Nick has a deep interest in film and cinema, dreaming of one day being a successful film pundit.
King of the MCU
Black Panther is an action-adventure film of the comic book movie genre. Directed by Ryan Coogler, the film stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the Black Panther and protector of the fictional African country Wakanda. Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa returns to his technologically-advanced home to be crowned the new King. Little does he know that the challenges of being a great king and a morally-grounded individual are a heavy duty to bear, as an unexpected and dangerous threat from the past resurfaces in the form of Erik Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan).
Just as Wonder Woman broke boundaries in 2017 for being the first major female-led superhero film, Black Panther does the same by becoming the first black superhero ensemble in history as well as having the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first black superhero lead. Ryan Coogler, who wrote and directed Fruitvale Station and Creed, is the MCU’s first African-American writer/director. With a sensibility that breathed new life into the Rocky franchise, Coogler has positioned this film to be a truly unique experience, bringing on old colleagues in the cinematography, production design and score composing roles. Will Coogler continue to further the MCU lore with another huge hit? Or does Marvel’s hot streak end with a swipe of a Vibranium claw?
It has almost come to a point where we see a Marvel Studios movie and we instantly expect it to be good. Black Panther, however, takes it to a different place altogether. This film isn’t good. It’s excellent. Every single cast member brings something unique to the table, while having their moment to shine. The visuals are amazing, the sounds are laden with energy and the story is well-written, even for an MCU flick. Michael B. Jordan also shines as one of the best MCU villains we’ve seen so far. And behind it all, Ryan Coogler deserves all the plaudits for the exemplary writing and direction in his follow-up to the also-excellent Creed. Safe to say that Black Panther is yet another knockout for the young director, who has at this point only directed three feature-length films.
Vibes and Vibranium
Without even touching on how culturally significant Black Panther is to Hollywood and beyond, let’s look at everything else that makes the film great. The costume design and world-building is fantastic, as Wakanda and its inhabitants feel fresh and vibrant, yet still very much at home in the MCU. The cinematography is solid, with history-making, Oscar-nominated DP Rachel Morrison at the helm. And the sound and music expertly juxtapose tribal and techno vibes, giving Black Panther its own brand of energy. Those who loved Captain America: Civil War will be excited to know that Chadwick Boseman is just as good as T’Challa, while supporting actresses Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o form a trifecta of badassery that is sure to grab headlines. While big names like Forest Whitaker, Sterling K. Brown and Daniel Kaluuya also play pivotal roles, it is Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of the complex villain that is the talk of the town. And rightfully so. Not since Loki have we seen a more fleshed-out MCU villain, with a backstory and a desire that is incredibly relevant to the social climate of our present day. Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan may well be each other’s lucky charms.
Black Panther is an important movie. Not just for the African/African-American community. But for all minorities who have ever felt oppressed or underrepresented. It inspires us to ask questions like “When will we see another Asian-led Hollywood film? Or a Latino-led superhero flick?” The film is the first MCU film to make a major political statement. And while some may argue that it does so in a heavy-handed manner, it’s hard to avoid thinking about the philosophy behind the two different approaches T’Challa and Erik Killmonger have to power, and how that strongly shapes their character arcs. The film tackles themes of class conflict, non-proliferation, and what it truly means to hold power. And that makes it the MCU film with the greatest depth.
Clawing for Flaws
As for my nitpicks with Black Panther, one action scene at the beginning of the film was edited messily, with footage that was cut too quickly, not allowing us to follow the action due to the scene taking place in near pitch-black darkness. Andy Serkis also shows up in the film as the villain Ulysses Klaue, but his story somehow felt incomplete and the character underused as we approached the finale. Also, the last post-credit scene was far from the best in relation to the ones seen in previous Marvel movies.
You know the superhero genre is at the height of its powers when, in the space of two years, we have gotten Deadpool, Logan, Wonder Woman, and now Black Panther. The craziest thing is, we need only wait a few more months until the most anticipated superhero flick of them all comes out in May. Black Panther is a vote for diversity and representation, while still remembering to be a great movie with great characters and a good story. Ryan Coogler is on a hot streak and we are all excited to know what he’s up to next. It really is getting repetitive, typing the same few words whenever a movie like this hits theaters, but… Marvel has done it again.
Overall Rating: 8.9/10