WALT DISNEY AND MARVEL

★★★★☆

“Black Panther” is a visually stunning marvel with a stellar cast that elevates an uninspired script.
The film follows the newly crowned king and superhero T’Challa as he returns home to Wakanda and is thrust into conflict with a foe who threatens his homeland.

Rachel Morrison’s cinematography, Ruth Carter’s costumes and Jay Hart’s sets illustrate the stunning fictional African country of Wakanda with vivid colors and lush settings, creating an aesthetic that marries futuristic technology with a traditional African feel.

Each of Hart’s sets is visually interesting and adds details that beautifully flesh out the world of the film. Carter, whose past credits include period dramas such as “Selma” and goofy comedies like “Daddy Day Care” effortlessly dives into the superhero genre, making some of Marvel’s best dressed characters.

The film is worth watching for the visuals alone, as nearly every frame is a tapestry of beauty and detail that enhances both the story and the aesthetic enjoyment of the movie. Ryan Coogler’s third directorial effort is as much a political drama as it is a superhero blockbuster, as characters debate foreign aid and open borders in one scene and fly off to do battle in the next.

Ultimately, the key flaw of “Black Panther” is its determination to control how the audience feels in every frame rather than allowing the members of the audience to interpret the film themselves. This spoon-feeding makes the film feel like more of a lecture by the writers than a political action movie.

As the hero is an African prince raised in Wakanda and the villain is an African-American soldier raised in Oakland, Calif., topics of racism, colonialism and a wealthy nation’s place in the world feature prominently. There is no chance that viewers will leave the film unaware of its messages and intentions, as characters discuss their motivations and political agendas in a blunt, unrealistic manner.

In one scene, a character states that rather than face imprisonment, he would prefer to be killed and buried at sea in the manner of slaves jumping from ships, as “death is better than bondage.” While the sentiment is undeniably powerful, the line itself makes little sense in context and was clearly inserted solely for the audience’s benefit.

Such dialogue, which sounds more like the writers’ notes of what they wish to convey than actual conversation, is prevalent. The audience is smarter than Coogler appears to believe, and the narrative does not need to be interrupted for the central themes to come across — the story does a fine job of conveying these on its own.

Chadwick Boseman is strong and commanding as the young king and superhero, T’Challa, and brings heart and hesitation to the role of a young man saddled with the responsibility of running a country long before expected.

Boseman, known for playing talented black men who overcome prejudices with the sheer force of their ability, including Jackie Robinson in “42,” has a mix of affability and determination that makes him a strong lead.

Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira have an easy chemistry as friends and fellow warriors Nakia and Okoye, respectively. The warmth and openness that Nyong’o brings to her role complements the focus and grit of Gurira, highlighting the difference in their jobs: Nakia primarily works outside of Wakanda to help oppressed peoples around the world while Okoye remains within the borders, protecting the office of the monarch and whomever sits on the throne.

Nyong’o and Boseman also effectively capture the awkward affection between Nakia and T’Challa, ex-lovers whose relationship ended not because of lack of love but rather because of rather challenging circumstances.

Another notable character is Martin Freeman as CIA agent Everett Ross, who provides an endearing comedic foil to Boseman’s T’Challa. An outsider to Wakanda, Ross also serves as an audience surrogate, learning about the world alongside the viewers.

In a cast filled with strong performances, the standout is Michael B. Jordan, who gives a nuanced performance as the villain, Erik Killmonger. Killmonger is a far cry from the charming down-on-his-luck but good-at-heart roles that Jordan typically gravitates to, such as his role in “The Wire.” Yet, Jordan vacillates effortlessly between sympathetic — albeit misaligned — to monstrous and irredeemable.

The action scenes in “Black Panther” are Marvel’s typically fun but overcut battles in which the camera never stays on one action for more than a second before cutting to another angle. In one battle, which takes place in an underground casino, a long shot showed Okoye batting a series of assailants in front of a near-stationary camera before the camera panned to Nakia fighting other enemies alongside T’Challa. The viewer can actually see the fight, which raises the stakes immensely and makes it all the more disappointing when this technique is never revisited.

“Black Panther” proves to be a welcome addition to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, and fans of Disney’s juggernaut superhero franchise will thoroughly enjoy this trip to Wakanda. However, even non-Marvel fans who appreciate socially conscious, politically relevant and genre-transgressing films such as “Get Out” will find themselves inspired — unless they feel lectured.

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9 Comments

  1. white people shouldnt talk about black panther

  2. stick to raising your hand in IR

  3. Just A Suggestion says:

    Please do not write articles on movies that you do not understand and that hold power to the development and existence of current and future Black people.

    K. Thanks.

  4. Inspiring Script says:

    You completely missed the arguments the film was trying to make. I do not blame you because this film was intended to be understood by those who fall victim to the oppression in the United States. Each character demonstrated different emotions people of color may experience in a white dominated society. These emotions might have been hard for you to understand because you are not a person of color, but this assignment shouldn’t have been assigned to you for that reason.

  5. I’m confused. You referred to this as an uninspired script, yet you mentioned topics of racism and colonialism being covered (which you claim to be so apparent that you felt like you were in a lecture), the emotional dynamic of a super villain (Killmonger), characters “debating foreign aid”, the awkward relationship between T’Challa and Nakia that was effectively captured, and not to mention the family feud that was illustrated so perfectly between T’Challa and Killmonger that viewers left the movie debating who was right. Furthermore, you say you were “spoon-fed”, yet you didn’t even mention the feminist statement the movie made by acknowledging the women as not only as the strongest people (Okoye and the army), but also as the smartest (T’Challa’s sister). Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t recall a single super hero movie in history being this dynamic or inspiring. You feel lectured? Good. Perhaps, you should do a little background check on the history of this character’s roots and understand that this movie was supposed to be more than a Marvel action fest centered around a man literally covered in the American flag. It means more than you can possibly imagine, so next time (just my opinion) maybe you should ask for some advice or interview people from different cultural backgrounds when reflecting on a hero inspired by the Civil Rights movement. I’m happy to discuss this further with you or anyone else.

    • America needs to be lectured right now … listen and you might actually learn something about black history art culture and people.

  6. Either The Hoya has no black writers to whom they could have assigned this movie or they consciously made the tone-deaf decision of assigning a white person to review one of the most awaited films in modern history that celebrates black culture. Both options are worrisome–and knowing the history of The Hoya being a bastion of white privilege–I’m leaning towards the former.

  7. The author mentions an “uninspired script” and a lecturing, heavy-handed exposition, but her critique of the film is lightened by loads of praise for its actors, its cinematography, and [again, with some caveat] its level of social awareness. This isn’t the worst movie review, but boy is it not the best. It is, quite literally, and despite what lengthy comment soon will follow, un-remarkable.

    What’s really caught my attention is not the piece, but the response it has evoked; I’m troubled by each of the seven comments left below (or above… wherever my comment should end up, after I have finished). And I would like to address each and every one of them, in turn.

    I must say first that I am appalled, and fearful. I am appalled by the personal attacks and derisive commentary rallied against the author; fearful for the ease, and chilling certainty, by which these comments enjoin what one MUST call discrimination—no lesser, softer word can suffice. I am careful not to write my name to this comment for these reasons, and am in this way saddened by the nature of our affairs.

    Sinclair: “white people shouldnt talk about black panther.”

    This is all you wrote.

    I am sympathetic to your name, whether it is yours, or yours only in writing. I am happy to tell you that it calls to mind an enormously relevant, and influential, work—you may have meant to call upon it: I’m talking of The Jungle, a piece which gives your comment life—without which, I am afraid, your comment is more than ignorant, and unworkably terse; it is wicked, cold, and antagonistic to the spirit of cooperation; antagonistic to human flourishing…

    Sinclair (the one more eloquent than you) immersed himself in his subject for many months before putting a single word to ink. This was so that he might know with great intimacy a “system which exploits the labor of men and women for profit”—a system he intended to expose fully, finely, and fairly, above all. The most charitable [and purblind] interpretation of your comment is this: a writer foreign to some subject should hate to write on it! But you have not said this, have you? What you say allows for no such stepwise, patient learning. You do NOT speak, or more probably, do not CARE, for that honestly intended approach toward a subject, espoused by the good Sinclair. No, you’ve drawn a firm and putrid line: whites need not apply to touch THIS subject! Your sentiment is dreadful—dreadful and void of all merits and morals alike.

    To bar a race of people—to bar your fellow human being, for no more than the COLOR of his skin—from engaging with some subject, is offensive to all humanity. It is a moral evil. It is a counterproductive design. And yes it troubles me DEEPLY to read it here of all places, in response to some [albeit mediocre] critique of a film whose themes are these: racial SUBORDINATION, racial SILENCING, racial SEPARATION…

    The answer to a history of evils is not found in some evil of equal, and opposite force, Sinclair! Perhaps I will appear to you naive, to believe, as I do, that it is only in the TERMINATION of some evil—and NOT in its reversal—that we will find any peace around it.

    Another commenter says, “Please do not write articles on movies that you do not understand and that hold power to the development and existence of current and future Black people.”

    This one’s closer to the “charitable” Sinclair, but it’s not quite there, is it? The commenter assumes the author of the piece has failed to understand the film. Why? Perhaps it has to do with what a third commenter noted: “These emotions might have been hard for you to understand because you are not a person of color… this assignment shouldn’t have been assigned to you for that reason.” Yet another commenter (Larenz), despite allowing for the possibility that the author might, in good faith, gain familiarity with the subject through various means of immersion, insists that “[Black Panther] means more than you can possibly imagine.” Why is that? How have Larenz and these other commenters managed to speak so effectively and authoritatively on a topic so thoroughly elusive to the author of this piece? What accounts for this alleged difference in ability? Is it… whiteness? Is that it? Is whiteness INHERENTLY defective? Does whiteness preclude understanding? Does the color of one’s skin divide us so deeply, SO DEEPLY, that no feature of the intellect, however honestly intended, could ever rise to overcome the difference?

    I was taught that skin—skin alone—does NOT effect such thorough, inherent division. That skin is NOT, per se, “divisive.” But rather that it is USED to effect some difference; that it is employed, whether by malice or misguidance, to advantage SOME over others—man over man, group over group. Do you not see that you are doing this now—doing the very most sordid thing that you yourselves, I’m sure, detest? Channeling the hollow and honest-to-goodness meaning-less qualities of SKIN, to effect this meaning-ful divide?

    “Hello” says, “stick to raising your hand in IR.” You are a condescending fool, to whom I should likewise speak DOWN, and brush now quickly past.

    The moderators of this thread have done the author a great disservice by allowing this comment to stand. The comment references some class, of which we must—for the wellness of this author—assume the author a member (a student). Comments of this sort serve no possible good or purpose but to humiliate, or else to threaten the author PERSONALLY. It is devoid of constructive, or critical substance. It is simple, unwashed malignity. And it is chilling to the air of free discourse that we, as students at University, would do so well to cherish.

    “Gtown” writes, “America needs to be lectured right now.”

    Perhaps what it needs is free and open dialogue; is discourse, debate, and disagreement; is open, honest thinking. No? Is it lectures, as you say? Well who will set for us the lectures? Who are you—who am I, who is ANYONE—to condemn benighted thought… to decree our “proper” instruction… to ordain our “proper” instructors?

    Commenter “LOL” makes a bold claim and a bolder inference: “the history of The Hoya being a bastion of white privilege” suggests to him, or to her, that the Hoya has unjustly denied black authors an opportunity to write, to speak.

    I do not believe a sensible reader will be swayed by allegations of GREAT magnitude upon which not little, but NO evidence, is appended. I myself am not. The burden is not on me to disprove it (further, I have no desire whatsoever to dis-prove it—if it is true, then I should LIKE to know it true; if false, then I should LIKE to know it false; I wish to have, and to know, REAL THINGS). The burden is on YOU to support great claims, with evidence well-proportioned to their greatness!

    I have nothing more to add, except to reiterate and pronounce my SEVERE disappointment with the callous dealings and unbrotherly sentiments expressed by my fellow readers and commenters; by my neighbors, and fellow Hoyas. I wish nothing but love and understanding and beg forgiveness for the length of my response. Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    DY

  8. I have watched the movie and I found it really amazing. Good to see.superhero movies like blank panther topping the charts.

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