Black Panther had a lot of hype before its February release, and rightfully so. Not only is this one of the later MCU movies in the build up to the highly anticipated Infinity War movie coming later, but this film was touted as an Afro-centric and mostly black casted Marvel superhero film (the first of its kind). That being said, a very diverse group of people from differing backgrounds saw the importance of Black Panther for not only MCU storyline purposes, but for the progressiveness that it seems to represent in how people of color are represented in films such as these.
One can argue that no other movie so far in 2018 has had the pressure to perform like this one does. I’m excited to report that not only did Black Panther live up to every bit of hype that preceded it, it also does it with a style, grace, and purpose that hasn’t been felt in an MCU movie for quite some time.
Black Panther is about the adventures of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the newly appointed king of Wakanda. Wakanda is a fictional country that is hidden deep within Africa with the use of a futuristic material called Vibranium that landed in Africa from space. Not to get too much into Vibranium, but this is the same material that makes Captain America’s shield virtually unbreakable and the Wakandan people have really tapped into its full potential and created a futuristic society that thrives on it. However, all is not well at the moment in Wakanda, as Black Panther takes the throne as king. When criminals threaten to sell stolen Vibranium on the black market, Panther must team up with his family, counsel, and army to stop them!
It’s necessary to point out that as the story unfolds, Black Panther is about so much more than the brief synopsis I gave. This film has a vast number of themes that are realized well by the story’s end. You find that there are themes about politics with foreign policy, identity politics, racial conflicts that exist from an African perspective, and of course what it means to follow a legacy that was left before you. The result is one of the most mature, relevant, and relatable stories that Marvel has put on the screen in quite some time. The film is almost more fun to discuss after it is over than it is to watch, which is something that can’t be said for most of Marvel’s films. However, as philosophical as this journey can be, it remembers that it is indeed a Marvel movie.
That being said, the film is a visual splendor with some of the best costume design and beautiful scenery that we have seen in any Marvel film. In addition to great visuals, there is plenty of action mixed with drama and comedy that we have come to expect from our Marvel Universe. The interactions that the characters have with one another is another place where the movie shines. I especially liked the scenes with T’challa and his sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright). Shuri is a scientific genius and is the overseer of technology in Wakanda. There is a very “James Bond with Q” type of moment where she is reviewing new inventions with T’Challa that is absolute gold.
Other characters like the General of the Wakanda Army, Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Nakia (Lupita Nyongo) both carry strong female roles that are pivotal to Black Panther’s success in this story. The moments that these characters get, whether they are fighting or just voicing concerns as loved ones, is done with a sense of purpose and they are never seemingly wasted as characters. This is a testament to the writing staff and the uncompromising direction of Ryan Coogler. You can tell that in every scene, Coogler set out to do this character justice. The director’s pride in himself and his culture are palpable in this project. The painstaking care that is given to even the minor characters makes this the best and most compelling cast that I have ever seen in one of these movies.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, Black Panther is a must see for its villain Killmonger (Micheal B. Jordan). Without putting out any spoilers, Killmonger is the BEST villain to ever grace the Marvel movie scene. His origin story, his motivations, and his anger are grounded so much in relatable events, that it is sometimes easy to forget that you are not supposed to be rooting for him. The common criticism with most Marvel films is the absence of a true villain that is just as compelling as the hero. Panther doesn’t make that mistake. You will love the conflict between Killmonger and Panther, who both represent views that are very real in today’s political world. This gives the film a sense of importance and relevance that really transcends the Marvel formula that we are accustomed to.
Even though it might be as perfect as a Marvel film can get, there are some flaws in the film. The film does have some story telling cliches within the narrative. Not every joke is a laugh out loud riot, and there are moments where the CGI looks compromising. However, none of these weaknesses hurt the film enough to ruin the seemingly countless things it does well.
All in all, if you are a Marvel fan, movie fan, or you just want to see something culturally relevant and thoughtful, Black Panther is a passionate work that manages to deliver everything you want in a film like this. It checks every proverbial box when it comes to a Marvel film in the action, drama, and comedy categories. But the best things about Panther are the very things that set it apart from other Marvel films: it is a thoughtful celebration of African culture and its people, it took the time to craft a villain that is every bit as compelling as our hero, it tackles some very relevant political issues and does so in a way that is not preachy or divisive, and it of course leaves us with some things to look forward to as we get closer to Infinity War.
It’s worth noting that the film has also been a phenomenon at the box office, breaking several February box office records, reaching nearly 500 million dollars worldwide over a 4 day stretch, and has become a talking point for its views about identity politics. The film shows no signs of slowing down for all of the praise that it receives.
This is the BEST OVERALL FILM that Marvel Studios has ever created. It should make a top spot on anyone’s list of comic movies and it is a movie that you should support and go see immediately! Then watch it again a second time!
97 “Wakanda Forever” handshakes When T’Challa enters the room out of 100 (97%).