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Is 'Black Panther' a Kid-Friendly Movie?

Ever since Black Panther first pounced into action in Captain America: Civil War, fans wanted to see more of the hero from Wakanda. After almost two years of waiting, movie goers were finally welcomed to the African country.

The movie is sometimes labeled as historic or over-hyped simply because of what it is - a movie about an African superhero, with a mostly black cast (I think there were only two white characters with names), and a black director (Ryan Coogler). As a result, it can be seen as inspiring. It could be great for all children to see the positive role models presented both on screen and behind the scenes.

And, it is.

The movie is rated PG-13. There is some foul language, and because this is a superhero movie, fight scenes in which people are killed or intended to be killed. At one point, a character stuck up her middle finger, and a little girl in our audience tattlingly announced that the character had "said" a bad word.

Black Panther starts with a flashback scene featuring T'Chaka (played by John Kani) as the Black Panther. Then, it returns to shortly after the end of Civil War, with T'Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) returning to Wakanda. The audience learns that while Wakanda is technologically advanced, it values tradition and isolation, both of which cause conflicts for T'Challa and his role as king and Black Panther.

A sure scene-stealer was Letitia Wright as Shuri. She is not only T'Challa's sister and princess of Wakanda, but she is incredibly intelligent, witty and courageous. She is the master of technology, and is giddy to show her brother the new items she created. Some of these advances may look familiar to Marvel Cinematic Universe fans, which actually shows how amazing Shuri is. Some of the technology she created is similar to technology seen by advanced alien cultures in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

I expected the Dora Milaje, the women warriors of Wakanda, to impress as much as the Amazons in Wonder Woman, but they didn't in the same way. They showed strength in many ways, not just fighting abilities. An amazing moment was when the general, Okoye (played by Danai Gurira) stopped a large animal (revealing what animal may give too much away) that was charging toward her just by powerfully, calmly, commandingly standing still.

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Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia held her own as a powerful character and partner in heroism with T'Challa. She strives for change, and is determined to do the right thing.

As the villain Erik Killmonger, Michael B. Jordan redeemed himself from his other superhero role. There was even a moment that felt a little Creed-like to me. The role is twisty, like Marvel sometimes likes to do, so his actions are understandable, and you, like T'Challa, want to feel compassion for him.

Interestingly, a lot of the compassion the audience feels for T'Challa in the first scenes of the movie comes from the emotions delivered by Wright, Gurira, Nyong'o, and Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda. During a traditional fight scene, in fact, their facial expressions easily tell the story and sell the fight.

The scenery throughout was beautiful, whether it was mountains and waterfalls of Wakanda or the neon lights of Korea. One part of a fight scene was straight out of a video game, but not once did I look at the screen and think it looked like CGI, as happens often in superhero movies.

A great thing about the storytelling aspect is that even the little things got answered at some point. Even one line Shuri says about "another broken white boy to fix" isn't forgotten, as it can be concluded that other white boy is the one seen in the second credits scene. My 11-year-old son didn't even have a favorite part of the movie - he said he liked all of it.

The only negative about the movie was the presentation at the theater we went to. The theater's lights remained on for about five minutes in to the movie, and were back on as soon as the credits started, making it a strain to watch the opening scene and the two after credits scene. A theater worker even started vacuuming the theater as the credits were playing.

Black Panther is a movie anyone - Marvel fans or casual movie goers - can appreciate for its beauty, storytelling and acting. It has enough action and humor mixed in to keep younger viewers entertained. As long as children are familiar with superhero violence (including blood and death), and the parents don't mind their children hearing swear words or learning the gesture mentioned, it is a great movie for parents to watch with their kid.

© 2018 Samantha Sinclair

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