If you haven’t yet read our cover feature on the Black Panther in this month’s issue of Speed, we suggest you do so now before seeing the movie, which opens today. It pays to know a little before you walk into the theater, but even without, this movie is still something any moviegoer can enjoy (except, maybe, if you’re racist?).
Besides being a wonderful showcase of Afrofuturism, science fiction, and intense action, Black Panther has an endearing story that is very relatable for any young adult. Albeit with royal background and bigger responsibilities than the rest of us, T’Challa a.k.a. The Black Panther is basically a reflection of any millennial in the midst of adulting.
In this review, we take a look at all the cool stuff we loved about the movie and how Black Panther’s storyline ties to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
WARNING: Spoilers up ahead!
Wakanda tech can take all my money
So far, Black Panther has shown us the coolest tech in all of Marvel’s cinematic universe—starting with the Kimoyo beads, which can be programmed for various purposes like mechanical jammer, explosive weapon, communication device, and even a medical tool. They’re worn around the wrist like a typical African beaded bracelet, so they’re inconspicuous to the outside world.
Another cool wearable is the full-protection “sneakers” that start out as plain footpads and launch protective material around your feet when stepped on.
We also get to see three versions of the Panther Habit in the movie. The first one is the same suit T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) wore in Captain America: Civil War, because, yes, the movie is set in a timeline following that movie.
The second is a brand new automatic suit that T’Challa wears throughout the rest of the film (the same suit you see on the cover of Speed’s February issue). It starts out as a traditional-looking necklace with silver tooth-like pendants that activate on command through a sensor worn at the back of the ear. It automatically releases the Vibranium-laced fabric of the suit, including the mask and the Black Panther’s famous claws.
Besides bulletproof protection and an undetectable weapons arsenal for T’Chala, the Panther Habit also has features that include kinetic energy absorption wherein the suit stores energy from every form of hit taken—whether it’s a punch, a bullet, or a grenade explosion—and redistributes it to a powerful sonic weapon.
The third suit, which is just a flashier gold version of T’Challa’s suit, inadvertently went to Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), his main nemesis in the movie.
Epic car chase in Korea
In Wakanda, mixed reality is more of a norm than a vision of the future. I’ve personally always enjoyed car chases in movies, but Black Panther takes the cake so far if only for the facts that: (1) T’Challa surfs on top of a gorgeous Lexus LC concept car as he hunts down Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis) in the streets of South Korea, and 2) that the car is being remotely driven by T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), who is sitting on a virtual projection of the car back in her tech lab in Wakanda. Way too cool!
Afrofuturism is the new black
Another thing to love about Black Panther is the overall design, from sets to costumes to props. Because of the fact that Wakanda is hidden in an impenetrable rainforest in Africa, I was somehow expecting a look similar to James Cameron’s Avatar, which also mixed nature with tech. But it wasn’t like that at all.
The colors schemes and details in every corner of Wakanda are very modern African in vibe—Afrofuturism, is what they call it. I particularly like the red-and-gold uniforms of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all-female all-skinhead army, and also the elegant royal dresses of Queen Mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett).
Matters of the heart
While the story mainly points to how T’Challa is going to embrace his new role as king, the supporting cast behind him prove to be more than just side characters to interact with, but important players in his own development as a powerful hero.
The loyal and ever sound-minded Okoye is someone you’d want to have as a best pal. Danai Gurira, best known for playing Michonne in The Walking Dead, is utterly perfect for the role because of her swift fighting moves and righteous stance.
Michael B. Jordan, despite playing the villain, is also someone you can find affection for. His genuine portrayal of a misguided soul, whose experience with pain and rejection has driven him to a dark purpose, simply tugs at the heart. His presence in T’Challa’s life ultimately becomes the catalyst that triggers the Black Panther’s big decision at the end of the film.
And of course, as we’ve witnessed in other Marvel movies, the crowd always gravitates toward the character who brings comic relief, and that honor goes to Letitia Wright’s Shuri. As little sister to T’Challa, her mischievous antics are true-to-form for anyone who grew up with a playful sibling or best friend. Wright also drops her punchlines right on time, giving the movie just the right amount of comedy in all the right moments.
Lupita Nyong’O, who plays Nakia, a “War Dog” spy and T’Challa’s love interest (they’re exes who had to separate because of their duties and differences, but never really got over each other), somehow didn’t shine much in this movie. We’re crossing our fingers that Black Panther gets a sequel and hope that it would tackle her romantic history with T’Challa furthermore.
Recognizing T’Challa’s personal predicament of whether to keep Wakanda hidden from the world or open up and help solve issues like poverty and social injustice by sharing their abundant knowledge and resources, we finally realize the genius behind Ryan Coogler’s decision to have Kendrick Lamar produce the movie’s soundtrack.
Lamar is one to bravely tackle relevant issues like social injustice and racial discrimination in his music, and it all resounds with T’Challa’s inner battle. The pre-chorus lyrics “Love, let’s talk about love / Is it anything and everything you hoped for? / Or do the feeling haunt you? / I know the feeling haunt you” basically summarize the battle in T’Challa’s heart and mind.
Finally, don’t leave until the end credits have rolled as there are two clips waiting at the tail of the film: one follows after the stylized credits, which shows how the Black Panther’s standalone narrative could continue, and a second one after the production credits that ties into the Avengers storyline.