Amazing cast: check! Amazing special effects: check! Amazing characters: check! Marvel has outdone itself with its latest movie, Black Panther, which earned more than $200 million in its first weekend alone.
The film follows prince-turned-king of Wakanda, Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, and the tumultuous start to his reign as the Black Panther, the country’s spiritual leader, after his father’s death. The audience soon learns that the supposedly third-world African country of Wakanda is both technologically advanced and rich in the world’s most valuable metal: vibranium. Wakanda’s past leaders have kept their country’s resources a secret from the world in fear that outsiders would attempt to conquer the nation for a share of its riches.
However, after a hard-fought victory over Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger—a Wakandan who wants to use the nation’s arsenal of high-tech weapons to arm oppressed black people around the world and violently overthrow those he sees as colonizers—T’Challa realizes that Wakanda should help other countries with their abundant resources.
I really enjoyed the 2016 movie, Captain America: Civil War, where T’Challa first appears as a minor character. So when I first heard that T’Challa was going to be in his own standalone movie, I actually jumped up and down with excitement. And I was not disappointed.
The movie’s special effects, visuals, and set are amazing, showcasing many different African cultures and displaying incredible computer-generated images. The film also offers some comic relief from the unrelenting action and violence. The majority, if not all, of the actors play their characters to perfection and provide some truly amazing scenes, like when T’Challa journeys to the Spirit Plane, where he reunites with his late father and confesses his fear of governing.
The only letdown about Black Panther is its sloppy plot. (Now get ready for a paragraph with spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it yet, just skip to the end!)
While watching the movie, I thought, incorrectly, that the plot would be straightforward and that Klaw—a dangerous arms dealer who steals from Wakanda’s reserve of Vibranium—would be the primary villain. So it was a little surprising to see him die and Erik replace him as the antagonist. The plot also did not deeply explore its intended central moral conflict: whether to help those in need rise up with violence against their oppressors or just help them peacefully.
I may seem to be criticizing Black Panther for having a bad plot, but I am actually criticizing most Marvel movie plots. Marvel movies are meant to entertain, and Black Panther certainly does. But for me, a truly great movie is a movie that not only entertains but also evokes and explores some deeper emotions and conflicts that are present in real life. While the movie definitely does present the problem of black oppression—especially in the U.S.—the themes could have been more richly developed and meaningful.
Black Panther is not the greatest movie of all time, but it’s still super entertaining, and everybody should go see it!