Black Panther - Review
Marvel has this superhero thing down by now. Their movies are formulaic, and if you like that formula, those movies are joys to watch. But every now and then the formula changes. Captain America: The Winter Soldier did this. It changed the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and redefined what a superhero movie could be. Marvel's newest venture - Black Panther - did the same thing. Continue reading to see more thoughts on the newest MCU film.
When I walked out of the film, my first thought was that I didn't know Black Panther was a short film. It was only 45 minutes. I had never seen a short film in theaters before. Then I realized that it only felt like 45 minutes - the two and a half hour story moved so flawlessly, that time was irrelevant.
I had been a fan of Ryan Coogler since Creed, one of my favorite movies of 2015. What he did with that franchise and that character was truly remarkable. For him to go to a bigger sandbox was an exciting prospect. But I was also a bit nervous if he would be able to actually do what he wanted without much interference. After all, powerhouses like Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon had studio interference. But I didn't notice any of that here (except perhaps the post-credit tag but I don't count that.)
Black Panther is a spectacular film in every facet. Acting, directing, set design, costume design, story, sound, you name it, Black Panther does it well. In today's day and age, it is hard to be truly blown away by set and visuals when they are done so well. But seeing the contrast between Wakanda and the rest of the Earth is something that will stick out in the lexicon of spectacular movie visuals.
Audiences were familiar with the MCU version of T'Challa, and that was a selling point of the film. But the women steal the show. All three main women - Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright, - were absolutely the highlight. That had the best fight scenes, the best story arcs and the best character beats. If Marvel ever gets that "all-female team up" movie off the ground, these ladies better be involved. If they aren't, the film will suffer for it.
The biggest thing surrounding this movie is the representation on screen and the cultural impact. The outpouring of enthusiasm I have seen from people who normally don't watch these sort of movies has been the best part. For an underrepresented group of people to see themselves on screen is a powerful thing. I hope this opens the door for more important movies like this for all cultures. What Wonder Woman did for women, Black Panther is doing for women and people of color. That is an accomplishment not many movies can claim. Especially not a lot of good movies.
Which serves my next point: This is a good movie. If you knew nothing of the cultural impact it had, and went in blind, you would feel the same. It holds up through nearly every prism. The one thing it does better than most other MCU movies is that it has a strong villain. Killmonger is right up there with Loki in the upper eschelon of Marvel baddies. (If we include television, Daredevil's Kingpin played by Vincent D'Onfrio would be up there as well.)
The strong plot coupled with strong characters played by a strong cast is a winning combination. The film can be enjoyed if you've never seen a Marvel movie before, but if you've been with the MCU from the very beginning, the film rewards you too. Martin Freeman from Captain America: Civil War and Andy Serkis from Avengers: Age of Ultron, show up here as their respective characters, and I was surprised how much they meant to the plot. Freeman's character in particular, had a lot to do.
The villains motivations were strong and clear. His point of view made sense. Michael B. Jordan played Killmonger to perfection, and while he had an awesome mustache, he was certainly not a "mustache-twirling" villain. Jordan and Coogler have worked many times together. I liken their relationship to that of Burton and Depp, or Tarantino and Jackson, which is fine with me - both talents are wonderful.
The film preaches the importance of science and technology, and helping the less fortunate. It shows that violence isn't the answer, and with knowledge, the oppressed can over come. Coogler cranked out a hell of a picture, Marvel was smart to stay out of his way.
Black Panther is easily watchable, which means it has immense rewatch qualities. With how easy it flows, expect to plan multiple viewings of this.
If I had any criticism at all, its that I am not really a fan of the villain being exactly the same as the hero trope. Iron Man facing someone in another suit of armor, Captain America facing someone with the same serum he took, the Hulk facing someone else exposed to gamma radiation, etc. Black Panther faced someone with the exact same Panther suit. It made sense here. Killmonger was nuanced enough to be likeable and while parallels are always powerful in opposing forces, sometimes it can tip the scales in an unwelcome direction. But there is so much postiive here, that it wasn't that bothersome this time. In fact, it made the ending fight pretty cool.
Go support this movie, so we can get more stories like this. It is a great movie, one that will be watched for years to come. You won't regret it.
Black Panther is now playing in theaters everywhere.