Black Panther [movie reaction]

I'm just a casual fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I've watched the Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America movies, and these superhero characters that first started in comics and made its way to the movies is now part of our popular culture. The last MCU film I've watched is Thor: Ragnarok (link leads to my review) and I did enjoy that film, but I felt that their main villain Hela felt quite flat despite the superb performance of Cate Blanchett. There's been a general dislike on the development of villains in Marvel, but I'm not sure what the specific problem is (I'm not a regular follower of all the films they produce).

Anyway, I heard of a Black Panther stand-alone movie and I got excited because it will feature a major cast of black actors. I wished that they would do that story justice. Now that I have watched it, I am amazed that the film exceeded well and beyond my wildest expectations. I watched the film twice and it's still running as of the moment. This is the first movie I've watched in theaters this 2018 and in my opinion, the best of the MCU films so far. The last mainstream movie I really loved was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (link leads to my review) and Black Panther is close.

In the movie Captain America: Civil War, King T'Chaka of Wakanda dies and his son Prince T'challa is next on the throne. As King of Wakanda, T'Challa will inherit the power of the "Black Panther," Wakanda's leader and protector. Here's a striking conversation from that movie between T'Challa and Agent Romanov:

"In my culture, death is not the end. it's more of a stepping off point. You reach out with both hands and Bast and Sekhmet, they lead you into a green veld where... you can run forever."
" That sounds very peaceful."
"My father thought so. I am not my father."
"T'Challa, Task Force will decide who brings in Barnes."
"Don't bother Ms. Romanoff. I’ll kill him myself."
―T'Challa and Natasha Romanoff

The movie begins with a narration of the legend of how Wakanda came to be. There's this gorgeous animation that's very effective in telling the myth and setting up the story. Then there's a brief flashback to a young King T'Chaka confronting his younger brother N'Jobu in America, where they had a disagreement about vibranium, known as "the strongest metal in the world" and is only from Wakanda.

Black Panther starts off where Civil War ends. T'Challa is expected to be crowned King of Wakanda after his father King T'Chaka died. His expected ascension from Prince to King faces unexpected problems. When they try to catch Ulysses Klaue who has stolen vibranium, they encounter Erik Killmonger who we see working for Klaue but as the story progresses, Erik's real identity will be revealed and he's more than just a mercenary - he has a personal agenda of revenge against T'Challa.

Wakanda has been isolated for a very long time. They maintain the image of being a third-world country, but they have a long-held secret. They have used vibranium and developed advanced technology, but what they really are is kept hidden from the outside world.

While T'Challa travels to Wakanda, we see a very beautiful place where nature is preserved. Nature and technology are not in conflict but coexist. Wakanda is like an untouched Eden, and we see later that even with advanced technology the old tribal ceremonies, rituals, and myths are still preserved. Wakanda is a nation of five tribes who worship the panther goddess Bast, and long ago another tribe called the J'Bari who worships the ape god Hanuman has separated themselves from Wakanda.

Wakanda has maintained its resources and secrecy for a long time. T'Challa, at the beginning of the story, thinks that Wakanda must do what it can to preserve its isolation. Nakia, T'Challa's ex and a spy for Wakanda, thinks that Wakanda's resources can be used to help the rest of the world. Later, when we meet the villain, we'll see another extreme view. History has gone on: colonization, slavery, and wars, but Wakanda kept to itself.

Women of Black Panther: Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, and Queen Ramonda
Representation matters, that's why this movie is such a big hit especially to black and African-American people. There were only two white actors in the cast and its refreshing to see people of color in the majority of the cast. Aside from that, I also love how they featured women.

In the past, I have complained about TV shows, books, and movies where women are sexualized and I don't like it when women don't seem to have anything more than being the sexual interest of male protagonists. I like it when stories have women with agency and are seen as full human beings.

Here, we have Shuri, T'Challa's younger sister. Shuri is a technological genius who can rival Tony Stark with her inventions and ideas. She made T'Challa's new Black Panther suit and invented a tech where she can control a car in South Korea. She's smart and no one's stopping her.

Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o plays T'Challa's love interest (also, his ex), Nakia. Nakia works as a spy for Wakanda. She wants Wakanda to take part in the world and not exist outside of it. Even if she's a love interest, she's not a damsel in distress to be protected. Nakia can fight well on her own too!

Another woman to love here is Okoye, the leader of the Dora Millaje, warrior-women who serve the King of Wakanda. She's serious but also has funny moments. There is humor in the movie, but it's not a laugh-out-loud one like in Thor: Ragnarok. Okoye's boyfriend (or are they married? Not sure) is W'Kabi, the head of border patrol.

Last but not the least is Queen Ramonda, T'Challa's mother. Also, in the movie, women are not competing against each other but help one another for Wakanda. They each have their own story and things to fight for. Wakandan society seems to look up to and respect their women. We see that in the story, T'Challa would have been lost and Wakanda changed forever if not for them.

Here's a great article from the website Feminism in India: "Why The Women In Black Panther Deserve Their Own Film" by Mahika Banerji.

The Villain

Michael B. Jordan stars as Erik "Killmonger" Stevens, and he's related to T'Challa and Wakanda (I just won't spoil it). His view is very extremist: that Wakanda should help the oppressed people in the world by taking revenge on the original oppressors. At first, Erik looks like just another guy working for Klaue, but he actually has his own agendas. He challenges T'Challa and wants to be King himself to control Wakanda and its resources.

The actor is a cute cinnamon roll (to borrow Tumblr fandom language) in real life, but in the movie, the viewer can sense his anger and strength. He seems like a totally different person from Michael B. Jordan and that's proof of this actor's ability. What I don't like about the character (he's the villain after all), is that in the whole movie there are many instances of violence towards women - he kills two on screen and hurts another.

When you watch the movie, you really can't completely hate Erik. That's why he's a relatable villain because he tells us about the current problems with racism and oppression that we still experience in the real world. You can understand where he's coming from. We also live in a country that has been colonized in the past and sympathizing with Erik and seeing his point of view is not that hard. We see that even the Utopian Wakanda has its weaknesses.

Killmonger as King
This is the story of how T'Challa earns his right as King. He makes crucial decisions that will change himself and Wakanda forever.

Overall, this is a wonderful and powerful movie. Unlike previous MCU movies, it deals with a subject that deals close to home. I'm glad to see that the movie has sparked conversation and discussion about relevant issues. It has a mix of a good story, a great cast, stunning visuals, and all the makings of a classic. I also love the soundtrack of the film.

T'Challa in the Ancestral Plane where he meets his father's spirit

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