On Friday, Feb. 16, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was released: Black Panther. According to Deadline.com, the film has already grossed more than $502 million worldwide and is expected to earn another $107 million. The hype around the first stand-alone film for the beloved character first introduced in Captain America: Civil War is huge and the box office numbers prove it. Even the critics are giving it rave reviews; it has racked up a score of 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—it’s “Certified Fresh.”
I checked out the film during its opening weekend with a group of friends, and although our seats were not the best—front row, actually—I was thoroughly impressed. Taking place directly after Captain America: Civil War, the film starts off with our titular hero (T’Challa) returning home to the fictitious country of Wakanda, where he is to be crowned king. The film opens with a voiceover by a young T’Challa, asking his father to tell him the story of their home and the history of Wakanda. From there, we are taken to Oakland, California, in 1992. For those familiar with the MCU franchise, this flashback can be connected to events previously learned in Avengers: Age of Ultron, successfully tying Black Panther into the universe even more.
Then we join T’Challa and meet two important female characters: Okoye and Nakia. Okoya is the general of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all-female special forces and bodyguards of the king. Nakia is a member of Wakanda’s River Tribe and a member of the War Dogs, an elite force of spies sent all over the world to collect information to help ensure the safety of Wakanda. She is also T’Challa’s love interest throughout the film.
Black Panther is rich with strong, smart, and inspirational female characters for women of all ages. Okoye is strong and loyal; Nakia is resourceful and able to speak her mind—even to her king. T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri, is the head of the Wakandan Design Group and is responsible for many of Wakanda’s modern technology. Shuri is brilliant and loyal to her country, but also to herself. We see her only twice in traditional clothing, spending the rest of the film in modern wear or her own personal take on the fashion of her country.
Last, but not least, there is Romanda, the Queen Mother of Wakanda and mother of T’Challa and Shuri. Romanda is strong for her people and her children; she is overjoyed when they succeed and heartbroken during the climax when all seems lost. Although we do not see Queen Romanda physically fight—like we do her younger counterparts—it is clear she is fighting an emotional battle.
Black Panther has done, in my opinion, what no other Marvel film has done since the release of Thor in 2011. They gave us a villain we can sympathize with: Erik Killmonger. As we learn of who Killmonger truly is and of his vendetta against Wakanda, we are torn between siding with him or siding with T’Challa (just as many fans were torn between Thor and Loki—and still are). Killmonger’s personality is almost intoxicating and you find yourself wanting to join his cause.
All in all, Black Panther was an amazing film filled with beautiful scenery, a wonderful cast, an intriguing villain, epic fight scenes and a lesson to be remembered. I give the film 5 stars and cannot wait to see it again.
Black Panther is being played at Maui Mall and tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office or online at Fandango.com.