Film Review: “Black Panther” is not your typical superhero movie

Chadwick Boseman in "Black Panther" | photo via Marvel/Disney

By Ana DerSimonian

andersimonian@ursinus.edu

As an avid supporter of the Marvel movie franchise, I had no hesitation in wanting to see the latest hero make his debut in the new movie “Black Panther,” starring Chadwick Boseman; that the movie scored a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes only made me want to see it even more. To say the least, the film exceeded my already high expectations.

Prince T’Challa, also known as the Black Panther, made his first onscreen appearance in Captain America: Civil War, though the character originated in comic books in 1966, according to the New York Times. After his father is murdered Prince T’Challa reveals his superhero alter-ego, and that is when the Black Panther is introduced.

Contrary to most American superhero films, “Black Panther” takes place in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Though it poses as a developing nation, Wakanda has actually made incredible technological advances as a result of its use of vibranium, an elusive metal that only Wakanda has access to and wants to keep hidden from white colonizers.

When Prince T’Challa is announced as the new king, he is conflicted between choosing to follow his father’s legacy and continuing to keep Wakanda isolated from the outside world, or sharing their technology with nations in need.

Of course, this is not the only problem T’Challa has to face as Wakanda’s new king.  The film’s antagonist, Erik Killmonger, challenges T’Challa to become the king and earn the powers of the Black Panther. Killmonger supposedly wins the challenge and takes the throne.  He acts as a tyrant and orders for Wakandan weapons, which are made of vibranium, to be shipped around the world.

The intricate plot is eased with all the comic relief some of the characters offer. Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister and my favorite character, is a tech-savvy genius who never fails to make a hilariously sarcastic remark to her brother.  Her role is very important, as she is the one who is usually called when T’Challa is in need of new weapons and armor.

T’Challa also has a love interest, Nakia, a strong woman both physically and emotionally. She takes pride in her nation and wants to expand Wakanda’s resources to other countries.

Okoye, the head warrior of Wakanda’s armed forces, is a respected leader who remains loyal to the king, whomever it may be. She makes a powerful decision to fight against her husband, who is the leader of another African nation, and helps restore Wakanda to a peaceful state.

Overall, the movie is definitely a success. The costumes and set are “full of rich traditions and culture, and ancient rituals paired with next-generation technological innovations,” as The Verge’s Bryan Bishop writes in a review. The movie is brought to life with all the vibrant colors and futuristic technology.

I left the theater with a big sense of girl power. Other than T’Challa and Killmonger, the rest of the main roles are women. Shuri, Nakia, and Okoye are all independent, fierce and smart women who have some badass action scenes. It is nice to see Marvel expanding its representation beyond just the typical strong men.

“Black Panther” is also a success in giving a voice to a much more diverse superhero than we usually see. The African setting plays a key role in the film, leading to deeper discussions of race. According to the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis, race in the film functions “as a means to explore larger human concerns about the past, the present and the uses and abuses of power.”

I recommend “Black Panther” to any superhero lover, as T’Challa is a great addition to the already amazing Marvel gang. Even if you’ve never seen a Marvel movie, you will leave “Black Panther” wanting to binge watch the entire superhero series.

“Black Panther” is currently showing at the Providence Town Center’s Movie Tavern and the Regal Oaks Stadium. Find showtimes here. Watch the film’s trailer below.

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