“Black Panther” (2018) FILM REVIEW
Written by Jambareeqi
Posted 2nd April, 2018
In “Black Panther”, a young prince called T’Challa, has been crowned the new King of the secretive African country of Wakanda, and he must live up to the throne. His first mission, is to retrieve a black market arms dealer named Klaue, who has been using Wakanda’s Vibranium to create dangerous weapons. Luckily, T’Challa has been gifted with the herb fueled powers of the Black panther, which gives him super strength, and the chance to suit up in a costume designed by his talented little sister.
This Movie has been hyped up to galactic proportions, from mainstream critics complimenting it to the high heavens, to box office numbers breaking new records for the movie industry, but does it live up to this celebrated praise? In my opinion, not really, but I still enjoyed the film, despite it not entirely blowing me away.
I love the Afro-Techno aesthetic that the film has going for it, it’s remarkably unique, building a world that blends African traditional roots with cyber punk futurism, it gives the movie a refreshingly original identity. We get to see how this world functions in great detail, as the film builds on this country’s culture, legacy, and technology. I really liked spending time in this gorgeous country, and appreciated learning about it’s inspired culture.
T’Challa himself is first introduced as a shy reserved young man, but as he experiences hardships that challenge his responsibility as King, while also exploring his feelings about his ancestors, he grows into a determined warrior that is worthy of leading his Kingdom. He has a compassion for those outside his country, which inspires him to maybe become the first King to expose Wakanda’s secrets, but should he? And at what cost? Humans who are suffering would appreciate Wakanda’s technology, but so would criminals or warmongers.
There’s also a powerful sentiment behind the movie’s sense of camaraderie, as family is seen as a strong value to T’Challa, but he also expands that affection to those loyal to royalty, and it makes for beautiful relationship building. T’Challa shares an adorable bond with his cheeky tech savvy little sister Shuri, expresses his upmost respect for his strong mother Queen Ramonda, greatly trusts his general Okoye, finds wisdom in the royal Shaman Zuri, plus exhibits some sizzling flirtatious chemistry with his former lover Nakia.
I ended up sharing T’Challa’s love for his friends & family, because these are such strong likable supporting characters, each one demonstrating a unique personality and passion for their culture. Whenever one of these loved ones came under threat, my heart would skip a beat, because I genuinely didn’t want harm or death to come to them, or see T’Challa face the grief of losing another person important to him.
Some of the other supporting characters outside Wakanda are great too! Andy Serkis steals the camera with his hammy performance as Klaue, using his strong sense of humour as a surprising force of intimidation, while American CIA Agent Everett K. Ross gets to be a witty dry comic relief for audiences to insert themselves into, but also contributes his many skills to Wakandan fight against a new threat.
So, why did the film not reach the hype in my eyes? Well, the story framing all these interesting things, is on the generic side, as it borrows well tread tropes from Hollywood blockbusters or the work of Shakespeare. The themes of royal family murder conspiracies, and a prince learning to live up to his legacy, are tired concepts in this modern age, and make for predictable storytelling beats.
What also hampers the narrative, is how everything plays out so slowly, to the point where the pacing comes off as kind of monotonous, and I wondered why the film was stalling on certain scenes for longer than it needed to. The movie really likes to linger on particular sequences, as it drags things out in a bid to heighten the drama or tension, but it just results in a film that fails to justify a 2 hour and 15 minute running time.
It’s not just that though, the film has a fascinatingly complex antagonist, who challenges the notion of villainy, because he sits on the fine line between potential hero and psychopathic mad man. While he is a dangerous man, we do kind of see where he is coming from, understand his motives, and even sympathise with him.
The complicated dimensions of his intentions and backstory, bring an intriguing challenge to our hero’s moral compass, making the whole hero-villain dynamic truly engaging. Can T’Challa bring himself to a fight this foe? He’s a threat to his Kingdom, but he could also be a valuable force of good too.
So, why is this a problem that further dowers the film? It sounds like a great compliment! Well, the villain I just described ISN’T Klaue, but a character who doesn’t show a strong relevance in the film until the climax, reserving his major contribution to the story until the final act, and thus rendering him criminally underused. He’s yet another bad guy who is saved for the end, because the movie wants to throw us off with a red herring, which undermines the real main antagonist’s room for development, what a shame!
To Conclude, “Black Panther” might have a generic slow paced narrative to work with, but it’s packed with strong likable characters, exciting action that combines cool technology with tribal combat, plus mature themes about responsibility and legacy. I enjoyed it fine, treasure the film’s celebration of African culture, and respect it’s cultural importance, but I wouldn’t say it’s an exercise in master storytelling.