So, I’ve taken a long time to get around to seeing what’s pretty much the most critically acclaimed Marvel movie ever made. To be honest, I probably still wouldn’t have seen Black Panther if it hadn’t popped onto Netflix this month.
Might I have rented it from Redbox? Perhaps. But I was at least a little bit afraid I’d find it severely over-hyped and not so great. Like that audiences had been so excited to see this much racial diversity that they’d write off the whole thing as fantastic without a good cause.
But I was surprised to find that the hype had been pretty accurate.
A unique premise, for a superhero movie…
If you’ve heard anything about the movie at all, you’ve probably heard of “Wakanda” and seen that the movie has some kind of tribal, African setting.
What I didn’t realize, though, was that the movie was set almost entirely in this world. I’d assumed we’d start out there and then move predictably to the U.S. Marvel-verse where this Black Panther guy would conveniently cross paths with a bunch of the other Marvel superheroes.
But not so.
The story revolves almost entirely around T’Challa, newly crowned king of the small, prosperous African country Wakanda. This country apparently sits on a huge store of the world’s most valuable natural resource (which can, rather conveniently, do all kinds of outrageously cool things…), so outside villains want to get their hands on it and take over, etc. etc.
But despite a somewhat familiar storyline, the unique setting and some unexpected roles that side characters play make the whole thing feel pretty fresh.
My particular favorites…
Michael B. Jordan plays the main villain (he actually won an MTV award for best villain for this role, and he quipped in his acceptance speech that he never expected this, as he thought Rosanne Barr would win this award… but I digress), and his character is a sharp, sometimes fun contrast to the tribal world it’s set it – he’s a street-smart ex-military assassin, so he throws around slang and light profanity in the midst of people talking about kingship, tradition, and the like in their heavy accents and proper language.
And then the women of Wakanda are pretty darn b-a, from the bald but feminine general chick, to T’Challa’s love interest who isn’t content to sit around and look pretty. The nice thing is that these women are strong and fierce, without making a femi-nazi, women-are-superior type case about it.
I especially liked T’Challa’s sister Shuri, who is the head of “tech” for the country and makes smart aleck quips about everything (in true Marvel style) throughout the movie.
It’s rated PG-13 – some light profanity, a middle-finger gesture, and some violence. The violence is at times a bit more intense than what we typically see in a superhero movie, but not R-rating worthy.
I wasn’t expecting to like the movie as much as I did. And at times it did feel a bit like any old superhero movie. But I think there’s only so much you can do to make a superhero movie unique and new, and this one on the whole seems to have done it.