When this much hype surrounds anything, it becomes difficult to temper one’s expectations. The excitement can blur the lines for someone attempting to watch with objectivity. Audiences that have never even considered seeing a Marvel movie before, have been preordering tickets and lining up in costume to see Black Panther. This is one of those times when the movie has lived up to the hype.
The performances from the entire cast were extraordinary. Chadwick Boseman, Martin Freeman, Lupita Nyong’o and especially Andy Serkis all continue their unending streaks of amazing performances. However, the standout performances were from Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, and Winston Duke who stand hip to hip with veterans like Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker. Even the characters with very little screen time are given depth and life from the likes of Daniel Kaluuya and Sterling K. Brown.
The movie is titled Black Panther, but it could’ve easily been called Wakanda due to the fact that the movie was about everyone surrounding the superhero as well. The highly fanciful land of Wakanda feels real and lived in, because it breathes history. The chemistry between T’Challa and Shuri displays a dynamic of true family, which is just a single example of the unity present in this movie’s creation.
Boseman’s T’Challa is given much more background, while remaining consistent with his appearance in Captain America: Civil War. His father’s death and doubts about his new role as king and Black Panther give him an emotional depth that makes you feel invested in him. Making royalty feel relatable to regular people seems like an impossible task, but it’s done well.
Conversely, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is one of Marvel’s most well written villains. His anger is a feeling that is shared by black people worldwide as a result of the African diaspora. The only exception for him, is how much more personal his situation is. He is sympathetic in a way no other Marvel villain has been before. Loki is thoroughly entertaining, but I’ve never really wanted to give him a hug and tell him it’s going to be alright. Ulysses Klaue and M’Baku are both great secondaries, but it’s clear neither would have made for a better story.
Black Panther’s visuals are stunning. The architecture and landscapes, which are based on several different real African cultures, are beautiful. Wakanda looks like it could be real on the outside, but is just as fantastic and unique as Asgard, Xandar, or any other place the MCU has to offer on the inside. The CGI is outstanding (with a few small exceptions) and makes you hold your breath during action sequences.
The most unique aspect of the movie is its deeply political feel. The age old question of progression versus tradition is the main theme of the movie. Arguments and conversations make it hard to choose sides between the two viewpoints and no real answer is shoved down our throats. The audience is respected and allowed to walk away from the movie wondering what actually would’ve been the best decision for Wakanda and the rest of the world.
This first solo outing with the Black Panther feels unique with real stakes as opposed to the by the numbers origin stories we’re all bored with by now. Anyone watching will be so caught up in the cultural aspects, that they will be eager for more. Director Ryan Coogler has proven that he has what it takes to shine in a cinematic universe that has started to exhaust those of us who have been following since the beginning. This is the anti-franchise fatigue film Marvel needed. Just in time for Infinity War.
Black Panther is now playing in theaters across the country
(Image via Marvel)