RATING: 3.5 out of 5
(If you haven’t seen the movie yet, there are minor spoilers ahead. Walang sisihan ah binigyan kita ng warning!)
Fans were first introduced to the Black Panther in “Captain America: Civil War”. When his father, T’Chaka the King of Wakanda dies, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) takes on the mantle of the Black Panther. Now to those who are unfamiliar with the Black Panther, he’s more than just a Batman look-alike sans a cape although he’s probably richer than Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark combined. As the ruler of the most developed nation in the world, not only is it his duty to lead his people it also falls on his shoulders to help the human race even if that means changing the way of life that his kingdom has come to know for centuries.
What I liked about “Black Panther” was that everything felt fresh. Aside from the obvious fact that this the first major blockbuster with a predominantly African/African-American cast, we’re also introduced to a new world in the Marvel Universe. Para siyang Guardians of the Galaxy in the sense na lahat bago sa paningin natin e. The culture, the technology, and the characters are all foreign to us. Aminin mo ang saya gawin nung kibit-balikat dance na ginagawa nila pag may chumachallenge sa throne diba? Aminin mo! The dichotomy of their culture is interesting. On one hand they have very advanced tech, on the other hand meron pa rin sa kanilang may malaking plato sa bibig. And though the stakes are high, the story pretty much stands alone from the rest of the MCU. Walang alien dito na naglakbay ng malayo para kumain ng planeta. Instead what we have is a power struggle for the Wakandan throne and a battle of ideologies that mirrors what’s going on in the real world today.
Chadwick Boseman delivers a good performance as the Black Panther. But if I’m being honest, there’s nothing iconic or special about his portrayal either. If you’ve seen him in his other movies, you know that he’s always good but never really great. What I truly enjoyed in the movie are the female supporting characters most notably Shuri, Nakia, and Okoye. Shuri (Letitia Wright) was really funny and probably the character that most people will relate to. Danai Gurira who plays Okoye was finally able to show her acting range. If you’ve seen her in The Walking Dead as Michonne, you know that all she does there is to look cool and to look angry. (Sabagay ano ba naman kasi talaga ibang mood mo pag may zombie apocalypse diba?) As T’Challa’s love interest, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) is equally formidable.
But as with most Marvel movies and the superhero genre in general, the villain comes up short once again. As Marvel villains go, Michael B. Jordan’s Eric Killmonger’s has one of the most plausible and solid motivations to raise hell. Pinatay yung erpats niya habang nag-babasketball siya pag uwi niya deads na yung tatay niya! He probably comes a close a second to Loki in terms of having an actual motive that’s easy to understand. But as great an actor as Jordan is, his character is a bit one-dimensional. Try mo describe yung character niya sa movie and you’ll probably come up with “galit” and not much else. Hindi ba? Yun siya in a nutshell e galit siya! Which makes him a formidable opponent in terms of skill and physicality kasi mirror image siya ni T’Challa. But when he finally dies at the hands of the Black Panther (sabi sayo may spoiler tong review e) are we really emotionally affected? I don’t think so. Even during the scenes where he cries while narrating his hardships, we don’t really empathize with him.
When your focus is to tell the origin story of the hero, minsan nag susuffer yung character development nung villain because there’s only so much story you can tell in a 2-hour time span. That’s why the Nolan Batman movies are a rare breed because they manage to give the villains equal importance. Let’s look at Bane for example, wag na lang si Joker kasi alam naman natin na malupit si Heath Ledger dun. Bane is a brute who is Batman’s physical equal. But the movie spends a few minutes for us to learn a little something about his backstory by showing that he was once a prisoner who was tasked to protect Talia Al Ghul. Now everything you know about Bane changes, right? That’s what I would have liked to see for Killmonger. Show us why he got radicalized, don’t have Bilbo Baggins just narrate it for us.
But one thing that’s been bothering me about the concept of Wakanda, and this not a criticism of the movie at all but just something that’s been keeping me awake at night is this: Paano nila nasisikreto yung Wakanda sa mundo? Sige sabihin mo na na may alien technology sila thanks to Vibranium that allows them to do these amazing things and keep it secret. Pero paano kaya yung mga tao? Paano yung mga mismong Wakandans hindi ba sila nagdadaldal sa iba? Wala ba sa kanilang may social media accounts? Para ba silang mga North Korean na bawal umalis ng bansa? Do you mean to tell me na walang Wakandan na nag abroad tapos binully ng mga racist and after a few beers humirit ng “T***ina niyong lahat, kayang kayang bilhin ng bansa ko yung bansa niyo! Ang mga domestic helper namin sa Wakanda mga galing sa Scandinavia ganun kami kayaman!”
They’ll probably never address this in the sequels but if anybody who has the read comics can share an answer, I’d appreciate it. Now all that being said, I would love to revisit Wakanda in future MCU movies if only to see a Wakandan flip out and show his glow-in-the-dark mouth tattoo when he’s being bullied and do that rhythmic shoulder dance that we all love so much.
BLACK PANTHER is now showing in cinemas everywhere.
Photos courtesy of MARVEL STUDIOS.