Black Panther - Avengers: Infinity War Marvel MCU Movie Marathon
And, now, we come to our last film before Avengers: Infinity War - Black Panther! As always, there will be spoiler as we go along.
I absolutely love Black Panther. In fact, it is one of my favorite Marvel Studios films. Some people have questioned why this movie did as well as it did (to date, the movie has made over $1.3 billion dollars and is the highest grossing superhero film domestically), but, as a person who's always struggled to see representations of myself in the media, I don't have to be black to know how meaningful Black Panther is. I've written about the power of this film before and what it means to people. And, I've also dedicated a blog to why the Wakandan princess Shui is so important. It is a film that has come at the right time and captures the zeitgeist of today. The fact that the cast is almost all black, much of which are women, and a black director is quite wonderful.
When I imagined Black Panther for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I actually imagined somebody about the same age as Tony Stark. But, that is because I am thinking of years of Marvel history that have led T'Challa to be an established world leader. In this universe, though, we are seeing Black Panther in the infancy of his being King of Wakanda. I think Chadwick Boseman is incredible in this role. I have seen him in many different movies and he is a little bit of a chameleon to me, but he always plays strong black men fighting for what they believe in. You can feel the weight of the world on his shoulders, yet he is not so stodgy as to not be able to joke around with his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) or seek love with Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o).
Again, it is amazing that much of Black Panther's supporting cast are women. And, I love that they are not all the same woman. You have the warrior in Okoye (Danai Gurira), the strategist in Nakia, the scientist in Shuri and the mother in Ramonda (Angela Bassett).
I was curious to see how Danai Gurira would be in this role as she already plays Michonne, an iconic role in another popular genre franchise AMC's The Walking Dead. Honestly, though, I don't even see Michonne, even though both characters bear some similarities in being fighters. Okoye is fierce and protective with a strong sense of duty.
Lupita Nyong'o should probably be a Disney Legend by having provided the voice of Maz Kanata in the new Star Wars trilogy, the voice of Raksha in The Jungle Book, the mom in Queen of Katwe and now Nakia in Black Panther. Is there some kind of Disney EGOT-style award for her starring in Disney, Star Wars and Marvel films? LOL. Where Okoye represents the older way of thinking to keep Wakanda hidden to keep it safe from the world, Nakia believes that Wakanda is strong enough that it can still help other less advantaged nations without losing themselves. This is a central theme of the movie - should Wakanda remain in the shadows or should it help others? And how should it help others?
Again, I cannot say enough about Letitia Wright as Shuri. She really steals the show. And, as a character, it is amazing to see a young woman of color who is so smart heading the development of technological advances of an entire nation.
And, Angela Bassett as Ramonda really looks like a queen. I have always loved Angela Bassett from her playing Tina Turner in What's Love Got To Do With It to her work on FX's American Horror Story. She is exactly the way I imagine her from the comics, down to her hair which I am totally obsessed with. Although, in the comics, she is actually T'Challa's step mother and Shuri is his step sister. I think they simplified it for the movies, but it doesn't really change their relationships in terms of caring for each other.
While the representation of women was amazing, I also have to give a shout out to newcomer Winston Duke who played M'Baku, leader of the Jabari Tribe. While his role was relatively small, he made a big impression. I've seen him do the press circuit and he is a big geek himself, so you could tell her enjoyed playing this role. He is definitely a scene stealer. If you haven't searched #MBakuChallenge on Twitter, you are missing something. I am obsessed watching video after video of people performing M'Baku's speech on Challenge Day.
Less successful to me was W'Kabi of the Border Tribe. I didn't have a problem with Daniel Kaluuya's performance, but the character development of W'Kabi. One moment, he is T'Challa's best friend and Okoye's love and the next moment he is at war with them. I get what they were trying to do. His parents were murdered by arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) which showed, to him, that, if Wakanda is not careful, it could be conquered. And, with Killmonger's (Michael B. Jordan) taking over, he sees an opportunity for Wakanda to protect itself by being the conquerors. I just think the switch over was a little less developed.
It was too bad that they killed both of the villains in this film who I thought were both great. Ulysses Klaue was just so fun to watch and you could tell that Andy Serkis was having fun playing him. Serkis is usually known for his motion capture acting in roles such as Golum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and Supreme Leader Snoke in the new Star Wars trilogy. We first saw his character in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Serkis brings Klaue to extra crazy in this film.
While misguided, you could definitely feel for the motivations of Eric Killmonger. His father, who was T'Challa's uncle N'Jobu (Sterling K. Brown), saw a great inequality in the outside world. So, he tried to balance this by helping other black people overcome their oppressors by offering arms and Wakandan technology. Unfortunately, this movie leaves his son an orphan. Killmonger looks to achieve his father's mission on an even bigger scale. Wakanda would be the conquerors and the oppressors instead of the oppressed. Given the racial relations of the times, one can understand the feelings he might have. In every movement, there is always a more extreme way of looking at things. If T'Challa were Martin Luther King, Jr. in this situation, Killmonger would be Malcolm X. Michael B. Jordan did an amazing job in conveying this really complex and fractured character.
There are several callbacks to Captain America: Civil War in this film. The most obvious is the inclusion of Martin Freeman as Everett Ross who T'Challa met when they captured the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) in Berlin. In this film, he is a CIA agent who comes across the Wakandans again while in pursuit of Klaue. Ross not only serves as some connective tissue, but to also add some humor. It also allows Wakanda to have an ally in the outside world as they open themselves to the world.
There is a big continuity error between Black Panther and Captain America: Civil War. In Civil War, we hear T'Chaka speaking at the ratification of the Sokovia Accords and how Wakanda supports the accords because some of their people were killed in the Lagos incident while on an outreach mission. T'Chaka made it sound like HE was now opening up the country to the outside world. But, in Black Panther, we see that Wakanda is still in the shadows with T'Challa opening the country to the outside world. So, which one is it? I am going for the latter.
Other than that, this film is pretty darn great. I am even thinking that I might put this film in my top 3 of Marvel Studios films. I need to look at my list again.
Stan Lee Cameo: Gambler who "looks after" T'Challa's winnings at the speak easy in South Korea.
And, there we have it! For those of you who have followed my Avengers: Infinity War Marvel MCU Movie Marathon, I thank you! I am so excited to see the film tomorrow night. I will offer my general thoughts tomorrow with NO SPOILERS. When I do eventually decide to talk about spoilers, which I'll let some time pass, I will be sure to clearly mark it.