The Surveyor

Black Panther Review

Marvel

"Black Panther" movie poster

Becca Turnis, Web Editor

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I will try to keep this brief because I know people have better things to do to than read a “Black Panther” review (for example, actually seeing “Black Panther”). I will also preface this with the critical caveat: I’m not black. While anyone of any race can and should enjoy “Black Panther,” this is a film by black people for black people, and unapologetically so. It should also go without saying: MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW.

With the pleasantries out of the way, let’s jump right in. This is unequivocally the best film Marvel Studios has ever released. Period. It is smart, funny, has a poignant message, and comes complete with strong People Of Color and Women representation. Our villain is sympathetic and actually teaches a lesson to our hero. This movie is everything we’ve been begging Marvel for since 2008.

We open with a history lesson on how the African nation of Wakanda came to be and how they acquired their precious vibranium, a super strong metal that’s very lightweight, almost indestructible, and highly valuable. (Captain America’s shield is made of a vibranium-iron alloy.)

The animation in this scene is beautiful and gives an excellent starting place for someone not overly familiar with the Black Panther’s origins. When the film jumps to 1992 Oakland instead of Wakanda, it’s initially surprising to the audience, but it’s smart. It eases us into this new facet of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and, unknowingly at first, gives us a first glimpse of the film’s antagonist, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).

This film is one about relationships, familial, romantic, and between nations. T’challa (Chadwick Boseman) becomes King after his father (John Kani) is killed during a terrorist attack (as seen in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War). As King, he is pressed by his friend/ex-lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) to open the reclusive nation for foreign aid and refugee programs. T’challa and other Wakandan leaders initially follow their traditions and rebuke the ideas, fearing for their way of life.

T’challa’s 16-year-old sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) spearheads Wakanda’s technological advancements and is probably the best character in the whole film. She is wise beyond her years but also hilarious beyond belief. She creates T’challa’s and Killmonger’s Black Panther suits and countless other technological marvels. She is also a skilled fighter and is notably without a romantic partner to bog down her story.

General Okoye (oh-Koh-yay) (Danai Gurira), the leader of Wakanda’s all-female military unit, the Dora Milaje, is a fierce warrior loyal to the throne, no matter who sits on it. She refuses to let anyone but the king dictate her actions, and even then, she is fully respected. Like Nakia and Shuri, her character arc is not dragged down by romance. In fact, she goes head to head in battle against her husband without so much as a second thought.

One of only two significant white characters, CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), incorporates Wakanda’s national relations. As far as he knows, Wakanda is a poor third world nation, and all its vibranium had been stolen. But once he takes a bullet for Nakia, she and T’challa can’t let him die and bring him in so he can be healed by Shuri’s technology (leading to a reference to Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan)  that made me internally scream).

The only other significant white character, Ulysses Klaue (Klaw) (Andy Serkis), who fans will remember from his appearance in 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is brought into the fold by Killmonger to help sell vibranium and get the attention of Wakandan forces. Killmonger then promptly kills him off putting the audience out of its misery with the one negative aspect of this film.

Killmonger shares Nakia’s ideals of reaching out and opening Wakanda to help outside Africans. As a Wakandan who grew up in America, he’s seen first hand what life is like for Africans outside of Wakanda’s walls. His goals of world outreach are noble; he’s just a little too murder-y. When Killmonger dies in the final battle, he rejects an opportunity to be healed by Wakandan technology, wishing to be buried at sea with his ancestors who jumped from slave ships. It’s a poignant moment for T’challa to witness.

All in all, “Black Panther” breaks the superhero mold of black and white morals and gives us a lot of grey area. In the mid-credits scene, T’challa gives a speech at the UN that exemplifies Nakia and Killmonger’s ideals of global outreach, noting that since times are changing, “Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we as brothers and sisters on this earth should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”

T’challa’s speech is a testament to how his character grows through the movie and even takes influence from his villain. While T’challa disagrees with Killmonger’s methods, he knows his heart’s in the right place.

“Black Panther” changes the game for the MCU and the superhero genre as a whole. I can’t wait to see what Marvel does next.

 

P.S. There is a mid and post-credit scene. Don’t leave early.

P.P.S. MASSIVE MASSIVE SPOILER

Sebastian Stan flat-out lied about not being in the movie. Way to go.

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About the Writer
Becca Turnis, Web Editor/Copy Editor
I am a senior and the web editor, as well as one of the copy editors for The Surveyor. I am also the pit section leader for the Warrior Marching Band, the President of Washington’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and I am on the bowling team.
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Black Panther Review