Ever since Disney has acquired the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), they have regularly been pumping out superhero films that have been generally well received and have more or less satisfied their corporate objectives of the studio each year. That being said, Disney has always had the tendency to use more or less the same formula whenever making a new movie. Case in point was how the new Star Wars reboots literally had the exact same plot with subtle differences, or how most Marvel movies after Avengers were crammed full of cheesy one-liners and jokes which detracted from moments which could have used poignancy and gravitas instead of copping out with cheesy jokes that’ll make 10 year olds happy. Now I could go on but that’s an entirely different thing in itself, so I digress. Black Panther was truly a breath of fresh air from Marvel studios post mouse acquisition. This movie was amazing and I can’t stress that enough.
The story of this film is set very shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War where we see a young Prince T’Challa, who has to bear the mantle carried by his father and his ancestors before him in the face of tragedy. One of the reasons this superhero movie was so great was not because it showcased the cool aspects of the Black Panther, granted we get a plenty of that throughout. The movie was great because it looked at the character behind the suit; it’s less of a superhero action movie and more of a story of a new king who has to balance all these new aspects of his life and the challenges with it. The plot keeps viewers invested as it shows this amazing civilisation that is Wakanda which is filled with a multitude of tribes, diversity and culture. This, paired with the great character arcs of the protagonist and antagonist, paved the way for a phenomenal film.
T’Challa is seen to be more relatable in this film in contrast to the role he had in Captain America: Civil War. He loses the side of him that is hell bent on revenge and instead we see a boy who faces adversity following the loss of his father, challenges against his monarchal position, and on top of that, being the protector of the golden city in which his people reside in. Chadwick Boseman delivers a stellar performance in this regard, portraying a very complex character and does justice to its source material. They say a superhero movie’s greatness is earmarked by the significance of its villain which is why Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is revered as the best of all time and understandably so. Erik Killmonger is very much a different villain to the rest of the MCU’s lineup in the sense that he actually has a driving motivation behind his character’s actions and this is what truly sets him apart. He isn’t just some angry being that just exists to destroy for some reason or a sorcerer with major daddy issues. Michael B. Jordan stole scenes through his commanding presence, and remains genuinely scary as opposed to the bog standard paper mâché opponents we usually see heroes face in the MCU.
The other members of the cast also delivered in their performances. It was a cool twist to have T’Challa’s sister contrast his character as more of the intelligent tech head prodigy. The women in the movie were amazing and were made out to be equal to or greater than their male counterparts in their fight scenes, a feat only seen previously in Wonder Woman. Lupita Nyong’o also stands out as not your generic damsel in distress but more of a Princess Leia-like character who can more than hold her own in a fight whilst portraying a very eloquent and intelligent character. Some other characters I thought added a lot to the film were characters like M’Baku, another tribesman who added a fun spin, as did Agent Ross & Ulysses Klawe played by Winston Duke, Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis respectively.
The film, whilst being predominantly action and drama heavy, still possesses the typical humour expected from Marvel films. What it does better is that it doesn’t overpower the audience with excessive humour like Thor: Ragnarok or any of the Avengers films have done in the past. Viewers will find the plot relatively easy to follow as well as the cinematic tie-ins with previous films, although present, are very minor and, for the most part, the gist of the film can be gathered by the scenes within it.
There can be a lot said about the movie but one thing that is undeniable is the stellar score and soundtrack which could have articles written about them alone. From Kendrick Lamar to The Weekend, Khalid and SZA, the tracks tailored for the films are power houses that could all make for great superhero workout motivation. The score has a lot of African tribal instrumental influences which is a nice touch to the origin of the characters. The instruments made for a more present score which is what most of the Marvel films lose out to in contrast to DC comics’ Heavy Hans Zimmer influence. The score added a sense of levity and depth to some of the scenes which arguably hasn’t been seen in Marvel films since the days of Danny Elfman scoring for the Tobey Maguire Spiderman franchise.
As with most movies, Black Panther isn’t without its faults. While it is arguably a phenomenal film, there are a few niggles & gripes that are worth mentioning. Whilst I found Michael B. Jordan’s character an absolute delight and arguably one of the best villains in the MCU, if not the best, he lacked screen time. It got to the point that halfway through the movie I would find myself occasionally wondering where he was or just completely forgetting that he’s in the film. The same can be said with Andy Serkis’s character Klawe, again a big major villain who was a wasted opportunity with absent screen time. The CGI in some scenes would also at times get in the way of some of the scenes though this is to be expected when the main fights are by characters that actually jump and move like cats. Some of the green screen scenes that could have had physical backdrops like some of the mountain ranges would sometime take away from the scenes as well, but compared to the brilliance of the rest of the film, this is a small price to pay.
Black Panther brought a fresh take on a the superhero action movie genre whilst adding diversity and a more dramatic and narrative driven storyline which made it stand out amongst the other 17 previous Marvel entries in its cinematic universe. This film and Wonder Woman are among the first to pave way to a big change that is a long time coming in how Hollywood portrays its heroes on the silver screen. The film is well-directed, visually stunning, superbly casted and scored perfectly. I would highly recommend anyone even if they were not a fan of the superhero genre to go see it in theatres, and stay throughout the credits for the three end credit scenes. Patience is required.
Rashdan is a second year marketing student who literally quotes every movie he knows where possible.