A review of Marvel’s “Black Panther:” Spoilers Included


A scene from the “Black Panther” trailer depicting T’Challa (Marvel Studios).

Matthew Sidewater

The new Marvel movie “Black Panther” contains many messages about political views. At the beginning of the film, T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman), The Black Panther and new King of the African nation of Wakanda, sticks to his country’s policy of not helping those outside of Wakanda’s borders. The country has plentiful resources, but puts on the facade that it is poor and undeveloped. By doing this, Wakanda maintains its privacy and no one will come in and steal the vibranium, a powerful metal that only Wakanda possesses.

Later, however, T’Challa meets a villain, Erik Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan), who believes that Wakanda needs to not only help oppressed people outside of Wakanda, but should arm them so they can take over their local governments and make their lives better. He eventually takes Wakanda over by ‘killing’ T’Challa in a ritualistic battle to the death.

By learning of Killmonger’s tragic origin story, T’Challa realizes that he should help people outside of Wakanda so that people do not become extremists like Killmonger. Some audiences might make the connection between the contrasting policies of using America’s resources to help other countries and President Trump’s “America First” agenda.

Most of Marvel’s movie villains are usually one-dimensional cliches. Hela is a goddess who wants to take over Asgard. Dormammu is a mystical tyrant who wants to take over the planet. Killmonger, however, presents a multi-faceted, compelling character. He has a reason why he wants to take over Wakanda.

Born to Wakanda’s prince undercover in America, Killmonger learns about his Wakandan heritage, and yearns to go back to his home country. Soon after, Wakanda’s king, King T’Chaka (played by John Kani and Atandwa Kani), Killmonger’s uncle, kills Killmonger’s father for selling Wakanda’s vibranium to outsiders. He learns that his father was giving this vibranium to oppressed groups who want to overthrow their governments and make their countries kinder, happier places. King T’Chaka decides to stop his brother because this act is illegal, and he does not want to be responsible for a violent revolution. Killmonger joins the army and begins to kill, preparing for the day when he would take over Wakanda and fulfill his father’s mission.

This character, unlike many, is actually relatable. He does what he does not because he wants to take over the world for himself, but because he wants to help his fellow man. He feels betrayed by Wakanda, so of course he tries to kill T’Challa. T’Challa’s dad committed a horrible act. Yes, he was stopping a criminal, but that criminal was his brother. Even T’Challa recognizes his father’s wrongdoing in the film, and he struggles to accept the fact that his dad is a murderer. By being both three-dimensional and relatable, Killmonger proves to be one of Marvel’s most compelling villains, as well as a wonderful foil for T’Challa.

Killmonger’s actions teach T’Challa that he cannot belong to an extreme, but must meet in the middle in order to find an acceptable solution to a problem. T’Challa cannot ignore the injustices outside of Wakanda, but he cannot stop them by force. Instead, he must use Wakanda’s resources to stop these crimes in conjunction with the United Nations, which T’Challa does in one of the movie’s after credit scenes.

Another scene depicts that Bucky, the Winter Soldier, had overcome his programming, and had regained his sense of self. This scene’s purpose was to excite the audience for “Avengers: Infinity War,” Marvel’s next and biggest project to date.

“Black Panther” depicts Wakanda beautifully, choosing for it to appear as a diverse culture, made up of five tribes. It also appears to be high-tech, with extremely futuristic technology, like invisible fighter planes and a futuristic Black Panther suit, but also is very primitive, with elephants used as vehicles and spears used as a common weapon. Wakanda in the comics is a strange mixture of tradition and futuristic technology, and “Black Panther accurately illustrates this country by adding interesting rituals such as a vision quest for the indoctrinated king and a fight to the death (or surrender) to choose the next king, and by adding high-tech devices like Black Panther’s suit and gadgets.

The movie’s soundtrack further illustrates Wakanda. It is completely different than the soundtrack in any other Marvel movie. In my opinion, it is the second best Marvel soundtrack, with the best Marvel soundtrack belonging to “The Guardians of the Galaxy.”

The movie is also less comedic than other Marvel movies, with its emphasis on being serious and focused. However, the movie still has its funny characters. The secondary villain, Ulysses Klaw, gives an entertaining and hilarious performance, and T’Challa’s sister makes funny quips when she shows him his new gadgets.

“Black Panther” is both an interesting and innovative Marvel Movie. I give it an A for its compelling villain, wonderful soundtrack, creative world-building, and welcome seriousness. The only way it could be better is if the beginning sequence was easier to see, which is hard to accomplish at night with a actor wearing an all-black suit.