like they genuinely liked or loved each other. It didn’t feel forced. When T’Challa and Nakia sit on the edge of a gorgeous cliff and he is pouring his feelings and fears out to her, she responded with, “You get to decide what kind of King you want to be.” That was powerful and gave me the chills.
The movie is rated PG-13 for what is described as “prolonged sequences of action violence” and there is a middle finger thrown up in salute as a joke between siblings (she is quickly reprimanded by their mother). I felt like this really kept in line with what is shown in other Marvel movies and none of it came as any surprise. In fact I felt like there was less fighting and violence in this film than in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and some of the other Marvel Studios films. There is sword play and a couple of scenes using guns but the most dramatic fight scenes are hand to hand battles for the throne. The fighting scenes were choreographed with inspiration from African martial arts and I thought it really worked.
The costumes in the movie were works of art and incorporated designs and colors from different groups of people across the African continent. The way the Dora Milaje were dressed showed a great deal of meaning and historical basis behind how the fierce women warriors presented themselves. They were outfitted in a molded base tunic, using touches of tribal influences that integrates tribal lines and add texture all over the costumes. The dresses are equally as gorgeous and the color palettes of each tribe are identifiers of who is who. Seeing the people stand around the waterfall during the “Challenge” scene gave you a strong sense of the 4 factions of the nation of Wakanda – a rainbow of people standing together. It was gorgeous. Jewelry designers were brought in to consult on the neck wear inspired by the and bead designs that were used for belts and waist bands. Colors, patterns and cloaks all had special meaning and it was so beautiful. Even the buckles on the warriors belts showed a panther head.
After seeing this movie I couldn’t help thinking back to last year and seeing the new “Wonder Woman”. I was moved to tears no less than 6 times in that movie. Seeing a woman (several women actually) yield such incredible power, yet being allowed to also be tender, hit me so hard and I thought to myself “so this is how men feel when they see a superhero film”. I love a superhero film, but not being represented in a positive light (but more of a sidekick or a victim or love interest) left me feeling like the films were fun but they didn’t speak to me like they did to my son and husband. I walked away from Black Panther with the same feeling I had with “Wonder Woman”. Seeing fierce, powerful, intelligent, tender women standing up and being a part of the action spoke to me and I cheered for them every time they picked up a spear or showed the technology they created or acted as advisers. I really liked that the women were treated as equals. There was equal “saving of each other”, never portraying the women as weaker and needing help. They worked together. This spoke to the message at the end of the film that we all need to learn that we are one tribe on this earth and we all need to look out for each other. That was powerful and so true.
I really loved this film and everything about it. My son was miffed that I got to see it without him but it is one we will be watching with him sooner than later. He is going to love it. My only complaint was due to the Real 3D. There were a couple of scenes where my eyes couldn’t focus because of a sword being in the middle of the screen and at a strange distance and there was a fly-over scene where the people walking looked strange. These are completely minor issues though and if you don’t see the movie in 3D, it probably won’t be a factor. I felt the story was strong and it didn’t detract from the story line.
I look forward to future Black Panther sightings – speaking of, this is not the last we will see of Black Panther and we don’t have to wait long to see him next! He is slated to return in the upcoming “AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR” due out in May 2018!
Also, following Marvel’s MO, there are 2 “Easter Eggs” in the credits so make sure you are there for those and Stan Lee appears and is witty as ever. I just love that at 95 he still has cameo’s in every film. He is amazing!
Here is the trailer to get you excited! Black Panther opens in theaters everywhere 16 February 2018!
Disclaimer: I was given free admission to this movie. I am not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my very own. All images are used with permission. ©Marvel Studios. All rights reserved.