After making his presence felt in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa has finally gotten his moment in the sun as Black Panther has finally arrived in theatres. With all of the hype and excitement surrounding this film, does it live up to expectations?
Before getting into the meat of this review, let’s take a moment to think about just how important this film is. Sure, it’s the last standalone MCU film before Avengers: Infinity War culminates in a decade-long free-for-all; but this film in particular is more than just a lead in to something bigger. Black Panther, although not the first film with a black super hero lead, is a film that is extremely important to today’s culture and society. We’re living in an age where roles of this magnitude are finally being given to a diverse range of actors and actresses of all colors and ethnicities. With so much hatred and prejudice somehow still being prevalent in our world towards people who may not look like you, Black Panther had the opportunity to really be something special, and boy, was it ever.
Chadwick Boseman nailed the role of T’Challa/Black Panther in Civil War, but his performance in this film goes beyond the scenes we got to see him in previously. His character is so well-fleshed out that it really captivated the audience, leaving them hanging on his every word. Seeing him struggle with the death of his father, his new role as the king of an entire nation, and the events depicted in this film really developed his character so incredibly much. The action sequences featuring Black Panther were superbly done for the most part, as the action sequences in this film were astonishing.
Aside from the main character, a film is only as strong as its supporting cast. With names like Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya, Dania Gurira, the cast was incredible. Each supporting character made their own impact on the film, serving as both friends and foes of T’Challa. Their individual roles really helped to not only further the plot, but stood out for so many different reasons.
The absolute breakout performance comes from Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s sister, Shuri. Shuri is one of the greatest parts of this film, serving as the “eye in the sky”. Her incredible aptitude for all things technology, wit, charm and exuberance made her one of the most endearing pieces of the film.
A villain can really make or break a film. There have been plenty of instances of MCU villains not living up to expectations (Malekith, Ronan, Whiplash, etc.) but this is not the case here. Andy Serkis reprises his role from Age of Ultron as Ulysses Klaue, and we get more of a back story on him. Serkis does a great job as Klaue, as his role is essential for both past and present events. But in terms of the “big bad” of the film, Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger takes the cake. Killmonger’s story was very captivating, seeing payoffs from the entirety of the film. His reasoning behind his motivations may seem cut and dry at first, but as the story unfolds, the lines seem to be blurred, leaving audiences to question whether he was ultimately right or wrong.
Moving on from the characters, the world of Wakanda was very impressive. From the rich landscapes to the Vibranium mines, Wakanda rivals Asgard (RIP). We were given a “glimpse” of Wakanda in Age of Ultron, but what we saw there was what the rest of the world saw, and for good reason. The advanced technology that is the lifeblood of this nation makes the tinker toys that Tony Stark makes seem like child’s play.
The film did an amazing job incorporating the lore and mythologies of Black Panther, telling the story of the origins of Vibranium, the mantle of Black Panther, showing the ancestral plane, and depicting African culture in a beautiful way. The costumes, dancing, accents, dialects, music and overall culture of this film were absolutely a sight to behold. This film is like nothing we’ve ever seen in the MCU.
Finally, the pacing of the film was perfect. The mix of action, dialogue and plot points helped to carry the film from start to finish in a very satisfying way. With the impending doom that is Thanos just around the corner, it was refreshing to see this film remain a singular story.
There really isn’t much to dislike about Black Panther. There were a few times where the CG might have not been totally up to par or overdone, but nothing that will take audiences out of the film. Marvel loves to throw humor into these films for levity, sometimes unnecessarily, but there really is only one instance that may seem out-of-place here. There were a few times where the plot became a bit predictable. If anything, Boseman and Wright should have been given more scenes!
Black Panther was simply a great film. From the cast to the culture to the action and everything in between, this film nailed every inch of what it set out to do. The themes depicted in this film, such as equality and togetherness, serve as beacons of hope not only for this franchise, but for the world that we live in. Hopefully a film like this can enlighten some people and help to bring us all together. In paraphrasing a line of dialogue from the film “a wise man builds brisges, a fool builds barriers”. Hats off to director Ryan Coogler and his team for putting together such a wonderful film-going experience.