On February 15th, Marvel released the highly anticipated Black Panther movie, directed by Creed's Ryan Coogler and featuring a star-studded cast including Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o . . . the list goes on. Did the movie live up to the hype? Mary and Emily are here to provide their spoiler-filled opinions.
Emily: Let me turn on the Black Panther soundtrack for this. I advise our readers do the same.
Mary: So, like the rest of the world, Black Panther has been on our radar for a while now. The new Marvel film features an all star cast, high budget special effects, and a look at something we haven’t seen before from Marvel: world building (on earth).
The movie follows Prince T’Challa, the successor to the throne of Wakanda, as he takes his place as the Black Panther, the mystical, powerful protector of the nation. However, as he journeys to take down the noted thief and all around crazy person Ulysses Klaue, T’Challa discovers that there’s an even bigger threat to Wakanda’s way of life. Michael B. Jordan.
Emily: Yes, he's just Michael B. Jordan. Hollywood Star Michael B. Jordan. His character doesn't need a name. (I'm just kidding. His name is Killmonger). So anyway. I've heard a lot of people describe this movie as The Lion King meets James Bond, which I think we can talk about.
Mary: Hmmm... I don’t disagree, but we should ask why that’s an assumption maybe. Yes, it has spy elements, and yes, it's set in a fictional African country.
Emily: Well, plot-wise, I will say T'Challa's character journey does remind me a lot of Simba.
Mary: Yes, it reminded me of that too.
Emily: His father dies. He questions whether or not he is a good leader. Michael B Jordan becomes Scar and steals the crown and tells everyone Simba/T'Challa is dead.
Mary: Yes yes.
Emily: But he ain't.
Mary: He rises from the ashes and reclaims his throne with the help of his best lady and mom.
Emily: Spy-wise, it's mostly the scenes with T'Challa's sister Shuri that reminded me of James Bond. Like, she was basically Q.
Mary: Yes, definitely. I loved her.
Emily: I could not figure out where I knew the actress (Letitia Wright) from while I was watching, but she's in an episode of Black Mirror, "Black Museum."
Mary: Aaaaaah, right right.
Emily: But yeah, she was one of my favorite parts of the movie.
Mary: She’s very smart and I think it’s awesome that a teenage girl is in charge of tech for the nation. And everyone is just kind of like, yeah, well she’s the best, so.
Emily: Exactly. Do you have any more to say about the Lion King/Bond comparisons?
Mary: Well, I will just add that I think it’s unfair to compare every African-set piece of media to The Lion King, but I get the urge to do so. Wakanda is playing with stereotypes of Africa by being so concealed. From the outside, it just looks like farmers and livestock, but behind the illusion it’s a full blown city, which people don’t expect. But there are so many big cities in Africa! I just think it’s important to remember that it’s not all grasslands.
Emily: Yes, and probably if we break it down, a lot of hero's journeys look like Simba's.
Mary: Oh, for sure.
Emily: Like Frozen. It's basically The Lion King, but in Scandinavia. See the linked article here if you don't believe me.
Mary: Mmmhmm definitely.
Emily: But it is interesting how Wakanda uses the misconceptions of Africa to protect themselves
Mary: Let's talk about intersectional feminism!
Emily: Okay yes let's talk about feminism. I will be comparing this movie to Wonder Woman a lot because they are both breakthroughs for the superhero genre. One of the biggest critiques of Wonder Woman is that it doesn't do a great job of representing non-white women. And Black Panther does such a great job of not only empowering black characters but black WOMEN characters.
Mary: Yes, and I’d go even farther to specify dark skinned women, which get even less representation in Hollywood.
Emily: Oh yes, totally. The Dora Milaje women in this movie were such badasses.
Mary: They get a lot of development in Roxane Gay’s World of Wakanda series, but they’ve been around for a while.
Emily: I will say I was under the impression that they were going to be dancing more.
Mary: But instead...they were fighting!!
Emily: Which is I guess okay. I'm more into dance movies than fighting movies. But good for them.
Mary: I was constantly in awe of how they are perceived as fierce and sexy, despite their adherence (and preference) for non-normative beauty, like their bald and tattooed heads.
Emily: I loved that. Okoye (played by Danai Gurira) was so compelling. Like, I don't think I've ever seen her in a movie before but I saw her and was immediately like, That's my girl!
Mary: She is sooo cool. Her character is specifically awesome because she is the leader of the Dora Milaje, so so tough, and also clearly very romantic and sexy with a tribe leader. I just like the establishment that her toughness is part of her beauty, and she can be both beautiful and tough! She also gets the wonderful line where she talks about hating wearing a wig (to dress undercover) because it’s embarrassing.
Emily: I will say, however, I was way more interested in all of these side characters than I was in T'Challa himself. Thankfully they were all amazing.
Mary: I was too, for sure. I like T’Challa, but all of the people who populate Wakanda seemed to have stories and desires, too. I felt like character development and world building were a strength here.
Emily: Yes, talk about that because I know that was your favorite part of the movie.
Mary: Yeah! So Wakanda is special to me because it’s completely new.
Thor draws from Norse myth, the Avengers movies and their standalones draw from real life settings and history. But Wakanda was SO NEW when it first popped up in the comics, and it basically ushered in a wave of Afro-Futurism and inspired lots of artists, which is special.
Emily: I totally get that.
Mary: It’s empowering to have a world where those who we think have the least—third world Africans—actually are very smart and capable and just keeping to themselves.
Emily: I don't really read comics so I think as a viewer, I missed out on some of that.
Mary: I read some of the Coates run on Black Panther, but I’m not familiar with the genre a lot. I mostly know about Afro-Futurism from music. But you can definitely see the connections, and I’m hoping kids get pumped about the world building in Black Panther, and that it inspires even more art!
Emily: Yeah so I think all of that was cool, but I think a lot of my issues with the execution of the world building and the action sequences related to it is that it's really hard for me to get into action sequences unless it seems really important to the plot. And this movie, in general, doesn't seem to see plot as a central concern. It's more about setting up the world and the characters.
Mary: Definitely. I’d say the plot is still there, but it’s a classic, somewhat predictable plot.
Emily: To be honest, I was a little disappointed that so much of it happened in Wakanda because that’s not a real place so the stakes seemed really low. Afterwards, I thought, “If you were wondering what it would be like if Wonder Woman had stayed in Themyscira, it would be like this movie.” But then I thought about the ways women are oppressed versus the way black people are oppressed and how that affects the stories that are told about Wonder Woman vs Black Panther. Like, because Wonder Woman has to leave home and Black Panther is about the danger coming to you and finding out who you are by returning to your roots.
Emily: To spell it out a little more, it's important for this female super hero to escape her home and become a part of the public sphere. And for an African hero, it makes sense that his initial story is going to be about connecting identity to his home and keeping the enemy out of his home.
Mary: Right—that is the whole tension of the movie.
Emily: And to take it a step further, it makes sense that our villain Hollywood's Michael B. Jordan is mostly concerned with reclaiming what he thinks was taken from him by returning to Wakanda.
Mary: Yes yes.
Emily: Because he's African American.
Mary: But he doesn't really get Wakanda and sees it as a resource to be distributed, not protected.
Emily: Right, so I totally get why this is the story that needed to be told in the first movie.
Mary: It’s setting up so much.
Emily: I'm just kind of hoping in the next movie we get less of a conventional plot and get to see these characters do some interesting shit in the real world, now that they're connecting with the outside world.
Mary: I think we will.
Emily: Me too. So looking forward to that.
Mary: I’ve been thinking a lot about the comparison to Wonder Woman. For me, I was kind of disappointed in the Wonder Woman movie because while it was enjoyable and good, it could have been so much more. It’s important, it’s fun, but it could have been MORE.
Mary: The problem, for me, is DC and how DC treats it’s characters. DC bills it’s heroes as—not infallible per se—but very very strong and good. They don’t lose a whole lot. Sure, maybe Batman breaks his back or whatever, but he bounces back. Wonder Woman has the most character development of any DC hero on screen so far, and that is amazing. But I wonder what it would have been like if her journey had been defined by herself and her own connection to her home more, like T’Challa. I’m pleased that the romance in Wonder Woman wasn’t all encompassing, but it was so key in the crux of the movie that I wanted to be like, Wonder Woman, you don’t need no man!
Emily: Right like her epiphany was totally based on her relationship to that dude. And losing that dude (Yes, I know his name is Steve Trevor. Don't @ me).
Mary: That’s true in the comics too, just as general trends of those companies.
Emily: Can we talk about Michael B. Jordan?
Mary: Hollywood actor Michael B. Jordan?
Emily: Yes, former Friday Night Lights star Michael B. Jordan. Creed's Michael B. Jordan.
Mary: He is bringing everything he can to this movie. I am in awe.
Emily: Yes, he is my favorite part by far. My favorite scene in the whole movie is in the beginning when he robs that museum, and he takes that mask and he's just like "I'm feeling this." And then he wears it later. And I was like yesssss!
Mary: I saw a tweet today that said Chris Evans and Michael B. Jordan need to get together to discuss how they both rose from the ashes of the Fantastic four movies to become beloved characters in other Marvel franchises.
Mary: His whole look was something i was very into. The hair especially.
Emily: Oh yes, I'm into all of that.
Mary: I just love an undercut. Also his king outfit—the oversized jacket and no shirt. Very into it.
Emily: We are pleased, Michael B. Jordan.
Mary: Yes, very! Good job. He also is a huge nerd who is very into the lore of Black Panther so I’m happy for him.
Emily: Aw that's so great! What is going to happen to his character in future movies?
Mary: I mean... I think... He’s kind of wrapped up.
Emily: Damn. I'm not coming back.
Mary: Well, death is never final in comics.
Emily: Black Panther came back!
Mary: He did! And Superman. And Batman. And a billion others. Bucky.
Emily: I'm clearly in denial, because it didn't even occur to me that they wouldn't find a way for him to come back. Because it's Michael B. Jordan!
Mary: He might! People are really into his character.
Emily: Exactly! Remember in True Blood when Lafayette clearly died at the end of Season 1? But then he miraculously came back in Season 2? And lived a long happy life? I mean, Wakanda is magical!
Mary: It is! He’ll be back I bet.
Emily: Good. Thank you.
Mary: He's too cool to die.
Emily: So back to my question then. When he comes back, what will his role be?
Mary: Hmmmm. I think he’ll be good. He’ll be an ally of Wakanda. But will he still have bad boy outfits?
Emily: Yeah I mean, you don't change your fashion just because you become good or bad. Unless you're Sansa Stark.
Mary: Right. I hope he keeps his look. It's a good look. I even loved his glasses at the art museum.
Emily: Ugh I love everything about the art museum.
Mary: Take me theeeeeereee.
Emily: And coming at someone through their coffee? That's just evil.
Mary: I knew you would be offended by the coffee. It’s a sacred drink. That woman didn’t deserve that.
Mary: I guess I will add here, briefly, that Andy Serkis kind of scares me. He has crazy eyes and a scary voice. I can’t explain it, but he just really freaks me out. But i also think he’s a cool villain.
Emily: Yeah but also... did we need him?
Mary: I think we did. He’s a gateway into Michael B. Jordan. And we’re ready to think, oooh he’s the big bad, but then he isn’t. He’s just crazy.
Emily: I guess. But we coulda just gone straight to Michael B. Jordan. I don't need to ease into him.
Emily: It was sorta like in Blade Runner 2049. What would happen if we had edited out Jared Leto?
Emily: Yes. Nothing. It would be the same movie.
Mary: It would have been better.
Emily: Yeah, and I don't want to say this movie would have been BETTER if we'd edited out Andy Serkis. But I think it could have happened, and it would have been fine.
Mary: Yeah, but he’s good in it! He does some acting!
Emily: Yes, yes. Okay well my Black Panther soundtrack just ended so that means it's time to wrap it up. What else do you want to say about this movie?
Mary: The soundtrack is good and everyone should listen.
Emily: Omg it's so good.
Mary: I liked the score as well.
Emily: I give the soundtrack/score 5/5 stars.
Mary: Music is important to this film. And the costumesssssss. So good. Blending traditional African garb and technology! *chef kiss* I give this movie 4.5/5 stars.
Emily: The movie, I gave 3.5/5 stars. But I totally get that some of that is because I just don't care about action movies for the most part.
Mary: I surprisingly liked the action for the most part. It was a little too CGI for me sometimes but that was a minor complaint from me.
Emily: Conceptually, everything about this movie is perfect. But at the end of the day, I left thinking well, that was a Marvel movie.
Mary: It is better than the other MCU films, or at least the Avenger-based ones, to me.
Emily: Oh god I HATE THE AVENGERS MOVIES!
Mary: But this movie is still in that mold.
Emily: I 100% want to go see it again.
Mary: Oh yes we should go see it again!
Emily: We should go see it and get popcorn. Maybe I would have enjoyed the action scenes better if I had popcorn.
Mary: I didn’t have popcorn either.
Emily: Well. We fucked up.
Mary: I would say also that this is a good date move, so take your Valentines boo to see it.
Emily: Yes. Okay that is our Black Panther review. Thank you for tuning in. Let us know what you thought of the movie in the comments.
Mary: Yes please! And listen to the soundtrack.
Mary: Cannot say that enough.
Emily: Listen to it all day, every day.
Emily: Okay. The End.
About the Blog
The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.