No one can argue the importance of Black Panther. When it comes to representation, diversity, and cultural impact, Black Panther hits hard. This film matters on multiple levels. But how is the film itself?
The film picks up a week after Captain America: Civil War and T’Challa has returned to Wakanda for his coronation as King. The introduction to this mystical city is a stunning moment. It’s here where we are shown all of the steps of becoming King, introduced to our cast, and given a tour of Wakanda’s rich culture. While not boring by any stretch, everything gets off to a slow start. It’s not until the team goes on their first mission that the plot receives a jumpstart. From there on out though, the pacing is never an issue as the story goes full speed without any hurdles.
To me, the most incredible part of the film is Wakanda itself. The visuals are stunning, and the city is realized to perfection. Citizens bustle through the crowded street markets with high-tech skyscrapers surrounding them on all sides—giving us an incredible sense of scope, and expressing the great intellect and power of the Wakandan people. It’s truly a place that feels unlike any other. Within the span of one film, Marvel has successfully fleshed out an entire world, broadening the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a groundbreaking way.
The city of Wakanda as a whole is very much its own character within the film. The entire plot revolves around the vast resources and knowledge that this place holds, and how they could help—or hurt—the world at large, if only they were to come out of the shadows. Black Panther is very close to Winter Soldier in that it leans far more into seriousness while tackling geopolitical situations, and the movie is better for it. No big moments are undercut by poorly thought out jokes, and the humor is more akin to the classic Marvel way—placed sporadically in humorous one-liners or witty banter.
Entangled within the city of Wakanda itself, comes more stand out aspects of the film: the sets and costumes. The colors and creativity of it all are expressly vibrant throughout the film, and can be seen in their full glory throughout their magnificent designs. They beckon for your attention in every frame. Award shows tend to have a stigma against superhero films, and blockbusters in general, but I truly believe this film deserves proper attention for it’s costuming and set design (a similar sentiment I felt for Guardians of the Galaxy and their make-up designers).
Wakanda was done so incredibly well, that it has taken this long to address the star of the piece: Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, aka The Black Panther himself. We’ve all seen his fantastic debut in Civil War, and he certainly doesn’t falter in his solo outing. We get to see T’Challa in a more personal and intimate setting and really get to know the mystery power player that we glimpsed in 2016. Boseman plays the role with grace and elegance and even gets the chance to perfectly nail some hefty emotional beats.
Then we have Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger. Having grown up on the streets, and witnessing the oppression and discrimination of those around him, he has decided to take control back from those he deems responsible. He has his own way of doing things, and he wants to use Wakanda’s resources for his own agenda. Many were quick to claim that he is one of—if not the—best villains Marvel has done. While he is great, I don’t think I’d be so quick to label him as the best. The strongest part of him as a villain is how he comes from such a sincere, and dark, emotional place. It’s easy to understand how he has been driven to where he is now, and his unbreakable determination and swagger is remarkably uncanny. I only wish his venture into the conflict didn’t feel so sudden.
When it comes to the supporting cast, Black Panther easily has one of the strongest in the MCU. Acting wise, there is no weak link, and each character that appears plays a pivotal role in the ongoing story. I can safely say that the star of the group is Letitia Wright’s Shuri. She is T’Challa’s genius younger sister, and is responsible for most of the current technological advances within the city. Letitia Wright brings a young joy and energy to the role, and she brightens up every scene she’s in. Now let’s not forget the unnerving and immovable loyalty to the nation that Danai Guria portrays in Okoye, or the insanity that Andy Serkis brings to Ulysses Klaue. I could continue down the list, but I think you get the point.
Now I don’t have many particular flaws with the film, outside of the slow start. However, there are two plot points that weakened the strength of the storyline. I can only talk about them vaguely without spoiling the film. So if you’d rather not even hear me vaguely speak of them, feel free to skip this paragraph. First, there is a character who’s allegiance changes. Their motivations for doing so are weak and not fully fleshed out, so the flip-flop feels hollow and sudden. Second, the fate of a certain character just under halfway through the film is such an unquestionably bad choice. While it was needed to move the plot forward, they easily could have found a different way of doing so. Another point of note, is that while the action sequences are fine—they are just that. Simply standard stuff for the most part, and the final one-on-one brawl could have done a little more.
So, how does Black Panther stand within the MCU? The movie has little connective tissue (with only the death of his Father playing a big role, and Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross), and it is very much it’s own film—despite being the next door neighbor to Avengers: Infinity War. The film is able to maintain a distinctly different feeling than the rest of the MCU ventures, which makes the universe feel richer because of it.
While I can’t say that Black Panther is the best Marvel movie to date, it is certainly up there as one of Marvel’s greats. The seamless introduction to an entirely new world and culture expands the scope of the MCU in an incredible fashion. We get another great antagonist as Marvel continues to distance themselves from their past villain problem, and we’re given a handful of fantastic new characters. Next stop on the MCU Train? Avengers: Infinity War!
What did you guys think of the film? Make sure to leave your thoughts down below in the comments!
- I think the Civil War Black Panther suit is near perfection (could use gold details instead of silver), and the new suit still can’t quite match up. However, there’s no denying the neat and creative visual/utility function that the new suit has to offer.
- While I mention the action sequences being fairly standard, I will say that the South Korea action pieces were easily the best in that regard.
- I’m going to need the sequel to feature the rivalry between Atlantis and Wakanda. Namor vs. Black Panther. A perfect sequel set-up that would continue the rich expansion of the MCU.