An earlier version of this review was posted on The Lantern, check that out here
“Black Panther” is written and directed by Ryan Coogler and stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Daniel Kaluuya. The film is about T’Challa (Boseman), the newly crowned king of Wakanda, returning to his home nation, where he is met with major decisions with how he should rule his people, which is forced onto him when Killmonger (Jordan) comes to take his throne.
Marvel is at the top when it comes to the superhero genre, that is, as long as DC stays brutally inconsistent, so any new release of theirs is met with my excitement. However, with the case of “Black Panther,” the brilliant choice of putting “Creed” writer-director Coogler at the helm heightened my hype tenfold. Add that with a monster cast, exceptional trailers and a Kendrick Lamar-powered soundtrack that was simply superb, and this quickly became one of the most anticipated movies of 2018.
Right off the bat, it must be said how truly unique “Black Panther” is in every sense of the word. Ryan Coogler turns this film into his own, and it is evident in the storytelling and the attention to detail that he gives it. Marvel has stuck to a formula for many of their previous efforts, and it’s worked wonders, but Coogler turns this all on its head with a movie that stylistically and thematically feels like no superhero movie before it. The emphasis on the world and the character building is stunning to watch, and because of how much care there is, it is easy to get completely enwrapped in everything Coogler puts on the screen.
This movie is unapologetically black, and because of that, there is a passion and an importance that shines through every single scene. The costume design, as well as the creation of Wakanda, is a gorgeous spectacle to behold, and the themes of acceptance and abandonment hit on every single account, and it allows the film to succeed on emotional levels that are just not seen often enough in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What Coogler and company pulled off here is special, not simply because of its majorly-black cast, but because of how the cast and crew came together to create something that feels black and works because of how impressive it all comes together.
Chadwick Boseman is terrific in the lead role of T’Challa, giving the character a ton of personality, as well as a strong sense of emotion and heart, as it is obvious just how much his character loves the nation that he rules. I also really enjoyed the performances from Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira, as both play very strong female characters who consistently go back and forth with Boseman, and the chemistry that these three share was brilliant.
The standout performances, however, came from Michael B. Jordan and Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s sister, Shuri. Wright is hysterical from her first scene onwards, consistently landing her lines with the help of a great script by Coogler.
For how great Wright was, Jordan has the top performance of the film by a solid margin, as his character of Killmonger is simply put one of the best villains Marvel has ever created. There is so much to love about the ways Killmonger is developed, as there is a significant amount of emotion given to his backstory that is constantly lacking with superhero villains today. Jordan played the part to perfection, and his character was, in many ways, one that masterfully wraps up the themes of the film, and one that was perfect as the counter to Boseman’s T’Challa.
Though this is not a movie that relies on its action sequences, the action is exceptionally well shot and incredibly tense. The action always feels crucial instead of being simply for entertainment, and the suit that Boseman wears makes for some spectacular moments that had my jaw dropped.
Not only is the soundtrack by Lamar great, but the musical work in the film itself stood out as a major highlight. Ludwig Göransson composed the film, and his use of classic African sounds with a modern flair made for a heightened atmosphere that had me, along with Rachel Morrison’s terrific cinematography, totally sucked into the movie.
There are rare attempts at comedy that felt a little forced or out of place, and while these misses were much less frequent than the hits, the attempts that didn’t work really stood out when they happened.
The opening third of the movie is a little slow, and it took me a decent amount of time to get fully enthralled with the plot, but the character work and world-building were so tremendous and so completely satisfying that it is hard to even say that this is that large of a flaw.
“Black Panther” was a movie that the superhero genre needed, and the result is something that will stand the test of time. This movie manages to perfectly build a world we have never seen, expertly crafted characters on both sides of the story that have multiple layers and that I can understand and all while nailing Marvel staples like comedic timing and eye-candy action sequences. “Black Panther” is a black film that takes pride in being a black film, and everything from its story to its atmosphere simply works, and it truly is one of the best movies that Marvel has ever made.
What did you think of “Black Panther”? Comment below with your thoughts.