Film Review – Black Panther (2018)
The first of three Marvel films to release in 2018 is finally upon us. Coming off of the success of Civil War, many were looking forward to seeing Chadwick Boseman play the role of King T’Challa once again, hoping that Black Panther could become one of the best MCU films to date. The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Written By: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
After the death of his father, T’Challa (Boseman) returns to Wakanda to reign over the country as the newly appointed king. As their leader, T’Challa must decide how to rule his kingdom which has been cut off from the rest of the world for many millennia. Factions disagree if the country should open up to the world — and if they should do so peacefully.
However, when Ulysses Klaue (Serkis) resurfaces with a new foe, the plans put in place by T’Challa come into question, putting his reign in jeopardy.
All the way back in 1992, Wesley Snipes declared his interest to make a Black Panther film so that he could show Hollywood the beauty of Africa. One of the biggest stars in Hollywood at the time, Snipes worked tirelessly to get the movie made. In fact, Snipes signed on with Columbia Pictures to star in a Black Panther film in 1994. Unfortunately, due to script issues, the project was ripped apart and rewritten multiple times, leaving Snipes in limbo.
Plans for the film went on the back burner once the MCU started to pick up steam after the release of Iron Man in 2008. Interestingly enough, there were serious discussions of introducing Wakanda into the MCU back in 2010 with the release of Iron Man 2.
In 2014, things finally began to fall in place for a Black Panther movie as Kevin Feige announced that Chadwick Boseman was cast in the role. Ever since, the hype for the property has only risen — and that hype hit an all-time high this week with Black Panther‘s release now upon us.
Ryan Coogler Builds an Amazing Mythology Within Wakanda
After Civil War, many were clamoring to see all that Wakanda had to offer.
Ryan Coogler creates a living world that is a great marriage between tribal roots and futuristic technology. The cliché is to say that the country is also a character in the story (literally every movie about New York gets that same distinction). Despite that, you immediately feel the power and spirit of this secret nation. Wakanda and its people exude strength in combination with a centered spirit, making for a country that deserves to have its superior technology.
The country prides itself on staying in touch with its ancestors, shaping their everyday lives in the process. We as the audience are just now getting introduced to this mythical African country. Yet, it’s already one of the most immersive superhero worlds.
Ryan Coogler combines incredibly visuals with deep-rooted mysticism, bringing even more prestige and strength to the importance of the Black Panther in that society. In this regard, Black Panther is very much unlike any of the MCU films to date. While you only spend two hours and change in this landscape, you feel as if you’ve been there for generations.
A Tight Script Sets Black Panther Apart
The executives at Marvel are finally starting to hone in on the balance between setting up future movies and creating a film that is wholly satisfying on its own. Black Panther is its own film, and it’s much better for it.
The true brilliance in Black Panther comes in its focus on character rather than spectacle. Yes, the landscapes are gorgeous and the action is a feast for the eyes. However, Ryan Coogler and his writing partner Joe Robert Cole have no issues slowing down the pace to give proper motivations to each character. Every prominent individual has their moment to shine. Even better, every action has a purpose — a fact that many superhero movies cannot claim for themselves.
As Black Panther progresses, there’s a literal and figurative power struggle that occurs between Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger. The two are polar opposites — one is deeply centered while the other is reactionary and impulsive. You empathize with Killmonger as they villain. Every one of his words is uttered with power and pure grit, leaving a lasting impact even with lines as mundane as “hiya, Auntie.” There’s something to note about the onscreen presence of a villain and what it does to the perceived obstacles for the hero. Killmonger is an equal to T’Challa with a radical belief system due to his upbringing, making him one of the most interesting MCU villains to date — and maybe the best there’s ever been.
Black Panther is the Most Mature MCU Film…Ever
Black Panther is not content with adding another cartoonish entry into the MCU. Filled to the brim with societal and political commentary, it’s the most mature MCU film — and it’s not even close.
The film can boil down to a discussion of protectionism vs. globalization and the duties of better-off countries. At the forefront of the plot is a struggle of whether or not to allow for open borders — and if jingoistic actions are necessary in creating growth in some areas of the world. Shockingly enough, Black Panther actually takes a defined stance on this discussion. However, it does so without a sense of cynicism or preachiness. Everything about the film is earnest in that regard.
With such a focus on Erik Killmonger, we also see a heightened version of the impact that a poor upbringing has on an individual — adding a nice layer of class relations to the story as well.
Calling a film “important” has become more prevalent today than ever. Black Panther is one of the few instances where that descriptions actually fits. This superhero film is not a perfect film — it’s still hampered by those typical ex machina moments and unnecessary, bloated action scenes that plague superhero movies. However, its themes do more than enough to overcome its flaws. Showing the strength of humanity is not a theme that is new in the genre. But, Black Panther adds an extra layer of substance to the discussion, making it very, very special.
Black Panther still succumbs to some of the third act troubles that plague most superhero movies, but there’s no doubting that it is an absolute triumph and a strong start to the 2018 blockbuster schedule.
When I reminisce about Black Panther, I’ll think of the strong character beats that took place. Every single character has their moment, making the action and the stakes that much more enthralling. Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan shine as polar opposites, creating a great political discussion that covers very topical subjects.
This movie is a sign that Marvel is unafraid to try anything with its films. We’re all very lucky to see how they progress forward.
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