First things first:
- Yes, you should see it.
- The costuming is easily some of the best of any superhero movie. STUNNING.
- The women in Black Panther make the movie. Hands down. In my mind Black Panther himself was really just the glue holding together all these fierce, brilliant women warriors around him - and I AM SO OK WITH THAT.
- The 2 hours and 15 minutes does drag a bit. A few scenes are repetitive (same fights, different fighters) so to me it actually felt longer.
- Black Panther is unlike any superhero movie I've seen, and required the most post-processing. (I saw it two weeks ago, if that gives you any idea.) This is not a popcorn flick where you check your brain at the door; there are deeper issues addressed, as the Wakandans wrestle with the politics of things like immigration, isolationism, and coming to the aid of other countries. (Any of those issues sound familiar, fellow Americans? Yeeeeah.) So if you go in expecting just another superhero story like everything before, with 'SPLOSIONS and wisecracks and all the other familiar tropes, then you might be disappointed. More on that in a sec.
SPOILERY BITS AHEAD.
I went in knowing nothing about Black Panther, so from the trailer I expected a variation on Wonder Woman's origin story: a hero emerges from a powerful, hidden society, enters the "real" world, and proceeds to bang some heads in the name of justice. Instead, Black Panther never leaves his hidden society - or at least not for long. And instead of fighting for the entire world against alien foes, T'Challa fights to keep his own throne, in his own country, against his own people. It's a very insular story, and compared to movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, has seemingly small stakes.
Like I said, wasn't expecting that.
There's Nakia, T'Challa's ex who left Wakanda to go free truckloads of human-trafficking victims - by herself. And then there's Okoye, general of the Dora Milaje, the king's personal guard, and my personal favorite.
There's a fight scene in a casino - sometime around the halfway mark, maybe? - that was the highlight of the whole film for me. Watching Okoye rip the wig from her head so she can fight better, then later leap onto the roof of a moving car with her spear to go take down the baddies literally brought a tear to my eye. It was so dang beautiful, you guys:
Black Panther who? THIS WOMAN IS THE REAL STAR.
I especially love that Okoye and the other Dora Milaje - and all the women of Wakanda, really - are gorgeous and feminine without being impractical or hypersexualized. They don't try to look like men or hide their sex, but they do adapt their makeup and Wakandan clothing so they can fight. Even when they have to wear Western disguises, the first thing they do in a scrap is get rid of the heels and long hair! Ha!
Other highlights: At first I was afraid Martin Freeman (aka "one of the Tolkien white guys," which STILL cracks me up) would just be the bumbling comic relief, so it was a nice surprise seeing him step up and actually, you know, be good at his job. When he chooses to risk his life in the pilot chair? Oof. Hero moment.
Andy Serkis plays the Big Bad Guy who suddenly ISN'T the Big Bad anymore, because he gets unceremoniously shot and replaced with a GQ model you can't decide if you're supposed to feel sorry for or not, until someone says, "Oh yeah, his name is KILLMONGER," which helps clear that up.
Serkis makes a great villain; you hate him even while he's making you laugh - a definite Joker vibe. I kind of wish he'd stuck around, because the stoic asshole-ery of Killmonger is honestly a bit boring, and the one-on-one fights between him and T'Challa seem to drag on. Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather watch buildings getting blown up by alien death rays than two sweaty guys slap each other around a wading pool:
...but I DO realize that's probably just me. ;)
That reminds me: Wakanda is this super advanced utopia of a society... where anyone can become king by winning a fist fight?
Which brings me to my only real problem with the plot, so let's see if this bugged anyone else:
The Wakandans make Killmonger their new king - even though they hate him - because he won the traditional fight against T'Challa, right? But when it turns out T'Challa is still alive, and is therefore STILL KING according to that same law, everyone except the Dora Milaje just... shrug it off?
Like they're all, "Sure, Killmonger is a jerkface who burned our sacred plants and killed our favorite priest, and sure, our old king who we liked better is technically still king according to our own laws, but screw it, LET'S FOLLOW JERKFACE AND KILL OUR FRIENDS FOR HIM."
I get that the film makers needed a big climactic fight scene for the end of the movie, but that sudden leap pulled me right out of the movie. Same thing when T'Challa's life-long best friend turned on him for not catching Andy Serkis in the first 2 seconds. It's like, c'mon, dude, he's TRYING. Why the hate? Can't we just hug this out, b*tches?
Don't worry, though; the Dora Milaje manage to salvage the finale by just, you know, being themselves:
Aw yeeeeah. Go get 'em, ladies.
The final showdown between T'Challa and Killmonger was, again, kind of tedious for me. I was hoping Okoye would get to take down Killmonger herself, but then, I suppose we have to let Black Panther win SOME of the fights in his own movie. :D
Right, I think that's everything I wanted to mention - so now it's your turn! What'd you guys think? Who was your favorite? What did you love about Black Panther, what did you just like-as-a-friend? SPILL.