Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman, Florence Kasumba, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown.
Rating: PG-13. Runtime: 2hrs and 15min
Black Panther is the 18th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Let that sink in for a moment. There’s only a couple other franchises that can top that (at least for now).
You would think that by this point, it would be difficult to keep the franchise fresh. However, with Black Panther, Marvel continues to bring new and exciting perspectives to its movie universe.
This is a significant entry in the series. It is the first major superhero movie to feature an African hero, as well as an almost entirely African cast of characters with their native country taking center stage.
Story: 8 out of 10
Overall, the plot is very solid. Other than briefly mentioning a couple events that took place during Captain America: Civil War (mostly for background info), Black Panther is its own, self contained story. This was a great way to show the world these characters can stand on their own without the rest of the Marvel crew to hold them up.
Black Panther is an origin story, introducing not just T’Challa, but also Wakanda: it’s people, culture, and traditions. The majority of the film focuses on T’Challa officially take over the mantle of king as well as what ruling the fictitious African nation looks like.
The pacing did feel a bit choppy and disjointed at times, but not enough to hurt the film. I do think Killmonger’s plan (no spoilers) would have carried more weight if it had been saved for the inevitable sequel; giving T’Challa more time as king first. It’s not a major issue though, and still worked well here. There were also a few things that didn’t completely add up, however, nothing that can’t be chalked up to comic book logic.
As with any Marvel movie, there is plenty of humor to be had which is well timed and feels organic. Black Panther knows exactly when it should be funny and when it’s time to be serious; something I still feel derailed Thor: Ragnarok.
There are 2 after credit scenes, so make sure you stay until the end. The first expands on Black Panther, and the second adds a small tease for the upcoming Infinity War. If you were like me and hoping to see the last Infinity Stone revealed, sorry to burst your bubble; no such thing happens (I still think it will be in Wakanda though).
Acting: 10 out of 10
This is one of the areas where Black Panther shines the brightest. Everyone not only gave fantastic performances, but they also all felt vital to the story. Each character had meaningful moments throughout, and no one felt wasted.
Chadwick Boseman reprises his role as T’Challa/Black Panther. He is very charismatic and the perfect choice for the role, however I did leave the theater wanting more. There was plenty of time devoted to T’Challa as king, however I wanted to see more of him as Black Panther. The moments he is in the suit are great though.
Michael B. Jordan was fantastic as villain, Eric Killmonger. A story always stands out more when you can sympathize with the villain and their point of view. You can definitely understand why Eric feels the way he does even if his reaction is wrong. It’s also satisfying to get more than the standard “evil for the sake of being evil” baddie common in the comic book world. This must also feel like a bit of redemption for Jordan as his last go in the genre was the colossal train wreck of a reboot: Fantastic Four in 2015.
Letitia Wright absolutely stole the show for me as T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri. She was responsible for a large chunk of the humor and her presence lights up every scene she’s in. She deserves as much screen time in future movies as possible.
Shuri is the brilliant techie behind most of the developments in Wakanda technology similar to Q in the Bond films. The car chase scene, specifically was outstanding and really felt like a cool and unique idea for a franchise that’s 18 movies deep and already featured technology experts before.
Danai Gurira’s Oyoke is a fierce warrior who takes things more seriously than the other characters; which also makes for some great humor. She’s known for playing the badass Michonne in The Walking Dead, however Oyoke’s skills in battle are far superior. Oyoke is passionately commited to Wakanda; so much so that someone in the theater with us yelled out towards the end, “She’s loyal as fuck!” Comments like that, and the audience’s reaction to them, are why I love going to movies opening weekend.
Others, including Angela Bassett, Forest Whitacker, Luputa Nyong’o, Winston Duke, and Daniel Kaluuya all were terrific at rounding out the cast. Andy Serkis also proved that he’s not just the king of voicing CGI characters, but can also hold his own in person.
Sound: 9 out of 10
The music in Black Panther also stands out, offering a refreshing change of pace. Composer Ludwig Göransson, actually spent a month in Africa researching the music of the area to ensure the score sounded authentic. That, combined with a soundtrack by Kendrick Lamar, resulted in a music experience that sounds unlike any Marvel movie that’s come before.
Visuals: 8.5 out of 10
The visuals for the movie mesmerize at times, and at others disappoint. Some scenes, especially shots of the city of Wakanda, look fantastic. The mix of futuristic tech and ancient tribal traditions make for serious eye candy. Other sections, like the big fight at the end, showcase CGI that seems below Marvel’s achievments with other movies.
The last fight between T’Challa and Killmonger reminded me of the early days of Marvel movies. Think of some of the special effects in Sam Rami’s Spider-Man. Specifically, Peter in his wrestling outfit, climbing up a building after the death of his uncle. After 15 years, it is painful to watch.
A couple of the landscape shots are also a little too noticeably green screen created. I blame Marvel for these issues. They should have thrown more money and time at it to make the scenes look as good as their other films.
The costume design for the movie is honestly award worthy. There is so much detail to all of the colors and designs that it’s easy to get distracted from the rest of the movie just taking it all in.
Obviously, this review represents what I feel were the strengths and weaknesses of Black Panther as a movie. At the same time, this movie represents a historic moment for Hollywood that transcends numeric ratings. Box office records are currently being broken and will undoubtedly open the door for more culturally diverse superhero movies, which should have happened a long time ago.
The movie has a much needed message, not just for African Americans, but for everyone. As T’Challa tells the UN; “that which binds us together is stronger than what separates us.” This is a message we need to hear now more than ever.
Black Panther’s final score is 8.9 vibranium panthers out of 10.