“Black Panther.” One of the most anticipated movies of 2018 and one of the greatest so far as it has surpassed the four-day box office open records of $235 million and has become a cultural icon.
“Black Panther” has broken the stigma in Hollywood that a primarily black cast in a film wouldn’t make big numbers. In my opinion, “Black Panther” did live up to the hype but lacked some plot and story elements that could’ve pushed it over the edge into one of my top five movies of all time.
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD
The movie initially opens up with a background on the fictional country of Wakanda and the five tribes that inhibit the land in a sort of CGI sand combo that truly draws the viewer in. After the introduction, the film jumps right into a cutscene in 1992 as King T’Chaka visits his undercover brother N’Jobu in Oakland, California to ask him if he was assisting the black market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue with stealing from Wakanda. The scene eventually ends with T’Chaka confirming his suspicions and killing his own brother N’Jobu as he attempted to attack him.
The film then jumps back to the present day after T’Chaka’s death as the main character T’Challa —played by Chadwick Boseman— prepares to be named the new king of Wakanda. T’Challa and his general Okoye are attempting to extract Nakia, T’Challa’s ex-lover and spy, from her undercover assignment to come back to Wakanda to see T’Challa be throned. Although their prior relationship was not established in the film, I felt that the director did a great job of creating the atmosphere for the both of them that showed a continuous love interest.
After T’Challa’s throne ceremony in which he almost lost to another tribe leader in the ritual combat as he made an attempt to claim the throne, we meet the movie’s villain, Erik Killmonger, in a museum attempting to steal a Wakandan artifact to sell it. Killmonger is simply a standard movie villain, yet he differs from other Marvel villains as he is more relatable and politically motivated. In my opinion, Killmonger himself wasn’t the true villain of the story although his actions prove otherwise; he is more of a political philosopher as he brings fourth real-world problems and issues and questions about where Wakanda has been throughout all of these.
Soon after, T’Challa, Nakia, and Okoye travel to South Korea where they plan to trap Ulysses Klaue and bring him back to Wakanda to stand trial for stealing Vibranium. Eventually, after a series of events, Killmonger kills Klaue, brings his body back to Wakanda, reveals his true identity, and defeats T’Challa in ritual combat and throw him over the waterfall, taking control of the throne. After more dialogue, the film then jumps to a final battle between the protagonist and antagonist, T’Challa and Killmonger, in which Killmonger is eventually killed and T’Challa takes back his throne.
Overall I felt the cultural impact of the film was greater than the film itself as the symbolism of the characters, the cast, and the message of the movie impacted a greater amount of people. The symbolism of the protagonist and antagonist, Killmonger and T’Challa, were the viewpoints they represented. On one hand, Killmonger represented a radical hatred outlook as he wanted to arm black people from around the world so they could overthrow their oppressors.
On the other hand, T’Challa represented more diplomatic views as he was fighting against Killmonger to stop him and generally tried to do the good thing as he didn’t kill one of the tribal leaders during ritual combat, instead telling him to yield because his people needed him.
Killmonger as a character truly represented some of the struggles of being black as he grew up without a father in the world of police brutality in Oakland, California. As the Black Panther Party movement did originate in Oakland, California, Killmonger grew accustomed to the values of black empowerment.
His character really is what makes this film great as he represents mostly what it means to be African-American in this world. Killmonger questions Wakandans, in this utopia of a country, where they were when their counterparts in America needed their help, and why haven’t they helped the outside world.
The cultural impact of the movie with a predominately black cast can do well, and personally, growing up watching movies with white superheroes felt unrelatable, but watching “Black Panther” felt uplifting as some of the characters relate to everyday struggles and faced real-world problems.
Some points on what the film could’ve improved on are the ending and T’Challa’s character development.
I felt the ending of the movie ended on the wrong note as Killmonger’s death prompted T’Challa to share Wakanda’s resources with the world. Sharing their resources with the world is what Killmonger inevitably wanted. This to me made me feel as if all the work and fighting done in the movie wasn’t really needed and ultimately made me feel as if Killmonger was the true winner in this whole fight.
T’Challa’s character development could’ve been improved as they just portrayed him as the king’s son that took the throne rather than see the struggles he faced.
This movie tops all other Marvel movies so far because the villain was an actual relatable character who faced real-world problems and posed relatable questions to the characters in the story. The cast also made this a great film because of their phenomenal acting alongside a great story and amazing directing.