I'm not one to make bold, large voiced statements like this. The idea that one movie will change all movies thereafter is a large claim. And I think if any movie will do it, it's this one. Now before some of you jump into the lack of sexual-orientation diversity, give me a second, I'll touch on that in a minute. What I mean by this statement is that Black Panther does something that has been done before, but never to this scale and never with this much national and critical magnitude. Black Panther is an incredible movie. Period.
We've had many movies over the course the last century that have had primarily black casts. One of my personal favorites, Friday, is hailed as a a cult classic among hip-hop culture fans (and stoners alike). With the exception of a few background extras, the entire cast is without white presence. Tyler Perry has yielded nearly countless productions with predominantly black casts (although the success and critical magnitude of many of those productions is debatable, however his impact on the film industry remains significant nonetheless). But unlike Ice Cube's cult hit, and unlike the production powerhouse of Tyler Perry's staff, Black Panther manages to break open the mold that has been almost exclusively white since the inception of super heroes in mass media.
Black Panther, the story of a man's rise to the throne of Wakanda, a fictional African nation that has remained dormant from the outside world since it's collective creation, touches upon age old themes while also offering solutions to modern world issues. And while in my review I will touch on some areas of technical bugs and issues, I will focus primarily on some of the backlash the movie has been receiving. While a slightly arbitrary number based on the few dozen reviews I've read after seeing the film for myself, a common criticism has been that Wakanda is an "isolationist, nationalist, militaristic country with no signs of opening up to other societies". Many of said reviews go on to compare Wakanda to an idealistic white supremacist state but with Wakandans rather than racist bigots.
My response to this is (and spoilers here): DID YOU SEE THE END OF THE DAMN MOVIE? One of the core themes of the movie is that Wakanda, since it's beginning, has isolated itself due to fear of letting the outside world in. To them, it's how they maintained their peace, sanity, and technological advancement.
This is not only an external struggle between our core characters, but an internal struggle of T'challa throughout the entire movie. In the end, he decides to approach the United Nations and begin to establish outside connections so that they may begin to share their knowledge with the outside world (and in turn bring a balance to society). The film even ends where it begins, on a basketball court in an underprivileged neighborhood of Oakland, California. Only now, T'challa, unlike his father, has decided to open up to the world and prosper together.
I can only say to these critics that call the movie and it's message closed and isolated, please stop spreading critically fake news. It doesn't help ourselves and the next generation in anyway to become a better, more progressive society.
Briefly I'd like to touch on the controversy surrounding the lack of sexual-orientation diversity in Black Panther. While I admittedly have not fully educated myself on this controversy, I will not deny that there are only two apparent relationships in the film and both occur between a single man and a single woman (Killmonger's lustful relationship with a fellow crime accomplice and T'challa's relationship with ex turned Queen at the end of the film).. No other relationships are apparent. And, admittedly, it would have been very nice to see LGBTQ relationships featured in such a progressive and diverse film.
However, to those that turn down the film or claim that it isn't diverse entirely or lacks real progress, please take a minute to realize what this movie is attempting to do and understand that all of the changes we want are coming. I have full faith, full hope that all people regardless of race, sexual orientation, financial background and creed will have proper representation. We are making progress, and it may not be happening all at once or all within the same project, but it is happening. We live in a time where a man who Tweets his thoughts runs our government and preys on the primal instincts of an old society. But we, along with those involved in Black Panther, those involved in the Parkland gun control movement, and those involved in any form of radical progress, are in fact making progress.
We are going to get there, we just have to keep pushing, step by step.
I mentioned previously I do in fact have a few technical issues with the film. Overall, it was incredible. But there are many, many visual effects that lack refinement and, as I say on the premiere episode of the Post Deduction podcast available here on Tek5.org, it has moments that remind of George Lucas prequel-era green screen scenes. A lack of environmental blending, color and perspective inconsistencies, and overall visual mismatching make a few of the scenes feel off. That being said, I'm am being nitpicky with these as the key scenes (Korea, the climatic battle scene in Wakanda) are well refined.
My other issue is with some of the character shifts and motivations that take place. For example, T'challa's adviser's swap sides a little too quickly after his initial failure to capture Claw. It's not as though T'challa didn't attempt to capture Claw, or even say it wasn't worth trying again. He simply had one failure within days of starting his job as King. I don't know if anybody has ever had a job where they didn't make at least a couple well-intentioned mistakes in their first few days.
Other than these criticisms, I loved Black Panther and encourage anyone and everyone to go see it. It pays homage in the best ways possible, it understands it's source material, it has adapted and changed with the culture, and stands as perhaps the best stand-alone Marvel Studios film to date.
For me, it's a 9.5/10.
This article was written by Steve Douglas, Chief Creative Creative Officer, Editor and Operations Specialist for Tek5.org.
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