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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Black Panther movie review: absolute Marvel

Black Panther green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Classic comic-book stuff made fresh by drawing on underexplored mythologies and cultures, yet still deeply resonant and deeply universal. An exhilarating pulp-fiction dream that ups the ante on the Marvel Cinematic Universe.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love the Marvel Cinematic Universe
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female coprotagonist
(learn more about this)

Wakanda forever!” It’s patriotic sentiment, a battle cry for warriors, and maybe it would be the slogan of Wakanda’s tourism board if it welcomed visitors.

The small nation of Wakanda is a protected valley enclave in east Africa, hidden from outside eyes by some very advanced technology fueled by the alien metal vibranium, which arrived via asteroid millennia ago. As Prince T’Challa — whom we last saw in Captain America: Civil War as superpowered Black Panther — arrives home for his coronation as Wakanda’s new king, he sighs with joy: “This never gets old.” He means the descent by air — in a supersleek Wakandan vehicle that looks like a UFO of our geekiest dreams — through a false rainforest canopy and down among the skyline of the nation’s central city. If T’Challa still gets a thrill every time he sees what is to him a familiar sight, well, we’re seeing it for the first time… and, my fellow nerds, let me tell you: I cried. The rest of the planet believes Wakanda to be a backward country of subsistence farmers, but it is the most advanced nation on Earth. That beautiful skyline, an architectural wonder of uniquely African design, is but the first taste of Black Panther’s gorgeous vision of what humanity might achieve, a society dedicated to science and progress, to peace and equality. And the fictional, fantastical Wakanda is also a harsh condemnation of reality: Imagine if we hadn’t fucked up Africa. Imagine if Africa hadn’t been subjected to brutal colonialism, its resources and even its people stolen and exploited for the profit of others. How much have we lost? How much human potential has been squandered? How can you not cry at the thought of that?

Wakanda is already living in the future...

Wakanda is already living in the future…

Comic books are often power fantasies, and Black Panther is the biggest, boldest one yet to make the transition to movies. This is a pulp-fiction dream to move and inspire not merely lonely or unappreciated individuals but entire cultures, entire peoples. I know that I, as a white person, cannot truly imagine what it must be like to be a black person looking at Black Panther and feeling the pride and possibility that it represents… but I think I feel some of that. I’m not a black woman who doesn’t get many opportunities to see women who look like me onscreen… but I sure as hell do love how many awesome black women characters populate Black Panther, as warriors, scientists, spies, and queens. I’m not trying to claim representation that is not mine as my own, or anything like that. I just mean this: Black people have had to try to see themselves in movies about white people since forever, if they wanted to take any entertainment from most movies, that is. The least we white people can do is return the favor.

Black Panther’s Wakanda offers a gorgeous vision of what humanity might achieve: a society dedicated to science and progress, to peace and equality.

It’s not like that’s at all difficult with Black Panther! This is a profoundly, powerfully badass exploration of all the things we love comic book stories for. As T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman: Gods of Egypt, Get on Up) takes up the mantle of leadership of his people, he makes discoveries about his father, King T’Chaka (John Kani: The Ghost and the Darkness) — he was killed in a terrorist attack at the end of Civil War but is seen in flashbacks and in visions of the afterlife — and about his family that involve secrets and betrayals and abandonments. It’s all positively Shakespearean. The personal challenge and upset that come with all of that are connected to the dilemmas T’Challa is facing now that Wakanda has taken an inadvertent step onto the world stage after having kept itself isolated for so long. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Jungle Book), spy and foreign operative for Wakanda whom T’Challa is in love with, is eager to use the nation’s resources to help their African brothers and sisters, in Africa and beyond; our introduction to her comes in a sequence in which she rescues girls who have been kidnapped by, the film suggests but doesn’t make explicit, Boko Haram. But T’Challa’s friend and confidante W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya: Get Out, Sicario) worries about Wakanda being overrun with refugees, who would bring big problems and discord with them, if they were to open their borders and let their wealth and capabilities be widely known. In the middle is T’Challa’s genius little sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright: The Commuter, Urban Hymn), who is responsible for much of Wakanda’s high tech, including his newly more powerful Black Panther suit; she doesn’t seem to have much in the way of political opinions, but her toys are what make possible much of what Wakanda has to offer the world.

The women of Wakanda are in every way the equals of men... except perhaps maybe even more fabulous.

The women of Wakanda are in every way the equals of men… except perhaps maybe even more fabulous.

This is all classic comic-book stuff, about how to take on oppressors without becoming an oppressor yourself, about monsters of our own creation, about the ultimate quandary over great power and the great responsibility that comes with it. This dilemma began to be played out on the world stage in Civil War, as the Avengers lined up on either side of an authoritarian divide about whether superpowered individuals should submit to government control, or not. But Black Panther ups the ante tremendously: Here is an entire government, an entire nation that is superpowered, thanks to the literal mountain of vibranium it is sitting atop, and isn’t quite sure what being responsible with it means yet. There are so many ways in which this movie qualifies as like nothing we’ve ever seen before in the genre (and outside it, too), all of which are functions of the widening of perspective it represents, but this is a really important one: it ponders questions of responsibility on a collective cultural level, not just an individual one. How do we use our shared power responsibly for everyone’s benefit? As the world gets smaller, and as our ability to damage the planet for everyone comes into increasingly sharper focus, this is not an idle worry. And, alas, we do not have a benevolent Wakanda to help us.

Royal family secrets, and betrayals and abandonments. It’s all positively Shakespearean.

I would suggest that anyone who thinks politics doesn’t belong in comic books has willfully blinded himself to what comic books have been about since the beginning. But you can still ignore everything else about Black Panther and just enjoy it as spectacle. Director Ryan Coogler, who wrote the script with Joe Robert Cole, has made only two much smaller movies before — Fruitvale Station and Creed, both terrific — and had given us no indication that he could handle action fantasy like this… and he does a magnificent job. At its heart, Black Panther has a fairly standard comic book sort of story: baddie Ulysses Klaue (a rare live-action Andy Serkis: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, War for the Planet of the Apes), one of the few outsiders who knows the secrets of Wakanda, and who had stolen a small quantity of vibranium decades ago, is up to no good again, with a scary dude nicknamed Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan: Fantastic Four, and both of Coogler’s previous films) at his side; they must be stopped by T’Challa, Nakia, and the absolute force of nature General Okoye (Danai Gurira), with an assist from CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Sherlock). Their first big punchup, at a secret casino nightclub in Busan, South Korea, is, well, a marvel of thrillingly dynamic action, a stunningly choreographed, seemingly uncut sequence that ranges all over a big space on multiple physical levels. And the movie only gets more viscerally exciting from there, full of cool science fiction ideas that translate into fresh and clever visual delights, such as how the Black Panther suit sucks up the kinetic energy it receives — like from a bullet — to throw back out later, with memorable results.

The traditional Wakandan staring contest: a ritual little seen by the outside world until now.

The traditional Wakandan staring contest: a ritual little seen by the outside world until now.

But of course part of what makes even the spectacle of Black Panther so special and so different are the characters and the places we haven’t seen much of onscreen before. Diversity isn’t a gimmick: it’s a no-brainer way to tell new kind of stories. We’ve had more than enough superhero movies set in New York or fictionalized versions of other American cities, more than enough action movies set in London or Los Angeles, more than enough fantasies that draw on European mythologies. It’s exhilarating to get a movie this deeply resonant, this deeply humanist, this deeply universal that springs from another culture and another tradition. (Black Panther is amazingly Western-uncentric; apart from a brief scene in a London museum, the rest of the film takes place in Africa and Asia.) As T’Challa himself says here, “In times of crisis, the wise build bridges.” (That’s a Nigerian proverb, though here perhaps masquerading as a Wakandan one.) This Black Panther is, we can hope, a bridge to a wide open new country of African-inspired mainstream movie storytelling.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other theatrical releases.

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Black Panther (2018) | directed by Ryan Coogler
US/Can release: Feb 16 2018
UK/Ire release: Feb 13 2018

MPAA: rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate violence, injury detail, rude gesture)

viewed in 3D IMAX
viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Beowulf

    Great review. I kinda had this on my radar for a while, but lately it’s really jumped to the front of my consciousness. This movie is going to break weekend records in every urban area of the U.S.A. Every black man and woman–and their kids, grandparents, uncles and aunts–are selling out theaters in advance of Friday’s opening. Tonight’s previews will probably be total Times Square (which I use now instead of “zoo.”)
    I’ll go next week when the heat is not so intense. The Wolf, man.

  • BrannigansLaw

    I’ve been holding my breath with this movie; we (i.e. African Americans) had too much riding it. If it were deemed a flop, that would be a huge blow to diversity, similar to what’s happening in mainstream comics. Of course diversity has little-to-nothing to do with the validity of any property, but far too many have knee-jerk reactions when properties that feature some form of diversity fail. Anyway, glad this movie is being so well received by critics, but I feel like I won’t really be able to breath until the box office results are in….

  • Tony Volious

    Wow what a powerful review!! I was already psyched to see it but u got me uber-psyched now!!!

  • Kaddie Zahnab

    Just got back from my showing: Go, go, go. It’s a combo of Star Wars Part IV and Godfather I. It’s a blast.

  • David C-D

    Woohoo!! I haven’t seen a movie on opening weekend in a long time, but this would be the one if we can manage it. Thanks for sharing the excitement.

    “I’m not trying to claim representation that is not mine as my own, or anything like that.”

    I hope I’m not being dense, but I’m a bit confused about the disclaimers in this paragraph. I don’t think there is anything controversial about celebrating an awesome afro-centric Marvel movie or some long overdue representation for under-represented peoples (even if the writer were a member of an over-represented people).

    Maybe disclaimers are a valid part of being careful, but I noticed myself feeling uncomfortable as I read it (which could just be my own problem ;-) ).

  • I went to buy tickets for the weekend last night, and all the good seats for almost every show are gone. We’re going on Sunday at 2 with imperfect seats. I think we’ll manage.
    I wasn’t sure how I felt about this one until this week. Originally I had little interest, but after all the positive reviews, and seeing more info about the movie, we HAVE to go.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Not sure I’d go the full 5 stars – from a plot perspective, it’s very rote, hitting every expected story beat right on time with no surprises – but the movie is extremely engaging.Every performance is stellar. The overarching stories, pitting T’Challa’s father-worship against Eirk’s rage over colonialism and personal betrayal, are well told.

  • You’re right: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating some long-overdue representation. But I wanted to be clear that I understand that there is a difference between “We need more and better representation of women onscreen” and “We need more and better representation of black women onscreen.” Both are true. But representation of black women is even worse than that of white women, and as many black feminists have pointed out, white feminists can sometimes forget black women in our activism. I did not want to appear to be co-opting the triumph here for black women as a triumph for white women.

    If you Google “white feminism,” you’ll see what the problem is. I did not and do not want to fall into those traps.

    I am not minimizing the fantastic representation in this film. I am being careful to note that I know that it’s not about me.

  • Aaron Jones

    Fantastic. This is why your voice in film criticism is one I’m always eager to hear.

  • RogerBW

    Double-bill of this and Wonder Woman, perhaps, for the “someone other than white dudes” programme…

  • I’m just staring at the Black Panther outfit and can’t take my eyes off it. The costume department crushed several into the parking lot.

  • Anne-Kari

    Just got back from seeing this with my youngest. WE LOVED EVERY MINUTE.

  • Jan_Willem

    Saw it on an early Friday afternoon in a pretty empty Dutch cinema and liked it a lot. Good performances all around, great script with some interesting twists. I didn’t much care for the obligatory mayhem towards the end, but I did chuckle about that thing with the rhino. Some good political points were made about social issues and America’s meddling in other nations (the shock doctrine comes to mind). I was pleasantly surprised to see these popping up in such a mainstream movie. The fact that the antagonist was such a round character and had some good arguments – while remaining an out of control killing machine – was an added bonus.

  • Very kind. Thank you.

  • Bluejay

    Fantastic review of a fantastic movie. I left the theater weeping with joy for what I saw onscreen, as well as with anger and sorrow for the losses of a certain character (and the social, cultural, and political resonances in our own world).

    This is the best thing Marvel has ever put onscreen so far. Dissertations are going to be written about it for decades. Bravo, bravo, bravo.

  • Danielm80

    It was hilarious to see how uncomfortable the principal actors looked during the big dance numbers. The expressions on their faces said, “I am not a Merry Man.” But the hundreds of costumed dancers in the background must have been disappointed that the musical sequences lasted less than a minute each. I have a feeling that Ryan Coogler told them, “This is going to be the world’s first big-budget, Afrocentric, super-hero movie musical,” and then, after shooting had finished, he said, “Bad news, folks….”

    Also, if Ruth Carter doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for best costumes design, there’s something wrong with the world.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Another Marvel Movie where everything is decided on physical abilities. However, there is nothing even exciting about the physical stuff. Throw in a little cgi and grade-school level machinations that don’t fit and you’ve got a movie with an appeal that is only for the very young or very stupid.

  • Siri Dennis

    What a nice thing to say.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    I’m not known as saying nice things. So I was happy to see Bill Maher’s take on this latest crop of worthless movies was similar to mine. You can hear him at about 50 minutes in talk about their peculiarities: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/real-time-with-bill-maher-49758/e/53356380?autoplay=true

    So what is a good movie plot? Perhaps a movie without an overriding simplistic piece of propaganda where the good guy wins, country wins, gets married, or protects family. How about working on the smaller things in an interesting way? So at the very least the story won’t have a ton of holes in it demanding a suspension of critical thought.

  • Bluejay

    So what is a good movie plot? Perhaps a movie without an overriding simplistic piece of propaganda where the good guy wins, country wins, gets married, or protects family. How about working on the smaller things in an interesting way?

    How about a movie where the hero decides to make different choices, for himself and his nation, because he recognizes that the villain’s critique of his society is actually valid? How about a movie that isn’t just about punching but also about themes of political responsibility and the psychic trauma of slavery and colonialism? How about a movie where women exclusively comprise the elite military force, and a teenage girl is the scientific genius driving her country’s progress? How about a movie that overturns Western stereotypes about African “shithole countries” by imagining an African nation as the most technologically advanced on earth? How about a movie whose visuals, architectural and costume design, and orchestral score draw heavily on cultural influences seldom seen on Western screens? How about a movie where Xhosa is a prominent language? How about a movie that has primarily black actors playing fully rounded characters in roles seldom occupied by black actors or seen by black American audiences? This movie works on all the “smaller things” (AND the bigger things) in so many interesting ways. How sad for you that you didn’t notice them, or chose to dismiss them.

    We get it: this movie isn’t for or about you. So now you can go grumble about it in your corner while those of us who have felt excluded (and those of us who can empathize with the excluded) can celebrate a movie that is for and about *them* for a change.

    Also, speaking as an atheist and a liberal, I think Bill Maher can go stick his head up his own ass.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Yeah I just see the stupidity in the movie. Who in their right mind determines the leadership of their nation by a fight? Kids in junior high. The whole movie revolved around entire suspension of any intelligence the viewer may have. Probably just right for idiots. Probably is selling quite well in America.

  • Bluejay

    Your determination to label those who enjoy a movie you dislike as stupid says more about you than about them. Have fun with your seething insecurity.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    You got me. It is my seething insecurity.

  • Yolanda Carroll

    I saw Black Panther Saturday afternoon. I loved it and am looking forward to seeing it again when it’s released on iTunes! ❤

  • Stacy Livitsanis

    [Comment deleted. I wasn’t happy with it. Might rewrite it later.]

  • Dahlia


    Abinay cakra

  • You seem great.

  • Ivor O’Connor


  • Grond Zilla

    Let me spell it out for you. You are a smug, self important, ass. Your sense of intellectual superiority and dismissive attitude about cogent responses to your ‘proclamation’ make your character transparent. I hope that helped. Toodles!

  • Ivor O’Connor

    What if I am all those things? Do I care how you feel. No.

    I’m like the messenger that points out facts. You can hate the messenger. Doesn’t change the message though.

    Grow up.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Actually, you’re not like that at all. You’re a run-of-the-mill, dime-a-dozen internet troll.

    But you already know that.

  • Grond Zilla


    Let’s just leave the final word to Peter Falk speaking to Fred Savage in ‘The Princess Bride’. To this day one of my favourite lines in that film.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    If you think so why bother telling me that. You just want to insult me. Tell me, who is the troll here?

  • Ivor O’Connor

    What is that final line?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    You are. Like I said. I just thought you should know that we see you.

  • If you are unable to engage in a reasonable adult conversation, take your message elsewhere.

  • Just to get it out of the way, I really
    did enjoy this movie. It’s an above average comic book movie. I’m just
    not seeing what so many others seem to be seeing in this movie.
    I was left with a ton of questions, and would like to discuss them. I’ll mention some spoiler comments below.

    This is not really an origin movie. It blends in the mythos with the
    current situation very well, although a lot is never really explained.

    The whole acting ensemble is fantastic. The women in this movie almost
    steal the show. The general is bad ass, and his sister is a super smart
    scientist type inventing all the cool tech that allows Wakanda to be
    such an amazing city.
    I loved the mix of future with past in the
    city and its people. They have all this crazy technology, but still
    adhere to long held beliefs and practices. It reminds me somewhat of
    places like Japan or South Korea, where you can see a similar thing
    Action scenes are very well done, and often thrilling.

    Some spoilers below:

    Killmonger is who/what I disagree a little bit with a lot of people on. I really
    didn’t much like him. Sure, he had a few things to say that were
    interesting, but when it came down to it he was a generic bad guy. Heck,
    he claimed to live his whole life waiting to kill someone he never met
    and had nothing to do with what happened to his father. Was he ever told
    WHY his dad was killed?
    He wanted to arm the oppressed people? Oh,
    yeah, THAT would solve all their problems. More weapons! *rolls eyes*
    Good intentions, but bad execution. I agree with the sharing of
    technology, though.
    Plus, the weird battle in the end seemed forced
    to me. Like they felt they needed a big set piece battle to end the
    movie. It didn’t feel genuine to me. I just didn’t see these people
    killing each other, and especially T’Challa(sp). There just wasn’t
    enough motivation for it. Maybe if it was 5 years later, but not that
    Overall, another high quality movie from Marvel very much
    worth seeing. It’s just not the revelation many are saying it is. At
    least not from my (admittedly, limited)perspective.

  • While I disagree with most of what you’ve said, I agree on the challenge part of it. It really IS primitive. Especially for such an advanced country.
    It makes one ponder the significance of culture and how long held beliefs can trump even tech advances.
    An intere4sting conversation could be had.
    There are lots of instances of “barbarism in our world that are no longer necessary, yet we still do them out of tradition.

  • Please do so. I want to hear from people who who don’t love it as much as everyone else does. I liked it but had some issues.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    A couple points:
    Erik works better if you view him as a tragic figure. His single minded focus on wanton death and destruction are his classical flaw. However, classic tragedy and 21st century tentpole filmmaking don’t mix well, so I can see why that’s not an obvious read. Still, dat Michael B. Jordan performance tho…
    The big fight at the end is a Marvel Studios checkbox. That’s what I’m getting at about the plot being rote with no surprises. This is a Marvel movie, through and through, with some interesting tone. it’s not the first time Marvel as tried this. Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Winter Soldier spring to mind. Black Panther has the advantage of not being a sequel, so audiences don’t have set expectations for the characters.

  • Bluejay

    The ritual combat scenes worked for me, for several reasons.

    – In a story that draws so deeply on cultural traditions and mythic storytelling (and even standard fantasy storytelling), it’s not surprising that the movie would tap into ritual combat and amp it up to heightened levels. I’m no expert, but ritual combat is apparently part of some traditional African cultures (obviously not to such lethal effect or with such big consequences, but hey, superhero movie). As a society that believes in supernatural authority (ie panther god), it’s also not a stretch to think they generally see the outcome of the combat as being divinely ordained and therefore just. (A similar thing happens with Thor’s hammer, which, like Excalibur, somehow decides who is worthy to be leader, and everyone accepts it. Impractical in the real world, but fine for storytelling.)

    – I think we’re meant to see that stripping away the Panther’s power and calling for challengers is a nod to ancient tradition, but no one has SERIOUSLY challenged the kingship in ages and no one really expects it to happen (which is why Shuri raises her hand and makes a joke of it, and then it’s a surprise when M’Baku, the leader of the outsider tribe, shows up to make an actual challenge). It’s like no one REALLY expects anyone to object to a wedding after “speak now or forever hold your peace,” and if someone actually did that, what the hell would happen next?

    – It’s not implausible that a society that has isolated itself for thousands of years and fiercely protects its traditions has come up with its own ways of passing on leadership that may not match up with the rest of the modern world. In a way, it ritualizes violence and avoids mass casualties; instead of tribes waging constant, bloody, and costly wars for the throne, it’s limited to a contest between two champions. (That’s certainly something we’ve seen in many stories.)

    – I’d have to watch it again, but I’m not sure it’s always meant to be lethal. T’Challa allows M’Baku to yield, and spares his life. Maybe that’s the norm, and Killmonger just carries it too far, as he usually does.

    – I don’t think we’re meant to see Wakanda as the PERFECT society. It’s certainly leaps and bounds beyond everyone else in terms of technology and gender equality, but the movie makes it clear that Wakandans deserve criticism for past mistakes and need to rethink some of the things they do. And the succession ritual may be something that T’Challa will HAVE to change in the future; apparently there are no more heart-shaped herbs that bestow the power of the Panther (since Erik had them all burned), so they can’t really do the whole strip-away-the-power-and-fight thing anymore. Would be interesting to see where that leads.

    – You’re right that barbarism still persists even in supposedly advanced societies. (Nonlethal) duels are still allowed in Texas! http://baylorlariat.com/2013/02/19/viewpoint-duke-it-out-mutual-combat-duels-still-allowed-in-texas/

  • Danielm80

    It also seems to me that the ritual has some direct practical value. The kingship of Wakanda appears to be very much a military position. In the U.S., the Commander in Chief is the official head of the armed forces and works together with the military in times of war, but he or she rarely goes into combat, except in movies like Independence Day and Air Force One. The Black Panther, on the other hand, seems to go into battle all the time, fighting terrorists and crazed arms dealers. He’s apparently the country’s greatest warrior, with mystical abilities, taken from the heart-shaped herb, that are granted to only one person in the world. So the ritual combat is very useful in proving that he’s qualified for his job title.

    And on top of that, Wakanda doesn’t seem to be a democracy. The king seems to make most of the major decisions himself. It’s possible that there’s some sort of council with the power to overrule his decisions, but as far as I can tell from the movie, there’s basically one man (and maybe someday a woman) running the country. That means that, if someone attempts a coup, the king has to be really, really good at fending it off (which is, of course, the plot of the film). The leader of the country needs to be the strongest, most capable soldier.

    I would argue that, in the real world, that would be a terrible philosophy and a terrible way to run a government. But in the film, the mystical purple herb is a pretty powerful argument in his favor. In the Marvel universe, the strongest fighters tend to be the wisest and noblest people—a concept they share with other Hollywood movies. As other people have suggested here, that’s a very flawed idea. But unlike some other Hollywood movies, the Marvel films and TV shows make an effort to question the concept.

  • Stacy Livitsanis

    Laying my cards out up front, I generally have no interest in Marvel movies and have found all the ones I’ve seen to be very boring, They’re just not for me. Despite the momentous achievement in representation for an American movie, Black Panther is no different. The movie’s inherent Marvel-ness prevented me from loving it as much as its political engagement, essential diversity, and of course those amazing costumes. I had the same issue here as with Wonder Woman: wanting to celebrate a huge (and overdue) cultural impact that I fully support, but also being honest about the underwhelming experience of actually watching the movie.

    Moving away from the dominance of white stories in Hollywood movies is inevitable if Hollywood wants to stay in business. Diversity isn’t a gimmick. It needs to become the norm. Taking the Eurocentric fantasies that have pretended to be integral to our collective imaginations and shoving them over to make room for the rest of the world too is a good reason to celebrate the success of this movie, even if I didn’t actually like it. I don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking ‘I have to like it’ solely because of what the film represents as far as diversity and representation. That’s a dead end of dishonesty. (I’ve yet to be accused of being ‘worse than Hitler’
    for not liking it, but then I don’t spend a lot of time online.)

    My favourite part was, unsurprisingly, the women, of which there are more than any other Marvel movie. The idea of young black girls seeing this film and being inspired by Letitia Wright’s Q-like gadget-crazed scientist Shuri or Danai Gurira’s none-more-badass and effortlessly movie-stealing General Okoye is more thrilling to me than anything that happens in the actual movie. Now that it’s been a monster smash, perhaps we can have a movie (or fifty) with Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o as the leads. Please?

  • The ritual combat thing didn’t really bother me that much because, well, every culture has these things that hang around. M’Baku loses by tapping out and it doesn’t seem like there’s any dishonor in that; maybe this is a leap but I got the impression that this was how the tradition had evolved and a long time ago it might have been different, harsher.

  • Good review. It’s really hard to argue with your points. I agree with most, but managed to enjoy it a bit more.
    The final battle cg when the 2 of them were falling through the mountain looked pretty bad. Otherwise I had no real issue with the effects.
    I think it’s important that we be honest with ourselves and others. We can’t force ourselves to enjoy things, just like we can’t force ourselves to believe things.
    We want so much to celebrate something new, but when it’s made so much like the old, it’s difficult. It’s a template, that’s for sure.
    For many representation is the key, and is enough to celebrate, despite being surrounded by mediocre storytelling. I understand this.

  • I did see him in the same way. It was obvious from the beginning that he was meant to be seen that way. It;’s just that they can’t help but have him still be evil and want to kill everyone. It’s the middle that’s the problem.
    It’s a comic movie and we MUST have our antagonist. We MUST have our final battle. We can’t have people talking things out. That’s no fun.

  • Spoilery discussion!
    Couldn’t anyone consume that special flower thing and get super powers? You can’t tell me no one else has tried.
    Plus I don’t buy that it’s all burned up. I’m sure there’s a secret stash somewhere, or some seeds to grow more.
    Did I miss where they tell us why and how the whole black panther thing started? I remember a scene with some panthers hanging in trees, but that’s about it.
    Any why doesn’t everyone get super suits if they have the tech for it? Obviously not all panther-looking, but something else that works for all his soldiers and such.
    Did Erik/Killmonger even know WHY his day was killed? That his dad was going to shoot the other fellow and the dad king was protecting him? Or he just saw the claw holes and vowed revenge without any further info?

  • Stacy Livitsanis

    Despite my misgivings about the film, I haven’t stopped thinking about it in the six days since I saw it. That’s definitely an achievement. And I’m at the point where I’m glad people like something, even if I don’t. A friend of mine hated The Last Jedi, but he respects that I loved it. I certainly don’t hate Black Panther, it just didn’t connect with me. But I’m very glad it exists. Let’s see this as only the start of something great, not remotely its fulfillment.

    Also, as well as MaryAnn’s excellent review, the comments here above by Bluejay have illuminated aspects that initially bothered me, such as the ritual combat scenes. Very well argued.

  • Bluejay

    Great points. There does seem to be some wiggle room, though, for the King and the Black Panther to not *always* be the same person; in Captain America: Civil War, T’Chaka was still king but clearly too old for Panther duties, while his son T’Challa already seemed to be comfortable wearing the suit (and already displayed herb-induced powers).

    In the Marvel universe, the strongest fighters tend to be the wisest and noblest people—a concept the films share with other Hollywood movies. As other people have suggested here, that’s a very flawed idea.

    Yes, and the film does question it. The succession ritual works if it’s presumed that all combatants are actually decent potential leaders who would keep Wakanda moving and thriving in the same direction — and it does seem to have worked for a long time, since all the previous rulers had opted to maintain the country’s isolation and nurture its technology and gender egalitarianism. But the system, and maybe all systems, are only as good as the people in it, and Erik shows that an outsider can work the system to win but turn out to be an awful leader hell-bent on burning everything down. Hmm, any real-world political relevance here? I wonder.

  • Bluejay

    It’s a comic movie and we MUST have our antagonist. We MUST have our final battle.

    I mean… yes? In a crime thriller, there MUST be a crime, there MUST be a criminal, there MUST be a confrontation between the criminal and the detective. In a romance, there MUST be a romance, and conflict and misunderstanding, and a positive resolution. Some genre expectations are just so fundamental that, if you have a problem with them, maybe the genre isn’t for you.

  • Bluejay

    Did I miss where they tell us why and how the whole black panther thing started?

    It was covered at the very beginning, with the voiceover of the dad telling his kid about the origin myth of Wakanda. It’s in the “History and Politics” section at this link.

    Did Erik/Killmonger even know WHY his day was killed? That his dad was going to shoot the other fellow and the dad king was protecting him? Or he just saw the claw holes and vowed revenge without any further info?

    His dad had been teaching him about Wakanda, and he knew about his dad’s opposition to Wakanda’s isolationism. He knew his dad was killed by Wakandans because of the Panther claw wounds and the lights on the departing Wakandan ship. I imagine it wasn’t that hard to put two and two together.

  • oh, I know. I just want it a little more fleshed out is all. For me, he’s not all that sympathetic because his vengeance doesn’t make sense since he’s lacking all the information. Or it appears that way.

  • Bluejay

    Very well argued.

    Thanks! :-)

    And of course, it’s totally fine if it didn’t connect with you, or if you don’t connect with Marvel films in general. What a boring world this would be if we all agreed. (But what a BETTER world this would be if we all respected each other’s different personal responses to films, as you do.)

  • Bluejay

    What information did he lack?

  • Well, all he knew was that his dad appeared to have been killed by a man with claws. It’s obvious it was the black panther, but wouldn’t he ask himself WHY? Especially as the years went on. Didn’t he wonder if they had a good reason to kill him? Seems to me some investigation is warranted. Not just hatred and vengeance.
    Now, I can see being pissed off that he was left alone there with no one to raise him proper. But that part doesn’t appear to be his motivation.

    Yes, I know I’m thinking too much about it. It’s just a comic book movie, and the motivations of any character don’t have to be perfect.
    I question because I DO like the movie and the characters. I don’t bother thinking this much about movies I don’t like.

  • BrannigansLaw

    Breathing…… ;^)

  • BrannigansLaw

    Very well said!

  • Bluejay

    Here’s how I saw Erik’s motivations: He knew about Wakanda from talking with his dad, Prince N’Jobu (it’s N’Jobu’s voice narrating Wakanda’s creation myth to the young Erik at the start of the movie). He knew his dad disagreed with Wakanda’s isolationism and thought Wakanda needed to do more to help oppressed peoples. He may have known his dad was working actively to smuggle Wakandan weapons out.

    When his dad was killed, he may or may not have learned that T’Chaka was just acting to protect his friend. But I don’t think it matters if he knew the details, because here’s what he DID know: his dad was killed by a regime he opposed, leaving him as a child to his own devices. This mythical promised land he grew up hearing stories about just murdered his dad and cast Erik away, leaving him to grow up in the mean streets of Oakland and eventually make his own way to becoming a hardened, battle-trained warrior. What happened to him and his dad is, in fact, a perfect metaphor for what his dad opposed: Wakanda shutting out the world and leaving its suffering peoples to deal with their own problems.

    So to me his motivation makes perfect sense. His vengeance isn’t just personal (“you killed my dad”), but political (“you left the WHOLE WORLD to suffer”). And so he aims not just to kill T’Challa, but to ultimately dismantle the self-perpetuating, isolationist monarchy and export Wakandan tech to all oppressed peoples to inspire violent revolution. He’s fighting to liberate those who are suffering, but he’s going about it the wrong way. In your earlier comment, you said, “Good intentions, but bad execution.” Yes, that’s precisely the point, and that’s what Erik fails to see. And to me that’s what makes him complex and interesting.

  • Bluejay
  • Bluejay

    And here’s a fascinating analysis of Killmonger and what he means, in the film and beyond.


  • Matt Clayton

    Carter’s work on BP is absolutely splendid. You can tell she did her research into different African cultures and paid homage to them. Costumes looked amazing from start to finish. And a big heads-up to Rachel Morrison, the DP, for lensing this film. It’s one of the most beautifully lensed comic book films I’ve seen in a while.

    I agree with most of MAJ’s review. I thought as good as Chadwick Boseman is here, he is constantly outshone by Nyong’o, Jordan, Gurira (so badass!), and Wright. And here, you acutely feel T’Challa’s loss over his father (which I felt was shortchanged in Captain America: Civil War) here as well as Killmonger’s. You don’t see many movies where you feel sympathy for both hero and villain.

  • Danielm80
  • Bluejay

    Here are some Asia promotional clips that showcase Carter’s work:


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