Title: Black Panther
Release Date: February 16, 2018
Studio: Marvel Studios
Director: Ryan Coogler
Release Format: Theatrical
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has largely divided its films into two categories: world shaping international conflicts, like the likes of The Avengers and most of the Iron Man movies, and local personalized stories, like the Thor movies. The latest of these films now aims to take a more local and close-knit look at one of the newly introduced heroes– the legendary protector of Wakanda.
Black Panther is the newest Marvel film in the universe, but instead of it being another world-saving superhero movie full of character origin stories, it picks up right after the death of the former leader of Wakanda, T’Chaka, that occurred in Captain America: Civil War. T’Challa, his son, returns to Wakanda to claim his place on the throne, as well as officially assume the title of the Black Panther.
Shortly after doing so, T’Challa and his council are informed of the resurfacing of one of the few people who know the secret power of Wakanda, a criminal named Ulysses Klaue who had previously taken a portion of the vibranium from their home previously. With the help of his general and an ex-girlfriend, they manage to track him down as he is completing a deal with a member of the CIA T’Challa had encountered previously. When Klaue is eventually captured and being questioned, he is sprung free by a group of associates, one of which holds a ring that used to belong to T’Challa’s grandfather.
It is here that the true conflict of the film comes to fruition, as well as two central themes: tradition versus advancement, and isolation versus connection. Black Panther does an incredible job at looking at the conflicts that can occur within a society as they attempt to maintain their old world connections while thriving in the modern era. It also shows how neither side is entirely perfect in their reasoning and logic and the potential negative circumstances that are produced when trying to maintain order.
The biggest positive of the movie by far has to be the incredible cast of characters. Both the main cast and the supporting cast of characters in this movie all feel like fully fleshed out members of the universe and there is genuinely not a weak one that stands out. You can really feel the motivations and flaws of each person, and their actions make sense within the community created. Even the main villain’s perspectives make sense as a counterpoint to the motivations of T’Challa’s father.
One of my favorite characters, and probably one of the strongest contenders for best new character in the universe, is T’Challa’s younger sister and brainchild of the Wakandan society, Shuri, who acts as a perfect opposition point for the movie. While Wakanda is steeped in tradition and codes and rituals, she works in a laboratory that would make Tony Stark jealous. She brings a modern perspective and culture to the film and the society Black Panther takes place in.
Unfortunately, one of the only issues I have with the movie is how little information we’re given about the enemy known as Killmonger before he’s suddenly the central focus of the film. Though his motivations are clear, there’s no genuine connection the movie gives to us before we’re thrust into caring about who he is. This failure in transition feels admittedly awkward in an overall excellent story about politics and civilization.
Fortunately, this is balanced out by probably the most important part of the movie: the focus on people of color and, specifically, women of color. With only two white actors featured in the movie, Black Panther does an amazing job of featuring a multitude of powerful black actors and actresses doing the same heroic deeds we’ve seen from the likely of Captain America, Spiderman, and Iron Man. There’s a scene (no spoilers) near the end that cinematically highlights the various women of color and it’s an incredibly powerful statement on the importance of representation in the Marvel universe.
The cinematic fight scenes in this movie are truly excellent and stand with the better fight scenes in the cinematic universe. Between the wide array of classical combat techniques mixed with the high technology of the Wakandans makes for some epic and ridiculous fight sequences, none of which drag on for too long or serve no purpose other than a “cool” factor. The soundtrack constantly maintains the feeling of tradition tied to the modern era, and it does an excellent job of keeping those themes mentioned earlier in mind throughout the entirety of the film.
Verdict: As a whole, Black Panther does almost everything extremely well. It gives a deep dive into the character of the Black Panther and the Wakandan people without spending too much time pouring into backstories. It constantly keeps the ideas of political disagreements and the struggle over tradition in mind as it tackles some complex issues within the Marvel world. While it may misstep when it comes to the feeling of understanding the villain, the overall movie does an excellent job of making up for it with some truly excellent characters and storytelling. I strongly recommend seeing this movie.
- Excellent characters introduced
- Intriguing plot over the politics and traditions of a secret world
- Soundtrack tailored to fit the themes of the film
- Not a great character development of the main antagonist