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Black Panther Review

February 16, 2018 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Black Panther
8.5
The 411 Rating
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Black Panther Review  

Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Written By: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole; Based on the Marvel comics and characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Runtime: 134 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Chadwick Boseman – T’Challa/Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan – Erik “Killmonger” Stevens
Lupita Nyong’o – Nakia
Danai Gurira – Okoye
Letitia Wright – Shuri
Andy Serkis – Ulysses Klaue
Angela Bassett – Ramonda
Winston Duke – M’Baku
Daniel Kaluuya – W’Kabi
Forest Whitaker – Zuri
Martin Freeman – Everett K. Ross
John Kani – T’Chaka

“With the sleekness of a jungle beast, the Prince of Wakanda stalks both the concrete of the city and the undergrowth of the veldt, for when danger lurks he dons the garb of the savage cat from which he gains his name! The Black Panther!

– From Marvel’s Black Panther, Vol. 1 Issue No. 1; By Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics’ seminal superhero, Black Panther, finally gets his very own live-action feature. After his first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War, King T’Challa of Wakanda (Boseman), takes center stage in Black Panther, which stands out very well from the pack of previous MCU offerings.

After a crash course into the lineage of Black Panther, events pick up a short time after Civil War. T’Challa bids the presence of his former lover, the Wakandan spy Nakia (Nyong’o), to join him for his official coronation. Following the death of his father, T’Chaka, in an explosion at the UN caused by Zemo in Civil War, T’Challa now has to observe a long-held Wakandan tradition in order to ascend the throne. The prospective king must face challenges from other ruling tribes of the country.

After the ritual is complete, T’Challa seeks to settle an old grudge by delivering some Wakandan judgment to the weapons dealer and vibranium thief, Ulysses Klau, who has recently aligned himself with a deadly mercenary named Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Jordan), who appears to have keen interests in Wakandan artifacts. Unfortunately, T’Challa as king faces a dilemma: the long-held tradition of keeping Wakanda safe and isolated from the rest of the world, with its secrets and technological breakthroughs well hidden; or the pull to help the less fortunate of the world with the country’s advanced science, resources and wealth.

Wakanda is an isolationist country that is quite comfortable with its isolation, and it is the job of T’Challa as the king and Black Panther to keep his country safe. However, Wakanda has its own dirty secrets. And as the great bard said, “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” Killmonger is more than just a mercenary, and his goal for retribution could have dark designs for Wakanda’s future and the rest of the world.

This is very much the Black Panther movie comic fans have waited years to see. It features a great central hero and a strong supporting cast. T’Challa is propped up by the presence of very strong women in the form of Angela Bassett as his regal and wise mother, Ramonda. One of the best relationships in the story is that of T’Challa with his sister, Shuri (Wright), who also serves as gadget and inventor like Q in the James Bond series. Watching T’Challa’s back is his Dora Milaje bodyguard, Okoye (Gurira), who comes across like she could crush you, and has an intense look. T’Challa also has what appears to be a complicated relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Nakia, who seems to be more interested spending time outside Wakandan assisting in humanitarian efforts or infiltrating slave or human trafficking rings. Along with Forest Whitaker as T’Challa’s mentor and surrogate father of sorts, the Wakandan shaman Zuri, this is one of the strongest supporting casts for a solo Marvel film to date.

Coogler’s direction and presentation here are topnotch. He makes Black Panther seem very far removed and unique from previous entries in the MCU. Coupled with amazing production design work by Hannah Beachler and costumes by Ruth E. Carter, Wakanda looks quite marvelous. Thanks to the country’s wealth in the highly advanced vibranium and shielding from the rest of the world, the country looks almost like a completely different world.

Composer Ludwig Göransson provides a fantastic score that also is very unique. It features a mix of sounds influenced by African culture and music with that of more a traditional bold, heroic superhero-themed orchestra. It comes together for what’s really one of the most dynamic MCU scores in recent memory.

In terms of weaknesses, there are a few. There’s quite a bit of visual effects, and some are quite impressive. However, there is also quite a bit of some really off and abundant CG and cartoony stuntmen that seem rendered quite poorly in comparison to some other Marvel features. In terms of writing, Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole do make quite a few clumsy and cheap fixes throughout the narrative. Additionally, the film introduces many ideas that seem to ignore specific events that occur throughout Civil War and even in this film.

This is a bit of a minor issue, but there are a few too many characters and subplots. As a result, certain characters do come off as a bit under-developed. One such character is Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, one of T’Challa’s friends and trusted allies. His character arc and turning points throughout the film are a bit questionable and under-cooked. He has a relationship with another character that’s established and poorly utilized throughout the film, making it’s addition a little pointless. It seems there easily could have been some writing to streamline or combine certain characters or subplots that would have made the rest of the film run a bit more smoothly. Sometimes these additions take the focus away from T’Challa’s journey and inner-conflict.

These aren’t major complaints that truly hurt the film, and Black Panther is a lot of great fun. It does a great job of offering a lot of strong emotional impact and drama. If the abundance of jokes and comedy has bothered you in previous Marvel films such as Thor: Ragnarok, this is a much straighter film. There are jokes and gags, but they are downplayed a bit more here. However, for those who have been paying attention, Marvel Studios’ strength is more in its diversified portfolio of films which are more different than their critics would generally think. That fits Black Panther to a “T.”

8.5
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
This is an excellent effort as the first official Black Panther film in establishing Wakanda and Black Panther's circle of characters. The film features a fine cast and a unique look and style that sets it apart even further from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in ways audiences have not seen before. There's also a strong focus on drama and emotions with a lot less jokes, which for Marvel, is a nice change of pace.
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