Marvel Studios has had this remarkable knack for delivering pretty much the same level of quality for each of their comic book movies, and yet give each one a unique tone that helps to set it apart from the rest of the pack. Thor gave us a sense of awe and wonder with the world of Asgard, Captain America felt like a classic World War II movie from 1950’s cinema, while Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one of the most brilliant action/thrillers modern audiences have ever seen. Follow that up with Guardians Of The Galaxy and we get to relish in 70’s and 80’s pop culture references and music, as well as some delightful comedy, as well as the plethora of other films that have come out from them and it becomes clear that this is a studio that clearly knows what it’s doing. Now they have produced something that serves once again as something of a reinvention, but never at the expense of the quality of storytelling and characters, and that is their latest film Black Panther.
The movie opens in the 1990’s where we immediately start to get a sense of the part of the world our hero comes from, and what it is that sets Wakanda apart. From there we move up to right around the time of Captain America: Civil War and we see how the action from that film start to shape our lead character of T’Challa, and again we come to see that the Wakanda we are shown in Age Of Ultron is not all that we are led to believe. Along the way we are reunited with previously seen characters, both good and bad, and we follow the journey that T’Challa has to take in order to become a true King for his country and his people.
I have been a die-hard fan of these Marvel movies since the first Iron Man came out in 2008, and while there have been some that I liked more than others, at no time have I ever walked out of a theater just thinking that I had watched a piece of garbage, or at the very least feeling disappointed from my expectations. Generally speaking I’ve come out feeling just as I did going in, and then there are occasions where I’m totally knocked out of my seat by the great quality of the movie itself, and Black Panther is no exception. Coming in to this it was already announced that this film was going to really deal with an African sense of ethnicity and culture, starting off by having the film directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed; Fruitvale Station) whose experience helped to deliver the right type of beats and tones to create a film that would have resonance to the movie going audience. Having him co-write the film also served him greatly in that it helped him to craft the tone and vision of the movie right from its inception. Then, in a style that almost sounds like it was taken out of a page from the Pixar Handbook of proper character casting, this film ended up being filled with some of the most amazing actors to help provide the support it needed in order to create this amazing world and to make it absolutely believable, starting off with the return of Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, whom was last seen in Captain America: Civil War, not just as T’Challa, but also as Black Panther. He had already shown some good acting chops in Civil War, but here we get to see a character journey of the reluctant King, and all of the challenges he must face in order to become a true King of the People, as well as their superhero guardian.
Angela Bassett has done more than proven herself as being more than just a capable actress, but she portrays a character that has undeniable grace, especially when under pressure. She gives the perfect balance between a wise woman filled with poise and dignity, but is utilized in such a way to remind movie audiences that Black Panther honors those who came before, not just people who left us years ago, but even currently alive, and that they have value.
Other actors who help contribute to this wonderful movie are Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s highly intelligent, and possibly even precious, 16 year old sister Shuri, Forest Whitaker as the wise priest and Senior Advisor, Zuri. Rounding up the slate of “good guys” gives us Danai Gurira as Okoye, the General for the King’s elite fighting force, and we see the return of Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross from Civil War.
However, this would not be a proper Marvel film if there weren’t some adversaries for our hero to battle with, and this film delivers two baddies to create problems for T’Challa, the first being the return of Andy Serkis as Klaue, the man who loves to steal Wakanda’s amazing resource of Vibranium, which made Cap’s shield as well as helped to form the body for the character of Vision. While there is no real further development of Klaue as a bad guy, watching him being interrogated by Martin Freeman’s Ross is so incredible that I found myself actually expecting these two consummate actors break in to some dialogue (specifically the riddle scene) from The Hobbit. Then the last true villain to show up for this film are the characters of in the form of Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger as someone who has an axe to grind, and preferably as Wakanda’s King. Here we could have been given a two-dimensional, cookie cutter, bad guy. However, Coogler has other ideas and instead we are shown a man who has some deep-seeded films, and is motivated largely some bitterness. As the film’s adversary he is in no way some form of caricature to be unintentional humor for this movie. Between Coogler’s writing/directing, and Jordan’s acting we see a character who has us actively cheering on T’Challa during their struggles, and yet we feel sad when things don’t go right for him.
It would be absolutely criminal to not address this movie’s amazing musical score. Ludwig Göransson found a way to brilliantly take African inspired music and actually integrate it in with more standard, movie scores. But it’s more than just the fusion of the two. During the course of the movie the score acts and behaves as if its actually alive. It moves, breathes, expands and contracts like a living organism. It would be absolutely criminal if there weren’t some sort of award recognition, even if it is just a nomination, for this movie.
Black Panther is in some ways a very socially conscious film when it comes to culture, both abroad and at home. It shows us that there can be a higher ideal for us to strive for, and that even if we stumble and lose our way, we can always return to that higher ideal, for if we wish to achieve a Utopian society that it’s something we have to work hard to earn and continually live by. Lastly, this film does what Pixar’s Coco did for the Mexican culture, and it was to celebrate the ethnic culture whose holiday is a vital part. It wasn’t even 15 minutes in to the movie when audiences start to see the true spirit of the African culture. It’s not about economy, or not entirely about political strife, but it’s about this people’s culture and spirituality. We see that this is a thriving people, proud of who they are, and in love with their homeland. Because of that, and more, all I could think while watching this movie is that it is absolutely beautiful. Yes, this movie does have plenty of action sequences that clearly point to the fact that this is a Marvel movie, as well as its healthy dose of comedy to prevent the movie from becoming overly serious. But this film stands out in one area that completely caught me off guard, and that is Black Panther is a truly beautiful film.
Black Panther receives 5 out of 5 Vibranium Spears
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