Black Panther is Marvel’s latest soon-to-be triumph at the box office. I was excited for Black Panther not just because its a film in the MCU or that is has a stellar cast, but mostly because of its director: Ryan Coogler. At age 31 he has directed two very good movies in Fruitvale Station and Creed, and he was undoubtedly the best choice to bring Wakanda to life. He can now add another great movie to his resume.
Black Panther does have all of the usual superhero movie tropes, but it also manages to be one of the most unique comic book movies to date. The cast is a lot of where the movie shines, the casting director deserves quite a bit of praise for assembling such a fantastic grouping. One of the biggest reasons that the MCU has done so well is because of the hiring of some of the best directors and the decision to hire Coogler had to be a no-brainer. This is a very entertaining movie with great message, but it isn’t without some flaws as well.
Michael B. Jordan plays a vicious villain named Killmonger and you can understand a lot of what his motivations are. The only problem with his character is that there wasn’t near enough of him! He is entirely underutilized, and after a great introduction scene he disappears till about the 3rd act of the movie. With a runtime of two hours of fifteen minutes there are some parts that undoubtedly could’ve been cut, and that extra time used to flush out his character. In the end, he ends up being another villain with abilities that mirror that of our hero which was a disappointment.
Now let’s talk about some good stuff, it all starts with Danai Gurira as Okoye. She is a force and one of the best parts of the film. Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, and especially Letitia Wright are all great as the female leads. Wright was another scene stealer for me as she is the sister of T’Challa and and sort of the tech genius of Wakanda. The MCU would be smart to utilize her in future films. Daniel Kaluuya of Get Out fame is also a great addition of the cast. Boseman is once again good as T’Challa. Not only is the cast great, but each character has a lot of depth behind them and film spends a lot of time helping you understand where the characters stand on issues and why they feel that way.
The best Marvel films, are the ones that have a little bit more to them than just beating up bad guys and generic villains that want to destroy the world for some dumb reason. The characters in Black Panther are debating on whether or not they should provide foreign aid to other countries. It is an issue that they struggle with throughout the film, but the presence of Killmonger further complicates it. Black Panther is never preaches to its audience, but rather shows you both sides of the issue through the viewpoint of different characters. Other than Killmonger being gone for too long I thought that there was a bit of disconnect between first half of the movie and the second. While the first half feels like your normal Marvel movie, the second half feels more unique. There is also a small subplot with Rhinos and Daniel Kaluuya’s character that felt tacked on.
I think that are some equal parts good and bad with some of behind the scenes elements of the movie. The score was fantastic and one of my favorite elements for sure. Black Panther is full of colors and creates this vibrant and exotic environment which was a pleasure to watch, but then in some scenes there is noticeable green screen and the CG didn’t always look finished, which is shocking considering Marvel usually covers their bases on this sort of thing. And while I thought the set design and the construction of Wakanda was great, some of the action sequences especially one in particular are way too dark and hard to follow. This is surprising considering the phenomenal work that Coogler did with the boxing scenes in Creed. The final fight was also taken to dark area that I think would have been better if maybe it was above ground. During this fight the film also kills its momentum by by cutting back and forth between different characters, whereas I would’ve enjoyed a scene just focused Black Panther and Killmonger.
I think what you get with Black Panther, is a comic book movie that feels different enough to be unique and also similar enough to fit in with the rest of the MCU. It is not without some flaws, but it does enough good stuff to balance itself out. It’s highly enjoyable and highly entertaining. Ryan Coogler has hit another home run for Marvel, and now the Russo Brothers are up to bat with the bases loaded.