Black Panther – Movie Review

Black Panther Movie Review ? ?

Posted by Student Brands on Monday, February 19, 2018

This past weekend I finally got to go and watch one of my most anticipated movies of 2018,  Black Panther.  I share my thoughts and views on the movie but if you think I’m just gassing it up, here’s a review from someone else.

Review by Daniel K. Pabu

“Wakanda Forever!”

I found myself shouting with arms crossed over my chest as I exited the cinema. I wasn’t the only person caught up in the Wakanda spirit as crowds of moviegoers cheered and barked upon exiting the cinema. The movie had created an ebullient vibe and everyone was feeling it. Coming from an experience like that, how does one review such a movie, a movie that holds so much relevance and meaning to so many people. Having watched the movie twice now, I can surely say that Marvel and director Ryan Coogler set about making a movie that catered and related to a race of over 1 billion people – and they succeeded, spectacularly.

Black Panther is truly more than movie – it’s an experience. An experience that personally as an African man and comic book fan, one would find it very difficult to not fall to the allure of supporting this movie. For this purpose of this review though I’ll strive to separate the movie from all the hype and excitement surrounding it [that I’ve already fallen prey to].

Black Panther has a mostly average story premise. Following the events of Captain America: Civil War with the death of his father, T’challa, the Black Panther and Prince of a technologically advanced African country – Wakanda – returns home to be crowned King and take his place on the throne when the reappearance of an old enemy and a new foe set events into motion that shake the foundations of the kingdom.

A premise such as this is not a new one, and it has all of the conventional ups and downs with no real surprises or unexpected twists – not boring or predictable by any means but not particularly new. The story is average but the telling of it is excellent. Via beautiful cinematography, weighty themes and excellent characterization a beautiful narrative thread is spun. From the opening scene explaining how Wakanda came to be what it is, to following T’challa on his journey to becoming king and his interactions with all of the characters in the movie, we’re truly taken on a journey.

A key thing that Black Panther has going for it are the thematic weights it [somehow easily] carries over its shoulders. Black Panther has a plethora of themes relevant to the modern-day struggles of POC (People of Colour). These themes include ethnic separatism, colonization, differences between Africans and Africans of Diaspora, Afrofuturism, sins of the past, absent fathers as well as the more common themes of heroism, love and loyalty.

An example of how Black Panther so easily weaves theme into story as well as good characterization is in one of my favourite scenes – slightly past the midpoint of the movie – when T’challa, his sister Shuri, his mother and friends Nakia and agent Ross are discussing how to defeat the villain while in the high mountainous throne room of the head of the Jabari tirbe, M’Baku (Played by Winston Duke).

M’Baku silently sits and listens to the discussion against the backdrop of a beautiful snowy mountain. He then interjects in the conversation, sarcastically adding levity to the scene and then a personal conversation between him and T’challa ensues discussing how the Jabari tribe has been mostly ostracized from most of Wakanda for generations, before the characteristically gruff M’Baku refuses to help T’challa.

The themes and serious topics never feel contrived or on the nose, they’re a natural occurrence in the lives of the characters – as natural as they are in real life. The scene then beautifully transitions from the high mountain to the grass plains of Wakanda with the exciting sound of Senegalese talking drums that are often heard throughout the movie.

The movie score composer Ludwig Gorensson did an excellent job at creating authentic African sounds and in the movie itself used a few songs that would be familiar to keen local ears (Hint: In Shuri’s lab take note of the background song). The movie’s director Ryan Coogler expertly directed beautiful [natural] transition shots and spectacular actions scenes – particularly the Car chase and the final battle scenes.

As heavy as the themes were they wouldn’t have been so successfully carried if not for the amazing cast of actors who play a variety of complex, multi-dimensional characters.

From the likes of the loyal and taciturn Dora Milaje general Okoye (played by Americn Zimbabwean Danui Gurira) to antihero M’Baku (portrayed by freshman movie actor Winston Duke). The heavyweight actors Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman play their characters compellingly.

Jordan’s Killmonger truly blurred the lines, and one can’t help but empathise with his backstory and cause if not with his righteous rage – a true tour de force by Jordan. Contrasting Killmonger’s rage is the mostly cool headed, kind-hearted T’challa portrayed so solidly that he remains likeable amongst all of the amazing supporting characters.

Supporting characters/actors worth noting are the intelligent and sassy Shuri/Letita Wright, the insane [in a good way] Klaue/Andy Serkis (who absolutely nails a South African Afrikaans accent), the stoic W’kabi/Daniel Kaluuya and the affable Agent Ross/Martin Freeman. (The movie also features local talents John and Atandwa Kani as well as Connie Chiume).

Rating the movie out of an arbitrary value like 10, isn’t simple. The run-time, pacing, execution, directing and story, can be all rated and assigned a value, but the importance and meaning of the movie, the way in which each person will experience it will be different. The movie has a runtime of 2 hours and 14 minutes, matched with a brisk pace that carries you through the movie hardly noticing that time is passing until the last act of the movie is reached. The story isn’t particularly superb but because of the good directing, scene executions and fantastic acting and characterization one hardly notices the flaws or lulls in story.

As a movie Black Panther merits an 8.8/10 but as an experience for POC, especially black Africans it’s priceless and is very likely to become an important culturally classic ‘black’ must watch movie like Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America or more locally Sarafina. A truly fresh voice in an old industry for people who all too often have been unseen, unheard and unrepresented.

Daniel