Panthers and Panthers and Panthers, Oh My

Let’s just jump right in: I’m sure you’ve already heard great things about Black Panther, whether it’s the movie’s overwhelmingly positive reviews or its giant box office numbers. You know what you haven’t heard yet though? My opinion (with spoilers).

Black Panther’s opening scene already sets the film apart, stylistically, from other entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We, through a story the late King T’Chaka tells a young T’Challa, learn the history of Wakanda and the Black Panther with illustrations provided by some sort of black sand, which shifts to build people and buildings and a meteor, etc. By itself, this scene is already visually beautiful, and is reminiscent of the statuesque visuals we have seen in other Marvel products, but only relegated to ending or opening credits.

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But then we see this black sand is actually in-universe Wakandan technology. We soon see T’Challa use it to track human traffickers and plan his rescue mission; Shuri and Agent Ross later use it while remotely driving and piloting different vehicles. Whatever this substance is (though it looks very sand-like, it’s most likely some sort of fine vibranium/vibranium compound), it also visually ties-in nicely with the red sand T’Challa is buried under when traveling to the Ancestral Realm (that then gets its own parallel with the snow later in the film.) Listen if I can talk this much about sand, this movie has to have done something right.

Speaking of vibranium, let’s talk about that great Black Panther suit. From a design perspective, I lean more towards the Captain America: Civil War version of the suit (cool lines > armor abs), but the in-universe function of the suit was great and so well-designed. A suit that hides discretely in jewelry? Yes absolutely. A suit that absorbs kinetic energy that can be redirected, leading to both an amazing comedy and action scene? Please, don’t mind if I do.

About that action scene: T’Challa ends up in a car chase supported by Shuri, Nakia, and Okoye. Nakia and Okoye team-up in one car, giving us another mix of comedy and action with the women scoffing at bullets bouncing off of their vibranium car and Okoye doing some cool spear moves from atop a car. Shuri, as she does during most of the film, gives us more humor while showing of Wakanda’s technology, that aforementioned remote driving. T’Challa rides on her car, giving us a sibling interaction, T’Challa’s clever fighting, and one of my favorite parts of the film: T’Challa, using the energy stored in his suit from bullets hitting him, simply slams his body onto a van, causing the front to collapse and the car to crash. It’s good action, y’all (that you can hear director Ryan Coogler himself talk a bit about).

As you may glean a little from that last paragraph, one of the strongest parts of Black Panther is the characters and their relationships with each other. T’Challa is the only character (aside from T’Chaka) that we’ve met before, but when he returns home, it really feels like he’s home. T’Challa and Shuri really feel like siblings. Okoye and W’Kabi feel like old friends he grew up with. Though not a lot of time is spent explicitly discussing T’Challa and Nakia’s (former) relationship, you can still easily get a sense of what happened and how they still feel for each other. All of this is only bolstered by the cast’s performances. Basically:

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And before I wrap up, I’d be remiss to mention performances and leave out Michael B. Jordan’s excellent performance as the main villain Killmonger. I mean really, that’s it, he did a great job. He was aided by the excellent writing and characterization of Killmonger. Killmonger is one of those “kinda right about some stuff but is going way too far and in the wrong way” villains; really, he’s part of what fueled T’Challa to reveal Wakanda to the public, though his methods focus on healing, not hurting.

There’s so much about Black Panther that I didn’t touch on (including it’s racial representation, but I’ll leave that for more qualified writers), but this is what stuck with me. It’s an excellent film, and is definitely worth seeing as soon as possible. I’m looking forward to seeing T’Challa, and hopefully some of his friends, again in Infinity War.