Black Panther Movie Review

Much like DC successfully delivered the biggest female driven superhero film in last year’s WONDER WOMAN, Marvel has successfully delivered the first major superhero blockbuster using a predominantly black cast (not to mention a powerhouse of strong women) in BLACK PANTHER. Thus, once again, proving that race, sex, religion, and fill in the blank, does not matter as long as you make a quality product.

But BLACK PANTHER is far more than just a blockbuster genre pick catering to a less represented demographic. It’s a quality film that appeals to all audiences and is a cultural shift in movie making. Directed by Ryan Coogler (FRUITVALE STATION, CREED), BLACK PANTHER crosses off all the major requirements on the quality checklist without falling into lazy stereotypes.  Acting? Fantastic. Production, set, and costume design? Superb. Musical score? Fantastic. Story? Captivating with a deeper message about division and helping our fellow man that parallels issues within our current political climate.

Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira in Black Panther

We were first introduced to T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR in 2016. I recently revisited the film and was impressed at how well it holds up as one of Marvels best.  The character of Black Panther in particular stands out among all the familiar faces making one of the strongest impressions.  BLACK PANTHER picks up immediately following the murder of T’Challa’s father from CIVIL WAR.  Returning to African home, T’Challa will succeed his father and be named the King of Wakanda. Hidden from the rest of the world and secretly the most technologically advance nation on earth, Wakanda is a visual feast of beauty combining technology and nature.  The decision to help the world or the individual is largely at play.

Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

T’Challa’s teenage sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is the brilliant tech wiz who rivals James Bond’s Q, but with a playful childish glee and blunt nature. Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia, a lethal spy and love interest to T’Challa, and Danai Gurira plays Okoye, the general of the awesome all-female Wakanda army who is devoted to protect their king and the throne of the Wakanda people.  Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker are part of the older generation upholding the traditions.  Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis return as their respective roles from CIVIL WAR and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.  Then there is Michael B. Jordan as a the war machine Erik Kilmonger whose abandoned past has created a hateful one-note villain whose main purpose is to take the throne and provide a violent uprising.  While the deeper implications of how we foster hate and fear as a nation are apparent, my slight issues lie mostly within the over-the-top villain.  The steps and actions that Kilmonger takes and the others who are so quick to turn, seem to follow the conflict handbook rather than be believable actions for their specific characters.

Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther

It has been ten years and eighteen films since Marvel launched their Cinematic Universe (MCU) with IRON MAN.  While there has only been one true dud that I can remember (IRON MAN 2), nearly all the films, at the very least, have been entertaining. BLACK PANTHER is another solid Marvel installment that falls short from being the best (THE AVENGERS and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY). However, it still manages to set itself apart from some of the lesser forgettable entries, while landing safely in the middle of the pack from a purely entertainment value standpoint. Among all the over-saturated big budget market, superhero fatigue is inevitable. BLACK PANTHER is more than just a great action-packed with a touch of humor (although it could have used more for my taste) Marvel movie. BLACK PANTHER is a breath of fresh air, tearing down cultural walls to the blockbuster movie making business and art form. It’s also a lot of fun.

OVERALL 3.5
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