Leland is a movie lover from way back! He offers tasteful critiques and original insights to help you make an informed viewing decision.
Chadwick Bosman Dons The Black Panther Cowl!
Warning- Spoilers Ahead!
Where This Movie Excelled:
Two words- Chadwick Boseman. He won me over in his first appearance as T'Challa (aka Black Panther) in "Captain America: Civil War." He was smooth, elegant, classy, dangerous- the perfect choice for the role.
T'Challa is the new king of Wakanda, a technological wonder due to unlimited quantities of vibranium buried in the mountains of the mysterious nation.
The action scenes are of the quality we have come to expect from MCU film projects, and I don't say that in the sense of the sequences being "same old, same old." The fight scenes are unique, powerful, fast-paced, and keep you on the edge of your seat. One was particularly spectacular: an acrobatic fight as rival Black Panthers (T'Challa and Killmonger) trade blows while falling from a dizzying height. The film managed to retain all the excitement and originality MCU standards demand. If you go to the movies for high quality action scenes that bring to life the imagery created in the comics, Black Panther does not disappoint.
Equally impressive (some may say he actually steals the show) is Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, highlighting and adding to, the fighting skills he picked up during training for the continuing Rocky saga, Creed.
The Story Line
Killmonger is the film's angry antagonist. His father, uncle to T'Challa, was killed by T'Challa's father, the previous king of Wakanda. As you can surmise, T'Challa and Kilmonger are cousins. Killmonger grows up in the U.S. an orphan. He joins the military where he enters special ops programs becoming a deadly operative involved in innumerable dangerous missions around the world. T'Challa and the rest of Wakanda know nothing of the existence of the disenfranchised prince of Wakanda, but he knows about them. Killmonger returns to Wakanda to challenge T'Challa for the throne. He has waited all this time, honing his fighting and killing skills, for this moment. His mission- liberate his "brothers and sisters" all over the world using the advanced weaponry available in Wakanda, weaponry T'Challa is unwilling to use. This is where the film took a turn that left me wondering if I had paid to watch a superhero flick or a political biopic.
People of non-color (whites) are referred to throughout the film as "colonizers" and even "white boy" at one point, by a young Wakandan princess. The impropriety of racial slurs aside, "white boy" is a term some people of color living in the U.S. would use when referring to a white male. An African from such an enlightened culture as Wakanda, certainly wouldn't use the phrase. It wasn't just insulting to white people, it was insulting to the movie because it diminished the character of Wakanda and Wakandans, fictitious or not. When that happened the film became less about a positive role model for young blacks, but rather an opportunistic cheap shot at white people in general. Such generic statements leave me shaking my head for two reasons:
- I don't know of any reasonable, sane white person who thinks it's ok to slander blacks. I think whites are pretty much beyond such name calling, at least for the most part, at least in my circles.
- I don't appreciate being lumped in to a group of slavers and colonizers. My grandparents were in Sweden when the slave trade was legal in America not making it to American until the 20th century long after slavery had ended, and my mother was and is a strong advocate of civil rights. So am I.
The repeated use of derogatory language towards white people only distracted and detracted from what could've been a great movie. It conveyed a feeling of bitterness and anger over issues that many white people have fought and died to correct, issues in which people of color were (and in some areas of the world still are) implicated and complicit. No right thinking person wants to see the subjugation of other races. This movie implies that some do. I wanted to take my son to a movie from a film genre we both enjoy, a genre that has mostly included a message of sticking up for the little guy, not sticking it to any particular race of people.
Also disconcerting was that T'Challa never corrects Killmonger in these dialogues. He essentially communicates that yes, white people are all to blame for enslaving people of color, but it isn't right to kill all of them. Well, thank you...I think? For example; early in the film Killmonger says, "The colonizers (white people) have oppressed and killed our brothers and sisters (black people) for centuries." Then, later, when Killmonger challenges T'Challa he says, "I have killed brothers and sisters (again, black people) to get here to fight you." Here is the perfect opportunity for T'Challa to rebuke and correct Killmonger. He could've said something like, "You cannot murder your own people in the name of correcting an injustice. Murder itself is an injustice." Something like that would've engaged the audience intellectually and morally, but alas, it was an opportunity missed. T'Challa's silence leaves us with the impression of a weaker character. Addressing the bizarre convictions of the nemesis would've placed T'Challa on the moral high ground and projected the impression of a wise king. Instead I was left thinking that in some ways T'Challa agrees with Killmonger, in which case why are they even fighting and what is T'Challa defending? Simply his own position as king? Why didn't T'Challa point out the fact that Africa is rampant with human trafficking (the newest and most brutal form of slavery)? I don't like raising this issue in a movie review. On the other hand, I'm not really raising it as much as I am responding to it.
For the reasons listed, I cannot give this film a strong recommendation. However, I am not swearing off my allegiance to the MCU film dynasty and that includes the Black Panther franchise. I just didn't care for this particular film. If there is a 2nd Black Panther I would certainly give it a go so long as anti anybody statements are absent.
Why didn't this movie just stick to unity over common enemies like aliens, robots or even the evils of our own government (something we all like to grouse about) as was the case in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? When I see a movie I didn't like I may feel disappointed, but this one left me with a sense of being cheated.
Black Panther Movie Trailer
Movie With A Message?
Black Panther Just Prior To Final Battle Scene Against Nemesis, Killmonger
Coming May 27, 2018: Captain America- Infinity War
Racist Character Merle Dixon As Portrayed By Michael Rooker On AMC's The Walking Dead
In the picture above, Merle Dixon went from being a racist, backwards, redneck member of the cast of AMC's The Walking Dead, to being one of the respected members of Rick Grimes' cadre of survivors. When we first meet Merle in season 1 he is despised, and rightly so. His racist remarks make the skin crawl. His violence and disregard for all things decent make him one of the characters we want to see killed or bit. However, Merle re-emerges in season 3 as a changed man. He apologizes to D'nai Guria's character, Michone, for his behavior and even dies saving her. For this we begin to forgive Merle. We see that a person can change. We wonder what would've become of Merle had he survived. No such optimism is offered to viewers regarding the way blacks are portrayed as seeing whites in the film, Black Panther. White people are the enemy, get used to it. I find this attitude unacceptable which is why I cannot in good conscience recommend it. Neither could I recommend a film putting forth such a negative view of any race. Just as we are on the verge of truly learning that Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney tapped into something real in their hit song, Ebony And Ivory, slitted doors of understanding are slammed closed by popular culture reflected in movies like Black Panther:
"we all know that people are the same wherever you go. There is good and bad in everyone. We learn to live and we learn to give each other what we need to survive, together alive. Ebony and Ivory live together in perfect harmony."
Of course we recognize that Ebony and Ivory is referring to black people and white people. The anthem beckons us to "live together in perfect harmony," a sentiment we are farther from than we realized, a sentiment being made more difficult to realize due in part to films that demonize a race and pit one group against another.
Black Panther Rated
© 2018 Leland Johnson