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Monday, 9 April 2018

Reviewing Black Panther


I've seen Black Panther twice at the cinema since it came out and loved it. I thought the second time it was even better. I know there have been various reviews on the movie; this is just my take on it. Will contain spoilers. Will make more sense if you've seen the movie. 



Plot

I found the story to be super engaging; it's about an African country called Wakanda, which harbours vibranium, the most powerful metal in the world. It has great technological prowess and is used to power the country, and is also what creates the Black Panther who is also the King of Wakanda. However, five of the Wakandan tribes came together (one of which resided separately in the mountains) and decided that they were going to protect their vibranium from others trying to steal it. They decided to conceal it and hide it in a magnetic force field around the country. The rest of the world viewed Wakanda as a third world country that didn't get involved in any kinds of war or foreign affairs. Slavery, colonisation, capitalism; Wakanda took no part in it.

The main conflict is centered around whether or not Wakanda should share their technology with the world, or whether or not they need to keep it to themselves to protect their nation and their vibranium. In the late 90s, the King's brother started sending vibranium to an outsider, insisting that they share the vibranium with the rest of the world to help those trapped in poverty. He was living in America and fell in love with an American woman, and saw the pain that those in other countries were going through. However, he tried to kill the King's adviser so the King killed him, leaving behind his son N'Jakada. The King's son T'Challa (also the main protagonist) became the new ruler of Wakanda, and wanted to keep his father's tradition by keeping Wakanda out of foreign affairs. However, N'Jakada had other ideas.


Conflict

N'Jakada would have been a tyrannical ruler. Driven by his anger at his father's death and being kept away from Wakanda his whole life, he fought T'Challa and overthrew him. His plan was for Wakanda to send their weapons to their spies in every country, and use those weapons to murder the current leaders and make Wakanda an empire. He was full of anger at the way Africans had been enslaved by Americans and the colonisation of African nations, and hated that Wakanda had just sat by and done nothing. In a sense I can understand his anger; Wakanda is an African country and they could have used their technology to help emancipate their fellow African nations. But simultaneously, why should Wakanda get involved in stuff that isn't really to do with them?

This film raises questions about power and politics. Is foreign AID just modern enslavement? What if there really was a secret African nation with super advanced technology? Is it their job to help out others just because they share the same skin colour? Exposing Wakanda's vibranium to the world could have lead to the fall of their nation. However, with a good leader and good intentions, they could have ended up helping the rest of the world. Not just African countries; the entire world could become technologically advanced beyond measures if vibranium was shared throughout it. This is something that is questioned throughout the entire movie; at the end T'Challa does decide to open up a foreign help centre in the part of America his uncle died in and N'Jakada was from. In the post-credits scene T'Challa was at the UN and they were discussing Wakanda's aid to the rest of the world.

Characters and Race

My favourite character was the General Okoye. I loved that there were all of these badass female warriors that made up the Dora Milaje, the main Wakandan army. It was refreshing to see lots of tough women - or 'Grace Jones type chicks' - fighting rough. This film did great in terms of having a mix of male and female characters. Not that that's a massively needed part of the story, however it is nice to see a mix as opposed to a team of male characters and one or two token female characters. I think this film did a great job of doing that without being 'in your face' about it. There was so much emotional depth within the story and moments where I was close to shedding a tear because of the amount of sympathy you would feel for the characters.

Some people misinterpret this film as being about 'black supremacy', however the fact that nearly the entire cast is black is barely mentioned or addressed. As most of it takes place in an African nation it's only logical for there to be a mostly black cast. I definitely didn't see this film as being all about 'race', I viewed it as a fantasy-action film with an intriguing story with a few sub-plots that I haven't mentioned else this post would be too long. There were a few cringey parts, like when Shuri was sitting in the lab in Kansas and Everett woke up after he had been healed and she went 'don't scare me coloniser!' I get calling him 'coloniser' was more for comedy effect, and there was lots of humour in this movie which I enjoyed. Another unnecessary bit was when N'Jakada was in the Museum of Great Britain and started lecturing a poor woman working there about how the British came and stole everything. Yes, of course British Colonization was awful and I am very anti-imperialism, and it is true in the film that that artefact was stolen and mis-labelled, however I felt that was unnecessary to the story.

Where I think this film and most films in general shine in terms of social issues is where they let the story show it. Unless a movie is directly about racial issues, such as Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, I don't think there's a need to make it a massive point. By having a movie with a mostly black ensemble and basing it around an African nation where they speak in their own language and showcase their culture, enough is already being done without needing to draw attention to the fact that 'this is a film with black people in it.' I actually wish people wouldn't make such a big deal out of it having a black ensemble as there's so much more to the film than that and that isn't even really part of the story. Yes it is nice and refreshing to see more people of colour in a film portrayed positively, but at the end of the day this is first and foremost a fantasy-action film based on Marvel Comics. 

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