"Do the Right Thing"
BLACK PANTHER is a standalone superhero movie about the iconic Marvel Comics hero, who must defend his mysterious, technologically advanced African kingdom and the world from a threat coming from inside his own royal family. BLACK PANTHER is exciting and ultimately redemptive, with tremendous special effects and fabulous production designs, and less foul language than recent Marvel outings, but the plot gets a little too complicated, unfocused and talky, with too many characters and a few annoying politically correct canards and some ancestor worship.
The movie begins by telling the back story of the African kingdom of Wakanda. Millions of years ago, before man, a large meteor full of a powerful, superstrong material called vibranium crashed in the middle of Africa. Five tribes discovered the magical properties of the material and used it to create a hidden, technologically advanced nation, but one of the tribes rejected the modernization and established a separate realm in the mountains. The four other tribes picked a king by combat, and he became the Black Panther, a hero imbued with superpowers from a special flower that’s grown for millions of years in the country’s vibranium enriched soil. The Black Panther protects the country and its fantastic capital city, which has been hidden from view using cloaking technology.
Cut to 1992. The current King, T’Chaka, visits his brother in Oakland, Calif., which his brother is using as a base to spy on the rest of the world. The King is upset that his brother has married an American woman, with whom he has a young son, and, worse, is stockpiling futuristic Wakandan weapons to lead a global war to take control of the world. The brother’s right-hand man has actually been spying on the brother for King T’Chaka. The King demands his brother return home and face judgment, but the brother refuses and tries to kill the spy. However, the King kills his brother before that happens. The King decides to take the weapons back home, but leaves and abandons his nephew to fend for himself in Oakland.
Cut to the present day.
Having learned the truth about his father’s country and how he died, the nephew has teamed up with Wakanda’s nemesis, a South African arms dealer named Ulysses Klaue, to steal more Wakanda technology. A former Special Forces soldier nicknamed Killmonger, the nephew plans to steal the throne from T’Challa, the son of King T’Chaka, who’s still mourning his beloved father’s death from a terrorist bomb. As the new Black Panther, T’Challa must work with a female Wakandan spy with whom he’s romantically entangled and with the general of Wakanda’s elite female warriors to stop Klaue and Killmonger. They’re aided by his brilliant younger sister, who runs Wakanda’s technological development, and a CIA agent.
The basic plot of BLACK PANTHER is slowed down by the two opening sequences. There’s also a scene where T-Challa must fight off a would-be challenger to the throne, as well as a scene that introduces the love interest and the female general. Thus, the first real confrontation with the two villains and their team doesn’t occur until well into the first act.
That said, once the movie gets down to business, there’s a lot of compelling, exciting, crowd-pleasing action. The first showdown with the villains in South Korea leads to a nifty car chase. Also, the stakes are raised eventually when the vengeful nephew finally reveals his plan to take over the throne and become the Black Panther so that he can lead oppressed people in a war against the nations of the Earth and establish himself as King of the World. BLACK PANTHER also has some wonderful production design, costuming and special effects. The performances are also well done. Chadwick Boseman makes the perfect Black Panther, and he gets solid support from a talented cast of other women and men.
Another piece of good news is that BLACK PANTHER has less foul language than other recent Marvel offerings. MOVIEGUIDE® has been complaining about this for several years. Hopefully, BLACK PANTHER marks a change in direction for Marvel superhero movies. As moviegoers showed last year, too much foul language can hurt the bottom line. In fact, the top three movies released in 2017 had little to no foul language, earning well more than $1.5 billion in the United States and Canada alone!
BLACK PANTHER also has no objectionable sexual content or explicit nudity. However, its worldview is a bit mixed.
On the negative side, BLACK PANTHER has a light Romantic worldview with some politically correct content, including some revisionist history. For example, there’s a lot of talk about how oppressed black people are around the world. The movie blames this all on white European colonists, mostly because of slavery, but fails to mention that it was the Muslims who brought widespread slavery to Africa and that many Africans sold their brothers and sisters to the slave traders. There are also some comments about the allegedly bad social conditions in the United States, when, in fact, the social conditions in the U.S. are far better than the social conditions in other parts of the world, including many (if not most) African countries run by Africans today.
BLACK PANTHER also contains elements of ancestor worship and witchcraft. To gain the superpowers of the Black Panther, for instance, the Wakandan king must sip an elixir made from a flower that’s been soaking up the vibranium enriched soil. After drinking the elixir, the king goes into an hallucinatory state where he can converse with his ancestors. Thus, when T’Challa drinks the elixir, he has a conversation with his murdered father while their ancestors present. This magical juju is a bit silly, but later, the movie shows that T’Challa’s father and his other ancestors have been wrong about the direction of his country for centuries. So, the movie eventually shies away from actually promoting ancestor worship.
On the positive side, the movie argues against the ancestors and in favor of doing the right thing. Thus, eventually the Black Panther decides that Wakanda can’t stay isolated and must share its technology with the rest of the world, especially to help those most in need. The movie also speaks against revenge and supports repentance and reconciliation. It also contains some allegorical Christian references to death, baptism and resurrection. At one point, the evil nephew even asks the Black Panther, “Where is your God now?”
Taken altogether, the content in BLACK PANTHER merits caution for older children.
BLACK PANTHER is a standalone superhero movie about the iconic Marvel Comics hero. T’Challa, also known as the Black Panther, must take his dead father’s place as King of Wakanda, a mysterious, technologically advanced country in Africa that keeps its true nature hidden from a greedy world. As the Black Panther, T’Challa learns he must defend his throne and the world from a threat coming from inside his royal family. A cousin he never knew he had has teamed up with Wakanda’s arch nemesis, a South African arms dealer.
BLACK PANTHER is exciting and ultimately redemptive, with tremendous special effects and fabulous production designs. The performances are well done. Chadwick Boseman makes the perfect Black Panther. Happily, the movie has less foul language than recent Marvel outings. That said, the plot gets a little too complicated, unfocused and talky, with too many characters, a few annoying politically correct canards, and some ancestor worship. However, BLACK PANTHER also has some strong moral elements about doing the right thing and helping people in need. There are also some redemptive allegorical Christian elements in BLACK PANTHER.