Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
In the movie, men talk to their dead fathers in the spirit world. encounters his dead father in the spirit world and briefly converses with him. In reality, this is not possible.
ghosts in the Bible
Battle between good and evil
KINGS in the Bible
Bravery / Courage / Self-sacrifice
Isolationist nation—Is this a good or bad strategy, biblically?
Wakanda’s fear of being discovered prevented them from doing what was right
Chadwick Boseman … T'Challa / Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan … Erik Killmonger
Lupita Nyong'o … Nakia
Martin Freeman … Everett K. Ross
Angela Bassett … Ramonda
Forest Whitaker … Zuri
Andy Serkis … Ulysses Klaue
Danai Gurira … Okoye
Daniel Kaluuya … W'Kabi
Letitia Wright … Shuri
Winston Duke … M'Baku
Sterling K. Brown … N'Jobu
Florence Kasumba … Ayo
John Kani … T'Chaka
David S. Lee … Limbani
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|Director||Ryan Coogler—“Creed” (2015), “Fruitvale Station” (2013)|
David J. Grant
Walt Disney Pictures
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|Distributor||Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
Sequel: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022)
Shortly after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is still grieving the loss of his father T’Chaka, who was killed in an explosion. Being sworn in as king of one of the most mysterious nations in the world (Wakanda) definitely brings its challenges. After holding off a daring challenge to the throne from a mountain tribesman, T’Challa receives word that the secret of his hidden nation could be getting out to the public.
Wakanda is hidden by an invisible shield created by a metal called “vibranium” that was discovered from a meteor. This element has allowed them to make remarkable advancements in technology, science, infrastructure and transportation (it’s like a futuristic utopia of sorts). T’Chaka and his predecessors wanted to keep the vibranium to themselves because they feared the rest of the world would use it for negative purposes such as war.
It turns out, however, that someone is out to get revenge on T’Chaka and take over Wakanda. He also plans to use the nation and its resources to initiate truly horrible things.
“Black Panther” follows some typical superhero plot points, but it does make a few changes along the way. Perhaps the biggest is in how the villain is represented. He doesn’t really play a big part until close to an hour into the film. Until then, we are entertained by a more minor villain named Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). There are several stabs at humor (not unusual for a Marvel flick), and thankfully the jokes are very good-natured and funny.
Speaking of the villain, he’s one of the most interesting villains Marvel’s put together. He’s given interesting reasons behind taking over Wakanda. Michael B. Jordan gives an energetic performance that adds a layer or two more than what you might expect a villain to have. As for Boseman, he aptly provides the heart and soul of the strong but gentle-hearted character. Lupita N’yongo gives a memorable performance as the kind Nakia. Movie fans and “Lord of the Rings”/“Hobbit” fans, may be excited to see Martin Freeman (reprising from “Civil War”) and Serkis together again in an interesting scene. There are a lot of characters to keep up with, however. This makes veteran actors such as Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker have less screentime than people might have hoped for.
Ludwig Gorannson’s score cleverly mixes African beats with some orchestral pieces. The production design and costume design carry bits and pieces of originality and uniqueness. The visual effects, like most superhero movies, are impressive, but sometimes over-the-top. The action sequences are exciting, but the camera work is a bit shaky in places.
As for the usual Marvel elements, Stan Lee’s cameo doesn’t disappoint. And the second post-credits scene is worth waiting for.
The most prominent message here is the importance of making wise choices, and the dangers that can come from negative ones. Throughout the film, the events involving the villain are connected to a poor decision made by T’Chaka years ago. The Bible warns us that we reap what we sow.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” —Galatians 6:7
In the midst of this, the film also points out the importance of integrity. T’Challa and the people are lied to about an event that supposedly happened years ago. Some of this controversy causes some Wakandans to question T’Challa’s right to rule. This idea clearly relates to a verse in Proverbs.
“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” —Proverbs 10:9
It is through hearing this dark family secret that T’Challa realizes that he can learn from his family’s past mistakes, as well as his own. In addition, he can use the wisdom he’s gained to motivate himself to become a better leader for his people. At the same time, Nakia reminds him that “no human is perfect,” assuring him that mistakes are part of people’s lives.
The film discusses ideas regarding what makes a good leader, as well as the idea of whether to remain faithful to a nation regardless of who is the leader. T’Challa is often tempted to take people’s lives, but is always advised that the world will see what he does. He later exercises grace toward others, willing to try to bring them to the light. In one other moment, he shows compassion for (and tries to save) someone who took a bullet for one of his fighters (even if it means risking Wakanda’s safety in the process). In many ways, T’Challa showcases an attitude and persona that brings to mind what the Apostle Peter said,
T’Challa and the rest of his crew willingly risk their lives to try and save their country and the world.
Language: The MPA’s PG-13 reasoning included a “rude gesture”. This comes from T’Challa’s sister towards the beginning. She gives the “middle finger” in response to one of her brother’s teasings. She is reprimanded for this action.
Elsewhere, there are four uses of the s-word, three uses of “h***,” and one “a**.” “Oh my g**” is uttered once.
Sexual Content: There are a couple of passionate kisses between couples. The females on Wakanda wear tight outfits (though some complain about it). A few outfits in a gambling place are low-cut. Males go shirtless in Wakanda fairly often.
Drugs/Alcohol: Someone orders whiskey at a bar. Other alcoholic drinks are spotted on tables. A serum apparently has the power to weaken someone.
Violence: This is the biggest of the content concerns. Overall, the violence is a little more visceral than you might expect from a superhero movie like this. An early scuffle involves gunshots, punches and Black Panther using his claws. However, the shaky camerawork keeps the biggest impacts off-screen. A couple of flashbacks to the U.N. explosion in “Captain America: Civil War” are seen again.
A man is knocked across a room by stored energy. A fight in a gambling room involves gunshots, spears stabbing people (mostly off-screen) and an explosion. A chase involves cars traveling at high speeds, crashing, flipping upside down and literally being blown apart.
A fake arm is ripped off. Someone is shot with a gun three times, with somewhat bloody entry wounds seen in two places. Others are killed by gunshot. Someone is killed by sharp claws. A bomb explodes a brick wall. A man blocks a grenade from exploding; we see a limited reaction. Rhinos and other large creatures knock soldiers away in another action scene. Ships are fired at and explode. Someone is run over by a car; we only see the person in the car and hear a bump.
T’Challa gets into a couple of “challenge” fights for the throne. Both result in some severe injuries. A man is stabbed in the side before wrestling his opponent down. In another fight, a man slices his opponent’s face. But the opponent slices his side and leg before stabbing him and then throwing him off a waterfall. Another fight involves characters getting hit into a wall by a train, and more stabbing. Someone takes out a sword (bloodlessly).
The film’s opening segment, told in sand figures, involves images of slavery and war with spears and airplanes firing. Someone is poisoned and passes out.
Other: Wakanda has an odd religion that involves ancestor worship and powerful serums or spells. The movie’s opening prologue tells a story involving a Panther god giving special powers to the first “Black Panther.” A man is buried alive and drinks a serum that allows him to go into an altered state and speak with his deceased father in a spirit world. He does this twice. The villain does the same. The serum is made from a glowing purple flower. There is also a serum that causes T’Challa to lose his abilities; we see him react and slightly convulse to both serums.
Characters lie and steal, at times. The villain’s plot involves implications of starting a war between races.
“Black Panther” currently has many people talking. Similar to “Wonder Woman” last year which had a female superhero lead, this movie is a cultural touchstone as it is the first real superhero movie having an African lead. Considering the controversy involved in today’s world, the film’s release seems very timely.
The overall movie has a different feel and tone in comparison to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is entering its 10th year). The result is an entertaining ride with some nice original touches. But it’s not one of the superhero genre’s most moving tales. Unlike the emotional heft at the end of “Wonder Woman” or “Civil War,” “Black Panther” definitely has heart, but it doesn’t emotionally move or inspire in the same way.
Some have been critical about the movie being just politically-correct commentary. And it is true that a few moments/lines of dialog may bring to mind certain ideas involving racism. However, I thought that the stronger messages of integrity, self-reflection, grace and striving to make wise choices mitigated these concepts. And the movie presents a true, honest hero that models compassion and respect for everyone, regardless of skin color.
As for content concerns, the violence is the major concern here. I did hear a few younger kids cry in the audience at the screening I attended. While not very bloody, “Black Panther” is intense, and the shaky camerawork at times may induce motion sickness for some. Wakanda’s spirituality also will likely be a turn-off for some families. On a more positive note, foul language is infrequent, and there is no inappropriate humor or strong sexual content. Ultimately, with the PG-13 rating in mind, parents are encouraged to take the content problems listed here into consideration before making a decision for their family.
In my opinion, “Black Panther” doesn’t reach the top pantheon of Marvel films. It’s sometimes messy and unbalanced in its pacing. And it doesn’t deliver the same gut-punching, jaw-dropping twists and surprises of “Thor: Ragnarok” or “Civil War.” But, it’s still entertaining and unique for a Marvel film, and includes the laughs and excitement one would expect.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.