Black Panther is currently taking the world by storm, and rightly so. T’Challa is a well written hero that manages to maintain his stoic, regal nature whilst also embracing the internal struggle of losing a parent. He’s a compelling character, as are most of the cast. Some of the supporting cast manage to steal the scene from him and other main characters quite often (we’re looking at you, Shuri and M’Baku). And to be quite honest, this film is so much fun. Seeing the fascinating world of Wakanda and the near endless capabilities of Vibranium.
But one of the most entertaining components of Black Panther, is its villain: Erik Killmonger. Played by Michael B. Jordan, T'Challa's nemesis has a deep internal rage driving him forward that makes him both enigmatic and intensely scary in places. Shuri is also a shining star, as Letitia Wright grabs audiences with her enthusiasm and comedic timing. It’s a combination of all these things that makes finding things we didn’t like about T’Challa’s solo film, quite difficult. But don’t fear, we thought for a long time and found some problems with it. Here are eight things we liked about Black Panther and seven we didn’t.
WARNING: There are major spoilers for Black Panther ahead!
15 LIKED: T’CHALLA
When we first met T’Challa at the beginning of Captain America: Civil War, he felt like a rookie version of the hero compared to how he holds himself during Black Panther. But we saw glimpses of his forgiving nature as he forgave Bucky Barnes and vowed to help him through his mental programming. But during his own solo film, T’Challa goes through an incredible amount of character development.
A large chunk of his internal journey sees him dealing with the grief of losing his father, and not feeling ready to walk the world without him by his side. Combine that with attempting to make up for his father’s crimes by fending off a coup from Killmonger, T’Challa has an incredible journey to travel through the film. He even manages to unite Wakanda with one of their estranged tribes, the Jabari. Hail to the King.
14 DISLIKED: SOME OF THE CGI
So whilst the rest of the film looks fantastic, some of the CGI doesn’t quite look right. As Black Panther hurtles through the finale, there are moments of action that don’t look finished. The one glaring moment that initially stuck out is when W’Kabi (played by the brilliant Daniel Kaluuya) rides a giant armored Rhino through battle -- but it looks like something from an old video game rather than a stellar Marvel movie.
It’s a shame because Black Panther is a film that deserves to look completely enthralling for the entire film. And for the most part, it succeeds. But there are moments in action sequences that just don’t quite cut it. When Black Panther is fighting, there are certain moves that have clearly been bumped up with special effects, and they don’t land as well compared to the practical stunts.
13 LIKED: SOUTH KOREA
Audiences and critics seem to be in two minds about this sequence. It sees T’Challa, Okoye and Nakia attempt to stop a sale of Vibranium in a South Korean Casino and the espionage element that it added to the film had a definitive James Bond vibe to it. But the car chase that followed was a delight to see because it engaged so many of the heroes.
Shuri helped remotely drive the car, Okoye and Nakia were fighting off the SUV convoy whilst T’Challa tried to get to Klaue. Everyone worked fluidly as a team, and it was a delight to see. Plus, seeing Black Panther run along the side of a building or blast a car up into the air will never get boring -- it was one of the most inventive action sequences in the film, and it didn’t disappoint.
12 DISLIKED: SHURI OR NAKIA DON’T EAT THE HERB
So when Killmonger throws T’Challa off the side of the waterfall during combat, he becomes the new King of Wakanda. And one of his first acts as King is to burn all the Heart-Shaped Herbs so that nobody else can gain the strength of the Black Panther. Unfortunately for him, Nakia already stole one of them away.
Now remember, at this point the Royal Family assumed that T’Challa was dead and that they were on the run. But when Ramonda suggests that Nakia take the Heart-Shaped Herb, she insists she can’t. Shuri also stays quiet. Now Nakia was a deep-cover spy, she’s a well-equipped warrior. Shuri is a formidable force herself (and becomes the Black Panther in the comics), either woman could become the new hero. Although two Black Panther’s fighting Killmonger could’ve been too much, logically one of them should’ve stepped up.
11 LIKED: M’BAKU
Despite M’Baku’s character in the comics being quite racially insensitive (he’s called Man-Ape), Marvel have done an excellent job of bringing him into live action whilst being mindful of the offensive nature of his alter-ego. Instead of wearing a literal gorilla costume, M’Baku has white fur and tribal markings adorned on his armor and in one scene, he even wears a ceremonial gorilla mask.
But the really interesting part is his overall character arc. He starts out as a stereotypical villain, but slowly morphs into a reluctant ally for T’Challa and the Royal Family. It subverts the usual villain roles that Marvel sometimes plays into, and with resounding effect. He also has some of the funniest dialogue in the film, aside from Shuri of course.
10 DISLIKED: POST-CREDIT SCENES
So there are two post-credit scenes attached to Black Panther, and neither of them are mind-blowing. Don’t get us wrong, they’re interesting, but since this is the last MCU film before the monumental Avengers: Infinity War, we expected something more dramatic. Sure, Wakanda stepping into the light and readying to help the rest of the world is a big change, but since there’s a Mad Titan on his way very soon…
And then there’s the final scene. It explains to us what’s happened to Bucky after the end of Captain America: Civil War. Yes, it’s interesting to see -- and yes, calling him White Wolf was a neat throwback to the comics, but do you know what would’ve made audiences fall out of their chair? A bigger glimpse at Infinity War, like they originally did after Captain America: The First Avenger with The Avengers.
9 LIKED: THE DORA MILAJE
The superhero genre is frequently criticized for its misogynistic treatment of female characters, but Black Panther completely bypasses that and utilizes a wide variety of women in the main and supporting cast. It’s a film full of female warriors, spies, inventors and queens. Proving that a woman in a comic book movie can be other things than just a love interest or ‘strong’.
The Dora Milaje are an excellent example of this. The General of the fighting force, Okoye (Danai Gurira) is a well-rounded character, she’s not permanently angry or vicious. She has genuine heart and emotions as well as being extremely talented in battle. We even see her guilt play loyalty to Wakanda or loyalty to T’Challa. Plus, when the Dora Milaje all fight together, it’s a spectacle.
8 DISLIKED: GOLDEN JAGUAR
Okay so when Black Panther returns from the mountains to fight back against Killmonger, it’s revealed that the new King of Wakanda also has his own suit. It’s a modified version of one of Shuri’s other suits, the Golden Jaguar. It extends out of a golden necklace similar to T’Challa’s silver one.
But we’re not really convinced. It doesn’t have the slick nature that the Black Panther suit has. And although the fight between these two characters is well matched and the reasons behind the conflict are well-founded, Killmonger’s suit doesn’t impress us like T’Challa’s. Plus, the actual animal print on the mask doesn’t quite flow as well as it should do. Maybe we’re just biased because T’Challa is one of the best new heroes in the MCU, but let’s leave Golden Jaguar behind.
7 LIKED: ULYSSES KLAUE
To say that we’ve only seen Andy Serkis in the MCU for a brief couple of scenes during Age of Ultron, Ulysses Klaue was actually a very entertaining villain. That’s largely down to his unpredictability as he makes his way around the globe with Killmonger. His enthusiastic personality makes him a delight to watch.
In particular, the interrogation scene where he sings to Everett Ross was brilliant. But what Marvel seem to have mastered, is taking some of the weirdest villains from their vaults and translating them into this semi-realistic world of the MCU. Although Klaw in the comics has a sonic wave hand and is made out of solid sound, Ulysses Klaue in the MCU has a prosthetic hand that hides a sonic blaster inside. A neat touch that honors his comic book counterpart.
6 DISLIKED: THE PACE
The film has a strange attitude towards the pacing of the plot. It’s a great story, but the a it spreads out key events is very strange. It starts with a typical Marvel monologue giving us an exposition filled backstory. Then it drops the occasional action piece in the opening, for the plot to go a while with no action whatsoever and it explores the Royal Family as well as Wakanda.
It doesn’t seem to know where to put all these events in the sequence so does it sporadically. Take Killmonger, for example. He’s introduced to in a very sinister opening, to then disappear for a large portion of the film until he breaks Klaue out of the CIA operations base. Black Panther is a good film, but sometimes it can’t decide whether to speed up or slow down.
5 LIKED: VIBRANIUM TECHNOLOGY
One of the biggest things in the film is obviously the Vibranium that Wakanda is built upon. We learn so much more about what it can do and the resources that Wakanda has generated because of their mastery of the metal. And it also goes hand-in-hand with Shuri’s abilities as an inventor.
Obviously, there’s Black Panther’s suit. Shuri builds him a suit that absorbs kinetic energy inside the costume and allows him to expel it in large bursts. There’s also the Panther Gauntlets that Shuri herself uses in fights as well as all the flying vehicles, skyscrapers and other weapons that Wakanda uses. Vibranium is essentially the biggest plot device in the film, but because it allows so much scope for ingenuity -- it is truly fascinating.
4 DISLIKED: EVERETT ROSS
Captain America: Civil War is a great film, let’s not lie. But Everett Ross feels like an insignificance compared to the superheroic ensemble that he’s surrounded by for the brief time that he’s involved. So when it was announced that he would return for Black Panther, it looked like his character would be developed further.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The only reason he’s in it is because the CIA are supposedly monitoring Klaue for Vibranium. Sure, he’s given a ship to pilot towards the end, but he doesn’t really do a lot. It felt like Martin Freeman had a contract with Marvel that needed fulfilling, so he’s in Black Panther. The film would flow better if he wasn’t in it, he was insignificant in Civil War, and he’s insignificant in Black Panther (sorry Martin Freeman, we still like you).
3 LIKED: SHURI
Quite honestly, we could spend this whole list just praising Letitia Wright as Shuri. That’s not an exaggeration, her character is one of the most enjoyable in the film, even more so than watching Black Panther himself at times. And although that’s largely because T’Challa has to be a stoic, regal figure, but Shuri brings a warmth to the film like no other character.
Whether it’s using memes to make fun of T’Challa’s footwear, her sheer joy at being able to use new technology or the fantastic moment where she uses her own Panther Gauntlets in battle. Shuri has big things awaiting her in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that’s for sure. We’re also interested to see what tricks she’s literally hidden up Bucky’s new sleeve during Infinity War…
2 DISLIKED: HERO AND VILLAIN WITH SIMILAR POWERS
One of the biggest criticisms when it comes to Marvel bringing their villains to life, is that they often have the same powers as the hero. With Killmonger and Black Panther, it's, unfortunately, no exception. If you’ve got this far, you’ve probably already seen the film. So remember, Killmonger ingests the Heart-Shaped Herb, gains the same powers of T’Challa and also has his own suit.
Luckily, Killmonger has such a compelling story behind him that we can almost look past the similar nature between the two. We know they’re two sides of the same coin, but it is slightly disappointing to see two very similar figures fighting at the end. But as mentioned, the saving grace is the incredible character development of Erik, his plan and his motivations.
1 LIKED: ERIK KILLMONGER
Admittedly, the majority of the characters in Black Panther are written in a variety of intricate ways. But for a hero’s solo film, his villain is nearly written with more depth than him. Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens is built up from jealous usurper to someone who wants to destabilize the world’s class system because he’s witnessed the oppression and brutality that people from Africa have endured.
If that wasn’t an emotional drive for him, then the murder of his father certainly is. And that’s where the parallel between T’Challa and Killmonger drives even deeper. It sounds like a cliché, but they really are two sides of the same coin. It’s easily arguable that if he had been raised in Wakanda he could have easily been a hero. Michael B. Jordan’s performance is nothing short of gripping.