We have some friends who are expecting a baby in the next few months and they generously offered to babysit for us while husby and I had a date night last night. So, we went to sushi and then saw Black Panther over at the fancy movie theater with the leather seats.
It’s a really fun superhero movie!
Stop reading now if you don’t like spoilers because I’m going in with zero regard.
Are you still reading?
Are you sure you’re ready for the spoilers?
You’d better be ready because I’m only going to warn you one more time.
That was it. That was your last warning, so here goes.
The movie starts up right after the Wakandan king, T’Chaka, was killed in that explosion in Captain America: Civil War. T’Challa has returned and he’s being crowned king. His first major decision is to avenge his farther and track down this guy named Klaue who was behind that deadline explosion.
This mission goes sideways because T’Challa’s long-lost cousin is a guy named Erik, AKA Killmonger, wants to take the throne to avenge the murder of his father by T’Chaka. So, the movie is spent with T’Challa re-claiming his throne and reaching the decision that Wakanda should not remain secret from the world forever.
The structure of the movie is a very, very standard three-act story. Perhaps this is because I’ve been spending so much time thinking about story structure, but I found it pretty predictable. Like, “Oh, they look like they’re going to win, but they won’t because they aren’t the hero of this story.” or “Oh, we want him to win, but he can’t. This is where our hero needs to hit rock bottom, so his defeat here needs to be really devastating.” or “This character is on a redemption arc, so even though he was being mean, he’s probably a good guy now.” or “They need one more try-fail cycle before wrapping this up.”
I don’t regard this sort of predictability as a bad thing. Genre fiction operates on lots of tropes and the use of tropes is not inherently bad. This movie is well-paced and the tight structure actually ensures that it remains exciting and hits all the right notes at the right time. It’s WHY the movie is so fun to watch as a story.
The characters in the movie are wonderful. Shuri is my favorite. She has a youthful energy and humor that I enjoyed quite a lot. Also, she’s the geek in the royal family, so she has the best toys. I also like Ayo a lot because she’s just a pure badass.
I also really love the styling in the movie. From the clothing to the architecture to the music to the way they use technology, the filmmakers drew heavily on African design motifs. It’s gorgeous and different from almost everything else out there. Wakanda, as a city of the future, isn’t composed of buildings that look like crystals. Their vehicles don’t resemble tanks or suppositories — at least not very much. Instead, they use patterns from African textiles both in the clothing and the decor. And most things incorporate elements that seem to be drawn from nature. So, they have flying vehicles that look like bees and the buildings all incorporate trees and natural elements.
I will say: I did NOT like how some of the buildings were simply made to look like futuristic huts. For instance, there’s a skyscraper with an awning on it that looks like someone made it from metal palm fronds. It felt like whoever was behind those items was drawing too literally on the historical African housing rather than extrapolating the aesthetic and positing what it would be in the future.
But overall the styling is gorgeous and it has me looking more into Afrofuturism.
The movie also touches on ideas around colonialism, race, welfare, and identity. Unfortunately, I think it touches too lightly on these elements. The motivations of the bad guy on a personal level are perfectly intelligible, but at the political level are unjustified and to the extent that one can understand exactly what he wants to accomplish are preposterous. It seems like he wants to overthrow all governments and create a global culture in which black people rule supreme. He doesn’t SAY that, but it seems like that’s where he’s going.
All the characters are each so unique and individualized, that I was disappointed that T’Challa and the heroes never stop the bad guys to point out that Killmonger is treating black people like racist white people treat them. He’s just doing it because he thinks he knows what’s best for them rather than how he could exploit them. Instead, it seems like T’Challa accepts some of the bad guy’s ethical premises.
Anyway. The film really does not give much detail on these arguments. The format and pacing really prevent deep philosophical debates around what Wakanda should do with its immense wealth and futuristic technology. But it is part of the story.
So, overall, it’s a really fun, exciting movie. You should definitely go see it.
OH. If you’re hoping that Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan will make out, I’m sorry to report that it does not happen.