Some things I say may spoil the movie for you – do not read this if you plan to watch the movie.
Black Panther is not a character I have encountered in comic book form, and the movie was my first exposure. I am quite taken, not merely with the superhero called Black Panther, but the whole hidden country of Wakanda whose crown prince (and now king) he is. Needless to say, I loved the movie, and here are a few quick thoughts on why.
The Story: The story was age-old, basic and straightforward – there wasn’t even a twist in the tale, and every box in the formula checklist has been ticked. But this hardly matters for the movie. The way the story is told is where the points are piled up. It is not a run-of-the-mill superhero story. Rather, it is the story of a man becoming a king, with all the complexities it brings. Elements like his father’s fall in his eyes, his complex equation with his cousin, and what he thinks he owes him – these are what make the tale interesting. And this is what makes it work for me. It is a coming of age movie of sorts, and that evokes in all of us our own coming of age experiences, making at least a few aspects easy to identify with. This personal narrative takes the formulaic storyline and elevates it into something you identify with.
The Characters: Okoye, Nakia, Ramonda, M’Baku, Shuri, Zuri, Killmonger, N’Jobu – I cannot remember the last time I could recall so many character names from a movie. Every character worked beautifully – perfectly cast, perfectly delivered by the actors. T’Challa and T’Chaka were definitely not the only ones who stand out!
The Setting: This for me was by far the the best part of the movie. I am a sucker for good world-building, and Wakanda was built beautifully and packed with detail. Citizens walk around Wakandan streets casually looking at their hologram personal communication devices and eating grilled mystery meats off food carts. Imagining a modern-day African super city that never had to deal with the blights of slavery and war and colonial exploitation and instead had an accelerated technology path is no mean feat. While I am no expert in African culture or cities, it felt complete and well fleshed out to my philistine eyes. Wakanda in the movie felt as complete as it felt novel.
The Music: Yet another thing that worked for me was the music. Traditional African beats melded into more conventional orchestral movie music smoothly and at no point did it feel contrived or forced. This also helped with creating the atmosphere and ambiance of Wakanda. I was listening to the sound track off Google Play Music on the way back from the movie – instant gratification FTW!
Hrishi has written a more nuanced, less gushy account of his experience with Black Panther – go read it here.