Movie Review | Black Panther
Movie Summary: T'Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. (IMDb)
On Monday, I stated that Spider-Man: Homecoming was one of Marvel Studios’ better solo debut films, then I saw Black Panther the very next night and that claim was blown out of the water. Black Panther is unquestionably the single best solo debut film the studio has made so far, if not one of the best they’ve ever made at all.
That’s not a joke or any kind of pandering, Black Panther is a genuine epic set almost completely apart from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and yet still fitting perfectly within it, especially with Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross and Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue returning from previous appearances in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Age of Ultron respectively.
But the movie belongs to the new King of Wakanda and the people of this incredible fictional country, which looks amazing. I walked out of the cinema wishing it was a real place that you could visit because of just how incredible everything looked, from the architecture to the costuming, make-up, hair-styling and futuristic technology.
Just imagine how good the performances of the actors involved would have to be to top the incredible audio-visual design of Wakanda and realise that they actually did it. From top to bottom, delivering a wide range of excellent performances, the entire cast is just amazing from start to finish.
From Civil War, I already knew Chadwick Boseman would be great as T’Challa, but Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett provide more than able support as the women surrounding the King, with Gurira proving especially fearsome as the General of the Dora Milaje. After this film, it’s easy to see why she was right next to T’Challa in the Avengers: Infinity War trailer.
As good as they all, they are topped by a genuinely awards-worthy performance from Michael B Jordan as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, who provides one of the most intelligent, complex, and downright sympathetic villains you will ever see in a blockbuster movie. The truly great thing about his role is that his arguments aren’t really wrong – it’s only his violently aggressive actions drive him into villainy.
I would love to go and continue praising the film, especially for the topics it covers in a Disney film that lots of kids are going to be eager to see, but the majority of the plot is so heavily linked to character motivation that to go into any detail would result in spoiling certain events.
The most I will say is that Black Panther is a surprisingly political film with some adult themes that might well fly over the heads of the youngest members of the audience, but only serve to further drive home the point that massive studio films can tackle issues like these and should be doing more to do so.
There’s also a very James Bond-esque sojourn to South Korea with gadgets, gunfights and car chases that are an absolute blast. It’s a section vastly different to the rest of the film that takes place almost entirely in Wakanda, yet fits perfectly and doesn’t feel out of place at all. If anything, this part of the film simply highlights just how good a director Ryan Coogler is to manage tone and style shifts so damn well.
The only issues I have are really nit-picks in the end: some of the CGI in the climactic showdown is a little iffy and lacking weight, and there are a couple of moments where the story heavily relies on contrivances and coincidences to keep going, but I didn’t really notice the latter until well after the film finished and, even then, it didn’t really bother me that much.
Black Panther is a phenomenal film that will hopefully spawn its own franchise within the MCU so we get to see a lot more of Wakanda and its people. I simply can’t wait to see it again and again, with only the most minor of flaws stopping this from being a genuine all-time great. Marvel Studios is only ten years old and had already changed Hollywood forever – now they’ve just upped the bar even further.