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Black Panther – Movie Review

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Black Panther – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Having been continually producing films for a decade, Marvel Studios has managed to hit a certain formula. Thankfully, its rotating roster of directors allows for some occasional invention and Black Panther manages to liven things up a bit with one of the more visually interesting entries in this grand cinematic universe. Director Ryan Coogler uses the film as a celebration of African culture, presenting a side of the continent not often seen on screen. Rounding up a fully committed cast and directing some impressive action scenes, this is a solid blockbuster with a lot to appreciate and decent surprises along the way.

Having already introduced Chadwick Boseman’s Prince T’Challa and his superhero persona in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther jumps right into the action and avoids the clichéd origin story that is almost required for these standalone entries. Coogler instead uses the film to introduce the country of Wakanda and its many wonders. Director of photography Rachel Morrison and the visual effects team portray it as a vibrant and technologically advanced land and it’s fun to venture into the many rooms and buildings of its capitol. Black Panther is intent on showing an African nation not influenced by outside forces, thus displaying its own impressive culture. The internal government system, traditions and technical wizardry of Wakanda are provided to the audience in exposition that excites rather than bores. This is best shown through T’Challa’s gadget-inventing sister Shuri, played in a scene-stealing turn by Letitia Wright.

For the most part, Black Panther doesn’t feel as tethered to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Aside from a couple of references to the events of Civil War and the return appearances of Andy Serkis’s arms dealer and Martin Freeman’s CIA agent, Coogler prefers to focus on Wakanda and its dilemmas. He is confident enough in this story to not have to stop and remind the audience that Captain America also exists in this universe. Black Panther is also less reliant on humour than other MCU films. There are certainly comedic elements and they successfully produce laughs, but the film is not akin to the quip fests of Thor: Ragnarok and the Guardians of the Galaxy series. Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger represents one of the better Marvel villains with a properly fleshed out motivation and back story. He is not an evil being bent on world domination and destruction, like so many of the baddies the other Avengers have had to face.

Ryan Coogler directs the action scenes with a real visual flourish. Black Panther is almost comparable to a Bond film in how it utilises the Wakandan heroes and that leads to some inventive sequences. The stand-out is a fight in a casino that then launches into a car chase that brings more to the table than merely vehicles speeding down South Korea’s streets. The Black Panther suit is itself used cleverly, expanding and adding onto the abilities showcased in Civil War. The climax does end up being a little overlong, a common issue in some of these Marvel films. However, Coogler never forgets to put character and stakes above everything else.

For many people, Black Panther is a long time coming and the wait is absolutely worth it. It is certainly an important movie within the superhero genre and its impact could be considered comparable to last year’s Wonder Woman. It opens up the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe even more, while providing a fun spectacle with well-rounded characters. Even though the jam-packed Avengers: Infinity War opens in three months, Black Panther doesn’t feel like merely the lead-in to that big event. This movie works, even if one has somehow not seen the previous Marvel pictures. This is a promising start to what is sure to be another blockbuster trilogy for the comic book movie giant.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison