Movie Review: Black Panther


(Spectrumbot) #1
_Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers and discussion of major plot points._

Marvel’s thrilling superhero movie Black Panther has already proven to be a huge success. The first major Marvel film featuring a Black lead role and a majority Black cast has surpassed projections and shattered box office records. Bringing in $201.8 million over its opening Friday to Sunday weekend, it shattered the record for biggest February opening weekend—previously held by Deadpool ($132 million). It has the fifth biggest opening weekend of all time coming behind huge blockbusters like The Last Jedi, Jurassic World, and The Avengers. When the Presidents’ Day holiday is included, it has the second highest four-day weekend of all time.

With legendary actors including Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, and Chadwick Boseman, the acting is terrific. The majority of the cast perform African accents well (with the exception of the actor with whom I share a last name). The cinematography is beautiful, including a superb one-shot fighting scene that required heavy planning, logistics, and multiple takes. The sets and scenes are gorgeous and they fully fascinate and allure the audience into the land of Wakanda. By the end of the movie, you feel you’ve left a majestic land where you instantly desire to return.

The costumes are beautiful, elegant, and successfully depict Afrofuturism at its finest. What adds to the beauty of those costumes is the fact that the costume designer, two-time Oscar nominee Ruth E. Carter, did her research. Carter features elements of various African tribes and cultures in her designs. Her costumes, while looking futuristic, have a truly African appearance.

There are several villains in Black Panther including Ulysses Klaue, a black-market arms dealer who we first met in Avengers: Age of Ultron; W’Kabi, a Wakandan who betrays Wakanda; and a challenger to the Wakandan throne-turned-ally named M’Baku. But the arch villain is an African-American named Erik Killmonger skillfully played by Michael B. Jordan.

Killmonger is without a doubt one of the most layered villains we have ever seen, and arguably one of the best since the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. His backstory accompanied by his charisma captivates and draws the viewer into his character. The movie creates tension as you wrestle with a love for both the protagonist and the antagonist. Many viewers find themselves leaving the movie choosing Killmonger’s side. Unfortunately, Killmonger’s character outshines our beloved, somewhat soft-spoken Black Panther which can be a huge downside for a viewer who is accustomed to cheering for a hero as valiant, witty, strong, and victorious as Iron Man, Spider-Man, and—here comes the DC nod—Superman.

However, Black Panther’s abdication of the spotlight provided opportunity for the strong female roles to shine—and wow did they shine! The film accurately depicts women as strong, independent figures. The Wakandan women were not dependent on a man to rescue them but fought and led throughout the entire movie. The movie does not present a White savior nor a male savior, but rather sends a clear message that women are powerful.

The film possesses very powerful themes on faith and justice. The Black Panther, also known as T’Challa, strives to be a strong, moral leader. He leads with fairness even if it jeopardizes his position. During the movie, T’Challa learns that his own father—when he was alive and king—killed Killmonger’s father and abandoned young Killmonger. This incident is what caused Killmonger to develop hatred toward Wakandans.

T’Challa wrestles with this issue, understanding that the shortcomings of his father are what created this problem. While T’Challa must respond to the threat that Killmonger poses to Wakanda and the entire world, and while that response must be aggressive and violent, you can tell that T’Challa is operating with a level of grace as well. The message is clear and very relevant for us individually and as a country: we must be able to see past cruel behavior directed toward us and to identify the past pain that may have caused such behavior.

It is essential for us to reconcile, restore, and make restitution for such a person, understanding that their behavior may be the result of our crime against them. This may be the answer to some of the greatest challenges we are dealing with as a society today. Perhaps we would be more effective if we addressed the interventionism and imperialism that led to the creation of groups like ISIS, and the ways poverty leads to domestic crime and gang violence.

Personally, I saw some deeper parallels between this movie and the Seventh-day Adventist Church (there are so many layers and object lessons in this movie!). Seeking to stay safe from colonialism and war, Wakanda hides the entire country by using technological camouflage. However, this isolation hinders it from being an asset to struggling groups of people like refugees—and its abundance in resources would allow Wakanda to be an extremely valuable asset. The country misses out on a great opportunity to serve hurting people, opting to keep itself safe instead. Similarly, we Christians often lose sight of our mission in order to protect ourselves. We fear becoming like the individuals that we mingle with (are you seeing the parallels yet?). There are so many lessons that a Christian can take away from this movie!

The most powerful part of Black Panther and the reason for the excitement surrounding it is its powerful covert and overt messages about representation and justice. In an industry that pushes the narrative that films featuring an all-Black cast do not sell well, the success of this film has sent a message that reverberates throughout the film industry. There have been 18 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man flew onto the scene in 2008, but Black Panther is the first to feature a Black man as the primary hero. Many of the staff behind the camera were black, including costume designer Ruth E. Carter mentioned earlier. Additionally, though there are very few successful Black directors, Disney/Marvel gave the opportunity to Black director Ryan Coogler, who is known for the critically-acclaimed movies Creed and Fruitvale Station (Coogler is on a role!). In addition to the opportunities the film gave to Black personnel, the movie itself celebrates Black excellence, Black beauty, and African culture. It appreciates African customs, language, and dress. It paints a beautiful picture of what an Africa that is abundant in resources but untouched by colonialism could have been.

I was in tears, both as I watched the movie and as I observed Black people’s reactions, including Black Americans who so often do not have any real knowledge of their African roots and many of whom have denounced their African heritage. I watched as they became proud to be of African descent as a result of this movie. People all over the world have shown up to theaters in African attire. African-Americans struggle with identity issues because our ancestors were taken from Africa and were stripped of all African identity including name changes, indoctrination, forced assimilation, concealment of African history, etc. To watch a fantasy movie feature aspects of those issues within the struggle of its characters was life-changing for me. The movie has ignited conversations about racial justice, African and African-American relations, and so much more. Whether we currently realize it or not, this movie has made an impact on history.

Chris Whittaker is the Media Pastor at New Life Fellowship on the campus of Andrews University and a student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. He is a pianist and writer, and is passionate about social justice.

Image Credit: Marvel Studios / Black Panther Facebook page

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8596

(James Peterson) #3

It is rather interesting how time has proven that human beings, irrespective of colour, are very much the same. What if Africa had conquered the world, would blacks have enslaved white people as the whites did the blacks? Once upon a time, something like that actually happened.

  1. Egypt, in early biblical times, was an economic powerhouse. We get a glimpse of their society through the life stories of Joseph and Moses. In Genesis 43:32, it is written, “So they set [Joseph] a place by himself, and [his brothers] by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with [Joseph] by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.

  2. It gets worse by the time of Moses. Exodus 1:8,14 says, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph … [who] made [the lives of the Hebrews] bitter with hard bondage – in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which [the Egyptians] made them serve was with rigor.

What then should be our position as Christians? Simple really. We do NOT identify as black or white because we know full well there is no value in racial pride since one race is as vile as the other given the opportunity. Rather, our identity and pride is bound up with the humility and boundless love of God in Christ. Tears flow from our eyes at the sight (NOT of blackness or whiteness but …) of compassion and care, and faith and hope against all odds; of truth and honesty, and of righteous and beautiful things: demonstrations of character that reflect the Divine similitude.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside may become clean as well. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity.…” Mat. 23:25-27 cf. Rom. 2:17

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(Tim Teichman) #4

Saw it last Sunday. Great film with a whole lot of female-power on stage. The elite guards are all women. The smart scientist character is a woman, among many others.

And the blackness is also beautiful. There’s kinky hair everywhere, dreadlocks, and oh-so-beautiful baldness. There’s no hair straightening, lightening, or any attempt to look white, which is intentional and awesome to behold.

My 17 year old daughter stated, “Women play powerful lead roles without being sexualized. Usually they put the women in mini-skirts to go fight a battle, which is so stupid. These women wear armor!”

When you see it, stay until the very end after the credits for a small surprise intended for Marvel-world fans.

It’s too bad my guardian angel couldn’t come into the theater to watch it with me. She would have liked it. LOL.


(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #5

I am in my home near Monaco and difficult to find an English version of this film locally.

My French is fluent, but I preferred to see the original version rather than the dubbed version. Fortunately, two or three times each week, they screen the English version, with French subtitles, in a Monte Carlo cinema.near me.

I found the plot difficult to follow, but thanks to the French subtitles, which I read fluently, I was able to follow the gist of the film.

Because of all the hype and good ratings, I ventured out in freezing rain and cold (we have a Siberian winter in Europe ) and with difficulty found the cinema, parking at some far distance from the movie house

This was truly one of the worst movies I have ever seen!

The gratuitous VIOLENCE from start to finish was intolerable.
Would anyone guesstimate the body count??? Surely multiple,dozens!

I would have walked out, if the weather had not been so bad, and my car not close!

Yes, the king’s body guards are female , but they engage in the most horrific acts of body to body combat! Not fun to,watch vicious females in venomous combat!

No wonder we have school shootings if this is what our teenagers are exposed to!

I thought the black cast was sterotyped, speaking in a fake Bantu English dialect. I also thought the costuming was overly black stereotyped. Had the director been white, he would have been castigated for his condescending stereotyping of black accents and costumes.

The only virtue this film possesses is that it has an all black caste. No doubt they gave a stellar performance of unmitigated violence and constant gory battle scenes.

Spare us from such glorification of gore!

The ONLY upside for the evening, I got a senior citizen discount on my cinema ticket (rare in France), the popcorn was good, and thanks to the revenue from the casino, the garage parking charges in Monaco are extremely low!


(JSKMD ) #6

The comic book version of the Black Panther reveals that the hero practices idolatry and sorcery, and receives his powers by demon possession. SDAs would do well to guard the avenues of their souls. Remember, we become what we behold.


(Aji Santoso) #7

I appreciate what the writer said in the review.
The story is fictional, but the issues was real and relevant.

The review is good and I would take the good points from that

Please continue to write like this!


(Kim Green) #8

Tonight I saw Black Panther…I have to admit that this is not the genre (Super Hero) that I usually watch. However, it has lived up to it’s good reviews in what I believe that it was intended to do. It was refreshing to see the Afrocentric themes in both the costuming and in the futuristic sceneries. This was also extended to some of the social and philosophical themes in the movie which could have been more explored (but a movie can only be so long!).

As a women myself, the movie’s crowning achievement was in it’s depiction of women of power and strength. Not only were some of the strongest characters women- but they were beautiful women of color with strength and values. This is so important for the Afro American community (and all other racial communities) to see their women as heroes and characters of substance.

This movie is important as a landmark- there is no doubt in my mind. It is worth seeing even if it is not your usual choice of movies. I am glad that I went to see it.