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With a more African feel and a predominantly cast and crew, this movie has a lot riding on it. Does it hold up as well as the critics have claimed it to be?
Black Panther is the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is directed by Ryan Coogler, who is responsible for other critically acclaimed films such as Creed and Fruitvale Station. The film stars Chadwick Boseman as the titular hero, Letitia Wright as his sister Shore, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, Danai Gurira as Okoye, with Forest Whitaker as Zuri and Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue.
The film takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War. After the tragic death of his father, T’Challa returns to his home country of Wakanda to take on the mantle of king. However, T’Challa’s mettle as both the king of Wakanda and its protector – the Black Panther – will be tested in a way he has never been tested before as a powerful enemy comes to Wakanda and threatens to change the way of life of the people.
For starters, it is true that Black Panther is really good. Great, even. It’s just a matter of how great. The performances of the characters are among the best that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has seen. Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa is phenomenal to an insane degree. He’s emotionally divided, which makes him a deeper character. He’s strong but also compassionate to others, even if they threaten his life and his throne.
However, unlike any of the other movies in the MCU, it’s the supporting cast that steals the show. Gurira’s Okoye is a strong and fearless leader of the Dora Milaje; the all-female special forces unit. Two other standouts are Winston Duke’s M’Baku, who’s relatable, but hilarious, and Wright’s Shuri. Shuri is the tech genius that has that teen personality that makes her a definite standout.
The character that runs away with the movie, though, is Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger. As far as the most sympathetic character in the film, Killmonger is hands-down the most sympathetic. Without spoiling, when his backstory is revealed in the movie, you immediately feel for him. You understand why he does what he does and you also understand his motives, even if you cannot agree with them.
The culture of Wakanda is perhaps the most immersive culture in the entirety of the MCU. It could have been so easy for them to make the entire film take place outside of Wakanda, but instead they placed majority of the film there. Visually, it’s perhaps the most gorgeous film in the franchise to date. You truly get a feel of the lifestyle of the people in Wakanda, from crowning ceremonies to the designation of the Black Panther. The music fits this as well. The score that composer Ludwig Göransson made is so great, it feels like its own character at times.
The action scenes in the film are great as well. Each and every sequence is shot artistically and with such grace that some scenes don’t feel like they belong in an film that’s part of this franchise. Each action scene has some visceral nature to them, but they still have that signature Marvel flair to give it that spectacle, as if the film needed anymore.
While the film is a great superhero film in its own right, the film does contain some social commentary and does it in a way that you’re invested in the politics and you don’t really get that hunger for the Black Panther action. The film takes a look at the extremes of two sides, not really saying which one is right. In fact, Coogler does a good job of portraying the idea that there isn’t a right answer to the question of “should Wakanda isolate itself from the world.” Both sides have their good and bad, but the bad of each extreme outweigh the good.
With all the good of a film, there has to be some bad. Black Panther is no exception. For instance, while the humor in the film was solid for the most part, some of the jokes didn’t land as well. There’s some lines that seem to be playful jabs, but come off as more cringe than anything. That’s not to say that it’s all bad, but some of it doesn’t hit in the way that they thought it would.
The CGI in the film is also great for most of the movie. However, some moments in the film seem rubbery and some moments you can tell where the blue screen is and where the green screen is in some scenes. There is some pacing issues as well in the film, especially going into the third act. The film was finely edited, but some of the actions scenes seem a bit choppy due to some of the editing. It doesn’t break the movie, but it must be addressed that there is some pacing and editing issues.
Black Panther is a great movie, for sure. Despite some pacing issues and very noticeably poor CGI, the performances of the characters and the culture of Wakanda completely outweigh the negatives of the movie. And with a record-breaking box office performance to boot, Black Panther has made its mark on the film industry and is here to stay.