‘Black Panther’ Is A Mix of Great Storytelling, Poignant Lessons, and Grandiose Visuals

9.0 Overall Score

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Since 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, fans have been waiting to dive into the diverse and intricate world of Wakanda. From that movie, a leader was born, unfortunately out of tragic circumstances. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) became the new leader of Wakanda and thus, the Black Panther due to the assassination of his father, T’Chaka (John Kani). Black Panther picks up right where Civil War leaves off within a myriad of lessons, authentic imagery, and blurred lines not so much scene in the MCU.

If you’ve gotten a chance to see 2015’s Creed, you would have a familiarity with director Ryan Coogler‘s of bridging youth and elders. Much of Black Panther resides in a “trial by fire” type of leadership. You can prepare for something all your life, but there’s nothing like actually being that thing. T’Challa barely has anytime to revel in the celebration before his very green reign is challenged both physically and mentally. Through political leadership, you have to take on ghosts, both from the past and present. It’s tough to not only battle your demons, but have to fight demons from another person that are unresolved.

This brings us to the anti-hero of the story, Killmonger. One of the more developed and complex villains of the MCU. (Michael B. Jordan). Killmonger is the personification of T’Chaka’s reign of Wakanda. However, this time, secrets don’t stay buried. For a long period of time, Wakanda chose to stay in the shadows. That’s at the expense of black people all around the world. The institution of isolationism was so entrenched that it came at the expense of T’Chaka’s brother, N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown ). Now, from that standpoint, it’s hard not to believe that Killmonger has a right to some sort of vengeance. In all actuality, Killmonger is the totem of all the people that were left behind. He’s also the earthquake in the belief system that Wakanda ultimately needs.

Rage becomes a problem when it’s blind and for that, Killmonger’s argument falls flat. His quest to arm the disenfranchised around the world sounds good on paper, but it’s only rooted in chaos. His plan could have these new weapons fall into the wrong hands. It also could beget more revolts just like he planned on doing. There’s no structure and for that, he’s not fully redeemed on equal ground as a hero.

Coupled with the internal struggles, there are external ones as well that a leader cannot control. Wakanda’s nationalistic ideology comes crashing down with the failed apprehension of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) starts to question T’Challa very early on because the sins of his father. Okoye, (Danai Gurira), head of the Dora Milaje, an all-female special forces unit fights with her loyalty to the ideals of her country vs. who is leading the country. Everyone’s moral fabric is being tested. Through this journey, T’Challa learns that a leader shares his gifts to empower others and also bring people together. His eventual truce with M’Baku (Winston Duke) and Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman). No man is an island. Not one that plans to succeed during upheaval.

One of the major triumphs of this movie are the many depictions of black women throughout the film. There are four major faces, but all equally as important to the welfare of Wakanda and T’Challa’s growth. There’s Okoye (Danai Gurira) who is the devout warrior that will do anything for the love of her country and grows from that. Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s little sister and head of technology of Wakanda. She’s the brilliant mind behind all of Black Panther’s weapons and advancements of the country. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) who is T’Challa’s love interest, but also a spy. She refutes just to live out her days by T’Challa’s side and wants something more. Finally, Ramonda (Angela Bassett) is the parental wisdom of T’Challa. When we think of kingdoms, there’s a matriarchy aspect to it. Black Panther shows that not only are the women strong in each of their routes, they are vital to the lifeblood of the country.

Black Panther does have it’s action sequences that make sense within the main narrative of the movie. It also interjects humor when needed as a natural occurrence. The costume design of Ruth Carter fully encapsulates the African culture that a fictional Wakanda nation draws inspiration from. Composer Ludwig Göransson traveled to places like Senegal and South Africa to utilize African percussionists on top of the orchestra. This movie is diverse in a way where it feels very authentic and doesn’t seem like Marvel is checking a box off. Even down to themes about ritual, honoring your ancestors, and heeding advice from higher beings – themes that are also prevalent in African culture have a place.

Wakanda may not be real, but it felt like it could be. Very rarely can you have these many characters add their pieces to the overall puzzles in such a seamless way contained in an little over two hour run time. Ryan Coogler took a story that many have dreamed would come to the big screen and made it in such a way where you leave the movie theater wanting to be a better person to make it possible. We witnessed T’Challa the king form into T’Challa the hero.

Main Photo Credit: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios


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Author: Murjani Rawls View all posts by
Journalist, Self-published author of five books, podcast host, and photographer since 2014, Murjani Rawls has been stretching the capabilities of his creativity and passions, Rawls has as a portfolio spanning through many mediums including music, television, movies, and more. Operating out of the New York area, Rawls has photographed over 200+ artists spanning many genres, written over 700 articles ranging displaying his passionate aspirations to keep evolving as his years in media continue.

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