Overall: 18/20 – A
Director: Ryan Coogler
Actors: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira
This is one of, if not my absolute favorite origin story to date that MCU has created. It is vibrant, exciting, and amazing in just about every aspect. While unfortunately, Black Panther is the super-hero I know the least about in terms of those being released by MCU, luckily, I had Movie Buddy (MB) along during the viewing so I got a chance to brush up on a little back story.
Up until recently, the MCU has kept us largely in New York or California. If the Avengers left at all, it was as a group and they usually returned to their place of origin. Black Panther was unique in that it took place almost entirely in Africa with a brief glimpse of Asia, and a small but pivotal amount of time in Oakland, California. A place that has been named multiple times over the course of the last 10 years, the glittering country of Wakanda has finally been brought to life. This movie sets on the heels of Captain America: Civil War where T’Challa must prove to his people that he is capable of ruling Wakanda in the wake of King T’Chaka’s death. Everything is going fine and dandy until a rogue royal shows up ready for a hostile takeover.
I have seen a few reviews that have complained about a lack of depth to recent MCU movies. I’m not sure what they are looking for (and that’s a rant for another day), but there are plenty of story elements and themes to be found here. Not only do you have a fairly young, and newly minted monarch attempting to maintain control of his country with advisors who are all clearly older than him, but you also have close family/friends trying to convince him to use his new found power to radically change the world that he has always known and that has lasted for thousands of years. There is the immortal question asked: whether power should be used to defend or exact change and at what point does helping turn into conquering? On top of that, T’Challa is attempting to right the wrongs perpetrated by T’Chaka, maintain the unity of five separate tribes, and deal with a CIA agent who is complete busybody. Oh yes, and mourn his father. T’Challa has a lot on his plate and he handles it with grace.
Despite the political action and the superheroing that occurs, there is always time for fun and many times, the perfect amount of humor breaks through. The humor is light and witty banter, not slapstick or potty humor as observed in Guardians of the Galaxy, or the half-hearted attempt of Thor: Ragnarok to imitate it.
There can not be enough positives said about the acting chops in this movie. Most if not all of these names are ones that have been on the rise over the last several years and represent a truly diverse cast. While Michael B. Jordan plays my least favorite MCU villain so far (Killmonger), my dislike of the character has very little to do with the way that Jordan played him. I just didn’t think his story line was as solid as it could be and with his death took out one of the major Black Panther villain story lines (according to MB). Switching gears, Letitia Wright as Shuri was probably the best part about this movie. She meshed extremely well with Chadwick Boseman who returned in the title role of T’Challa. The actors were dynamic and engaged with their roles and clearly had a blast filming.
The technology displayed was outstanding. It was just the right blend of believable with a touch of unfamiliarity to hint at what things could be developed in the next few years. The country of Wakanda was not what I was expecting but it was an interesting mix of old and new. The designs had a distinctive flair and appeared very traditional. I cannot speak to how accurate/authentic the garb and designs were but they were definitely amazing and full of color. The only issue I had was similar to most. The opening title sequence was extremely dark. Not in a macabre way, but a legit “I can literally NOT see what’s happening because the screen looks black.” Now, they were running a black-ops in the middle of an African jungle while mostly everyone was wearing dark clothes. So I can’t expect a lot. But it was extremely difficult to follow the action. The rest of the movie, however, was well lit, beautifully structured and fun to watch.
I’m not going to lie, I don’t remember it. At this point, it’s been almost two months since I’ve seen it. I remembered liking the rhythm that went with it. I remember that it counterpointed the action nicely. I remembered enjoying it. But I also remember going on to Spotify afterwards and going “meh” when I listened to the album. If I’m remembering correctly, the music is great, but it’s one of those few instances where it needs the rhythm of the visuals in order for it to make sense. As a stand-alone, it doesn’t evoke enough imagery in my mind to really rate awesomeness.
Overall: An excellent edition to the MCU and a great origin story to help me figure out who Black Panther is and the motivations behind him. He is rapidly turning into one of my favorite snarky characters.
Adults: Again, it’s a great addition to the MCU and as long as you are Marvel fan, go for it.
Children: Uh. Sure. Nothing in it is too terrifying. You might have some questions about death and resurrection after it’s over. But other than that, it’s not too scary of a story.