Review by Shari K. Green
I’ll say it! For some, this will not be a superhero movie. It’s a setup for one to come, sure, but this is more a potent and persuasive drama with magnificent action sequences; one where we meet the main antagonist, Black Panther himself, at his most vulnerable to discover who and why he is. However, to call it a straight-up superhero film would be incorrect and, to a degree, misleading. Perhaps that’s what I most liked about it. Right away, we are introduced to T'Challa or Black Panther (Boseman) and are witness to his most flawed characteristics. We're shown how he cares and how he hurts. He has an attribute that is best to have as a leader and as a warrior which is empathy… and T'Challa has it in abundance. This is one of the most influential and mighty of qualities in our superheroes. How it is revealed in T’Challa is by his praising of women and his recognition of failures, mistakes and missed opportunities. You'll root for his success immediately.
T’Challa’s father has just passed away and he becomes king. With an army of strong women at his side, both literally and figuratively, he will protect their home, an African nation called Wakanda, where they not only have the strongest metal, called Vibranim, in all the world but another powerful weapon that springs from where a meteor struck the earth. This weapon is a plant that gives those who take it the power of the black panther. Each new king is given a drink of a potion derived from a still growing underground field of a purple flower that blooms with the gift of powerful strength. With this and the Vibranium, the people of Wakanda have technology that far exceeds our own. Their advancement is well hidden but those who know of their evolution threaten to take advantage of them and expose it for personal gain. People such as Ulysses Klaue (pronounced ‘claw’) played by Andy Serkis. It was interesting watching Serkis play a human for a change and with his work bringing CGI creations to life, he is especially animated as an easy character to loathe. He makes Klaue an especially evil character with a piercing, crazy look in his eyes and wild intention to hurt anyone and anything that stands in the way of his profits, no matter how innocent. He knows how precious the metal the Wakanda people have. This metal is indestructible and is what things such as shields are made of. Wink. Wink.
Erik Killmonger (Jordan) challenges the new king, as well. I’ll not tell you why, but he discloses to T’Challa who he is and bitterly explains how he deserves to have a chance to sit upon the throne. His wish is granted and the two battle for the proper rights to rule the land. This is another area where you see the strength of the female characters, who all but took the film from their male counterparts and made it all about them. Lupita Nyong'o plays T'Challa's ex, a very brave Nakia, who helps his extremely brilliant sister Shuri (Wright) find their way back from the brink of catastrophe. They are led by a fierce and powerful general named Okoye (Gurira) who is dangerously efficient with a sword and loyal to her people.
This is a great film that will be enjoyed by all but know going in that it’s more of a setup for what’s to come. It also speaks of what our country faces now and always has, with a great social message interlaced into the script. One such message comes at the end of the film, ‘Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships because they knew death was better than bondage.’ Powerful words that stay with you long after the lights come up.
There are two end credits scenes that are worth the wait.