‘Black Panther’ film review
By Jillian McMullen, Staff Writer
I have a confession: I’m not really a huge follower of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mean, it’s definitely entertaining, but I find the plots repetitive and the acting underwhelming across the franchise as a whole.
In spite of my apprehensions, the recent release of Black Panther, and all of the social commentary that has come along with it, prompted me to give the film a shot. I haven’t seen a Marvel film since Captain America: Civil War, so I walked into the theatre on Cheap Tuesday concerned I wouldn’t be adequately caught up on the Marvel universe and therefore wouldn’t enjoy the film. However, I walked out of the film satisfied with the experience.
I’ll start off with saying that the biggest success was the visuals—the film is totally gorgeous. I don’t normally enjoy watching movies in 3D because A) I wear glasses and wearing one pair over another is weird, and B) I find it is often done in gimmicky ways. Much to my surprise, the effect was used incredibly tastefully. Orange and pink sunsets extend across lush jungles in a manner that really gives a sense of scale, an impression of the vastness and abundance that the fictional country of Wakanda enjoys. The vibrancy of the colours also adds a lot of richness to the world created by cinematographer Rachel Morrison.
Although I did feel like some of the dialogue of Shuri, who is protagonist T’Challa’s younger sister, played a little too much to the joke (a “What are those?” reference particularly sticks out in my mind), most of the acting was uncharacteristically good. While Marvel heroes often feel affected and over-acted, I found subtlety in Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challa, especially in his scenes with his father or Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o. I would argue that the calibre of acting in this film versus other Marvel films is improved because this film features objectively better actors then, say, the last film I saw in the franchise.
I’ve heard some complain about the meaning people have attached to Black Panther, that they’re reading too much into it, that that’s not what the movie is about. The comic was released before the black nationalist group which bears the same name was founded, so the hero’s name wasn’t inspired by it. However, for modern audiences the connection is definitely relevant, particularly because the antagonist grew up in the same town in which the movement began—Oakland, California. In addition, pretty much all of antagonist Killmonger’s goals echo what the real-world Black Panther movement was trying to accomplish—albeit by very different means. It is impossible, then, to take the story out of a black liberation narrative.
The problem I have with this is the film pits two black men against each other who act as stand-ins for civil rights leaders: T’Challa, the pacifist, the modern Martin Luther King Jr., is put up against Killmonger, a “real” Black Panther who advocates for violent liberation. By confusing those two movements, you force audiences to choose one path for liberation over another, which I think might undercut some of the social commentary it could have.
Black Panther has everything you would normally expect with any Marvel film: Explosive fight scenes, family secrets come to light, and a love interest with a complicated history. In terms of its social importance, it fills the need for black characters that break from the “inner city thug” stereotype often put forward in Hollywood narratives. For the very fact that it has started a meaningful conversation, I would say that it’s definitely worth seeing—even for Marvel non-followers like myself.