Monday 12 March 2018

Movie Review: Black Panther (2018)

A groundbreaking superhero movie, Black Panther is one of the finest examples of what the genre is capable of, with a rich story and a multitude of characters carrying far-reaching resonance.

The isolated African country of Wakanda hides behind a veil of poverty while enjoying prosperity and advanced technology afforded by Vibranium, a mineral deposited by an ancient meteor strike. As well, a heart-shaped herb provides supernatural Black Panther combat powers to the country's selected ruler. T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) rises to King of Wakanda when his father is assassinated. He reunites with his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), elder statesman Zuri (Forest Whitaker), and ex-lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o). The fierce General Okoye (Danai Gurira) is in charge of the all-female security warriors, while T'Challa's sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) heads up the technology advancement labs despite her young age.

W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) leads the border tribe, one of four clans united under T'Challa, but M'Baku (Winston Duke), the leader of the Jabari Mountain Tribe, chooses to remain isolated. The new king is immediately confronted by a threat. Black market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) teams up with the mysterious Erik "Killmonger" Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) to try and sell stolen Vibranium to undercover CIA Agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) at a rendevouz in South Korea. T'Challa, Nakia and Okoye intervene to try and reclaim the precious mineral, triggering a potentially catastrophic series of events carrying echoes of decisions made by T'Challa's father in years past.

With black director Ryan Coogler at the helm, an almost all-black cast and a predominantly African setting, Black Panther is a bold step forward in the Marvel Studios cinematic world. But remarkably, the brave new racial frontier is only one of the film's many spectacular successes. Black Panther creates the most compelling fantasy world since the original Star Wars, and a fertile plot teeming with interesting characters and events. The script, co-written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, soon asserts itself. The story proudly takes centre stage, and several themes intertwine across the screen, connecting Wakanda's fantasy with current realities. The film's genius resides in debating with searing honesty pressing and relevant societal issues.

A central theme is an advanced country's role in the family of nations. Wakanda has always prided itself - and thrived - on a policy of isolation, looking inwards to the prosperity of its own people and disengaging from the rest of the world. T'Challa is challenged with three options: maintain the status quo, export technology to promote weaponized conflicts, or find a way to engage peacefully. Each potential choice comes with risks, and the film presents a well rounded view of all the justifications.

The black experience is tackled from two fronts. Black Africa's hidden potential to positively contribute globally is presented as an intriguing future state, while the appropriate response to the historical and current mistreatment of blacks in the United States and indeed around the world is the key grievance driving the film's antagonist Erik Stevens.

The sins of the father haunting future generations gradually emerges as a powerful thread unting T'Challa and his resentful cousin, who steps forward from the shadow of history seeking to right old wrongs. The film distinguishes itself by bringing the conflict to Wakanda itself, the struggle between good and evil presented as an internal conflict for the soul of a country .

All the plot elements provide opportunities for the many characters to shine, and Black Panther introduces an extraordinary number of memorable people, most of them women. While T'Challa hovers the near the middle of all the intersecting ideas, General Okoye, Nakia and Shuri emerge as his closest allies and confidants, and Coogler provides each with a worthwhile personality.

All of which leaves the superhero elements as the cherry on the cake, a natural embellishment to the film rather than its reason for being. Black Panther does not disappoint when the time comes for special effects and stunts, although the breathless chase scene in South Korea outshines the final triple-headed climax. The right dose of dry wit and a sprinkling of high-tech gadgets add a layer of gloss.

Smart, engaging, and relevant, Black Panther sets a new standard for superhero achievement.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.


  1. Your last observation is what helps this movie shine as much as it does. It's a film that deals with relevant topics in an entertaining manner and so happens to be a superhero flick. I love that about this film.

    1. So true. Let's hope this raises the bar for future superhero movies.

  2. Black Panther

    My take...

    Black Panther delivers a strong message of strength, power and integrity. And generosity of this strength and power in offering to the world a “power-sharing”...offering their rare Vibranium (only found in their kingdom and country) to the rest of the world. While UN white cynic leaders scoff, “What could an African country have to offer us?!” Knowingly, only King T’Challa and his co-hort/representatives subtly smile as they know what they are generously sharing with the rest of the world. Black Panther came out just after the horrific white supremacy “coming out” in Charleston. This movie shows the Black ruler and his fellow countrypersons to be the leaders and people with high lived morals, while the sham of any semblance of US morals rises in real life actuality. White supremacist society truly coming out as an unmistakable ugly reality from US so-called leadership and out of the hearts of too many of us, finally brought from the dark dregs, the nightmare and worst side of our country. For the US only to find out our own sin of oppression no longer in any way subverted. This nightmare and ugliness never having been hidden from Black people and all people of color ~ all too glaring a truth, systematically calculated oppression under the guise of “law.” Blacks have mostly taken the high road, while whites are finally starting to look at our hypocritical selves and sham of a society we have held as the home of the free and the brave...ironically we whites have been “free” and the Blacks and other people of color have been the “brave.” Time to dismantle old systems and create a society for ALL.


We welcome reader comments about this post.