I finally got the chance to see “Black Panther” for a second time last night and now I’ve formulated my thoughts enough to where I can go more in depth in terms of giving a review, meaning that this is your official spoiler warning for this post. I’ll be talking in spoiler-heavy detail about some of the highlights in this film, what I liked, what I disliked, and just an overall recap of what I thought of this movie, so let’s start.
After an opening scene that explains the origins of how vibranium first came to Earth and how it lead to the rise of both Wakanda and the Black Panther, we start off in Oakland, California back in 1992 where we see a younger King T’Chaka visiting two of his spies who are both completely unaware that the other is a spy. Basically, one of these spies is revealed to be stealing vibranium from Wakanda and T’Chaka ends up killing him. This spy is later revealed to be T’Chaka’s own brother, as well as the father of Killmonger and this right here kicks off what makes Killmonger so compelling as a villain.
He’s given the backstory of growing up with his father in California in a part of town that’s completely derelict and he’s known nothing but death and oppression as a child. Him and his father have longed for some type of solution to end the suffering of other black people across the world and the technological wonder that is vibranium is the solution. The problem is that Killmonger’s father is killed and that ultimately hardens him into a black ops soldier who is also set on ruling Wakanda in his own vision and that creates an interesting dynamic between him and T’Challa.
With T’Challa as the king of Wakanda, he’s a much more reserved, collected ruler and his stance is ensuring that Wakanda remains hidden from the outside world and not interfering in its affairs. He comes off as an isolationist, but it’s all with good intentions. He’s ultimately doing what’s best for his people, creating the juxtaposition that exists with Killmonger. With Killmonger, he also wants what’s best for the millions of suffering blacks across the world, but his approach to it is in a much more hostile way. He overpowers T’Challa for the throne of Wakanda and from there he basically puts on his own display of violence and force that simply didn’t exist in T’Challa. He wants vibranium and its power to be distributed all around the world and it’s all done in what he believes to be for the good of his people. T’Challa and Killmonger are two very different types of kings with a very different idea of helping their people and it’s their ideological differences that made their dynamic so interesting.
The other villain in this movie is that of Ulysses Klaue and he basically takes the role of the more over-the-top, conniving villain, but it actually works not only as a contrast to Killmonger, but as a simple source of entertainment on the antagonists side. Andy Serkis is having an absolute ball in this role and he made the characters as entertaining as he was. And in my opinion, his death worked. He ends up being killed by Killmonger and Killmonger ends up using his body as a means to get into Wakanda and even gain the trust of another character in the movie who serves an antagonistic role.
Daniel Kaluuya plays W’Kabi, a character who starts off as a friend to T’Challa, but he starts to resent T’Challa and he grows more loyal to Killmonger in the process. W’Kabi’s backstory is that his parents were killed by Klaue and he continues to grow more impatient with T’Challa and his seeming inability to bring Klaue to justice. Once Killmonger shows up with Klaue’s dead body, W’Kabi instantly sees Killmonger as the guy who gets shit done and decides to become loyal to him instead. Just about every character in this movie has a reason for what they do and director Ryan Coogler really shows his ability to create characters who actually have some nuance rather than painting a black and white picture.
I stated in my spoiler-free review that this movie excels in world-building and after a second viewing, I stand by that statement. Seeing not only the advanced tech that exists in Wakanda, but also the culture is what I really liked. T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, is the designer of all of the technology and that’s all fascinating to see, but the culture really makes this movie stand out from all other MCU films. We see the heart-shaped herb that’s the source of the Black Panther powers, we see the ritual fighting that’s a part of crowning a new king, and we just get an overall aesthetic that feels unique in the world of comic book movies.
And now that I’ve mentioned the ritual fighting, I might as well talk about the action as a whole. For the most part, I really don’t have a major problem with this movie’s action scenes, but its in the climax when I found some of the film’s weaker elements. There’s basically three action sequences going on in the climax: Black Panther vs. Killmonger, the battle between Wakanda’s armies, and Everett Ross flying a ship and taking down enemy ships filled with vibranium. Some of the CGI, such as the rhinos and some background green screen, were very noticeable, and I think the Black Panther vs. Killmonger fight scene lost a flair of their dynamic. Their first fight scene in which Killmonger overthrows T’Challa as king in the ritual fight was great, showing Killmonger as a formidable physical threat as well as a character who mentally challenges T’Challa.
Their second fight, as entertaining as it was, felt like it lacked something. I guess I just found it a tad underwhelming that these two ideologically opposed kings were simply hashing things out in a simple slug-fest instead of a genuinely engaging battle of conflicting ideas. That said, Killmonger’s death was handled very well. As he lays dying and watching the sunset, he decides that like with his ancestors, death is better than bondage. He’d rather just die than be held in prisoner in Wakanda and that’s exactly what happens, capping off one of Marvel’s best villains.
By the end of the movie, T’Challa learns that it’s Wakanda’s duty to present itself to the outside world and play its part in sharing its technology and hopefully making the world a better place. The mid-credits scene displays T’Challa at the United Nations and making this announcement and I can guarantee that Wakanda being part of the outside world is going to be present in some way in “Avengers: Infinity War”.
The post-credits scene shows that Bucky Barnes has been healing with Shuri, with some Wakandan kids referring to him as “White Wolf”. I’m not very well versed in the Marvel comics, so I don’t know who or what White Wolf, so I’m basically just assuming that this post-credits scene is just a little Easter egg for the die-hard Marvel fans.
All in all, I stand by what I said about “Black Panther” in my spoiler-free review. This is a very good movie that succeeds in telling its own story about T’Challa as the leader of Wakanda and I also think it works in having social commentary in the mix. This is a socially and culturally relevant movie for sure and in the echelon of MCU films, it certainly stands out as one of the more different and maybe even more provocative of the bunch. This is a solid movie all around and I absolutely recommend checking it out.