I’ve written numerous movie reviews on my blog. In the current review, I’m once again teaming up with my brother Amahl to discuss Marvel’s Black Panther. According to Yahoo, the film has already made an estimated $192 million over three days, putting it on track to surpass its $200 million production cost, and smash other box office records. Black Panther is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) latest offering leading us up to the Avengers: Infinity War Part One over the summer which will bring most of its characters back to the big screen, and will heavily involve the Black Panther himself and his home of Wakanda as seen in the theatrical trailer. In Marvel’s Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman returns to play the now King T’Challa/Black Panther along with an all-star cast including: Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Forrest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, and many others. The following are our thoughts on the movie.
Amahl Dunbar: I think Black Panther could’ve alternatively been called ‘Wakanda: Episode 1’, because the script seemed to describe the hero’s home country versus solely describing his individual journey as is the case in most comic book movies. In the Marvel Universe, the beautiful African country of Wakanda is a highly technologically, and politically sophisticated nation. The oligarchy, government, and military work in unison to resolve major issues and maintain cultural harmony though one principle; Wakanda must not be influenced by outside forces in the form of colonists and immigrants.
The way it was written, Black Panther is subtle in its social commentary, never talking down to the audience. Most social and political messages are done with a laugh or a wry smile. As a matter of fact, none of the elements in the movie were overdone. Recently in the genres of ‘Science Fiction’ and ‘Action’ movies, the final battles between the heroes, the boss villain, and the other villains, involve turning up the speaker volume in theaters, coupled with quick fight scene editing to extend scenes, making the audience believe they’re seeing more than what they’re actually seeing. Not in Black Panther. All of the action scenes down to each shot are purposeful and meaningful because screen time is precious to audiences who can easily get bored.
Again I think the strength of Black Panther was that Ryan Coogler’s production team took the approach of building a world around its hero versus focusing solely on the hero’s journey. I look forward to the Avengers: Infinity War Part One, plus Black Panther 2 and 3. Marvel’s next challenge will be finding a foe formidable enough for King T’Challa of Wakanda.
Anwar Dunbar: First I would like to acknowledge the Donna M. Saunders Foundation for Breast Cancer Education and Support for hosting a private screening of Black Panther at the AMC Hoffman 22 in Alexandria, Va. It was an amazing event. The foundation does a lot of great work in terms of helping breast cancer patients and their families. The foundation gave attendees numerous collectibles and surprises before the movie started including: Black Panther posters, comic books, and work books. Prior to the start of the movie the foundation also gave us an additional surprise – an introduction by author Jesse J. Holland who authored Who Is The Black Panther?, a novel about the Black Panther’s history. Mr. Holland signed copies of his book after the viewing of the movie.
Leading up to the its release, Black Panther was unique from the other films produced by the MCU in that it appealed to two different audiences. Featuring a mostly black cast and production crew, it created a buzz and drew viewers other than the usual Super Hero/Science Fiction ‘junkies’ like my brother and myself. One could argue that movie for Black America was actually a cultural event as much as it was a movie debut – a source of controversy leading up to its release. The excitement leading up to film was unlike anything I’d ever seen before and was the result of brilliant marketing by Disney and Marvel who strategically scheduled Black Panther’s release during Black History Month.
In terms of my review of the movie, I have to admit that growing up reading mostly DC Comics, I didn’t know that there was a Black Panther character in the Marvel Universe. Five years ago, a friend mentioned that Black Panther was going to get his own movie which was my first time hearing about the character. My first time actually seeing the character in action was in Captain America: Civil War almost two years ago. Coincidentally, consistent with the MCU’s seamless storytelling, Black Panther picks up where we left off in Civil War where T’Challa was trying to avenge the death of his father T’Chaka whose decisions as a younger king to protect Wakanda, drive the plot and story throughout the current movie.
The movie was amazing in terms its acting, action and visuals, but what stood out to me most were the messages in it. As I stated on Twitter shortly after seeing it, it wasn’t the typical light-hearted action adventure with a teachable moment like the MCU’s other movies. It had definite political and social commentaries/messages built into its script which actually had me pondering things like: economics, foreign policy, and immigration as I was watching the film. In addition to having a mostly black cast, there was a strong female presence in terms of Wakanda’s military and scientific innovations. Shuri played by Letitia Wright turned out to be my favorite character.
Similar to some of the other reviews I’ve heard and read, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther didn’t feel as though it was completely about T’Challa/Black Panther. Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger also commanded the screen in a very significant way, and actually won the sympathies of many in the audience. I look forward sequels to Black Panther and also seeing how Wakanda factors into the Avengers: Infinity War. Based upon the trailer, there is going to be a huge battle involving Black Panther and his home of Wakanda. I’ll give Black Panther an –A on the basis that it didn’t dovetail back into the MCU’s overall story arc in the same ways the other movies did – perhaps due to the fact that Wakanda is an isolationist society in terms of its story. That said I will see it multiple times, and purchase a copy when it’s released on Blue Ray and DVD.
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