Black Panther, Marvel's latest superhero offering, has been wowing critics and fans all over with the early screenings. Chadwick Boseman plays the superhero with the vibranium uniform who is also the King of Wakanda. He had made his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe earlier in Captain America: Civil War but this is his solo venture. Black Panther is directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed). The movie also stars Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis. Here's our review,
Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is recovering from the loss of his father, while also taking over the responsibilities as the King of Wakanda with its abundant supply of vibranium. As the newly anointed ruler, he has to juggle between the responsibilities of being a superhero and continuing the tradition of protecting his highly advanced country from the eyes of the world. However, he is forced to question the ways of his own ancestors when a new threat arrives in form of Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), who has a shady (and tragic) connection to his tribe.
For some time we have been hearing about this superhero fatigue - seeing too many superhero movies that strive on the same formula. Marvel, the leading entity of this genre, is itself accused of not traipsing beyond conventions. Sure their movies are fun and enjoyable, but when you do too much of a good thing, people expect you to raise your benchmark or just change them. In these times, comes Black Panther that makes us see things differently.
I am not saying that Black Panther is the best superhero movie there is, or even the best Marvel movie (I still have that soft corner for Captain America: Civil War). It has quite a few flaws that movies of its ilk suffer from, and that includes an overdose of CGI in the third act. But it is a game-changer for sure - a visual treat that will keep your eyes plastered for the screen for nearly the entire screen time.
More than a superhero movie, Black Panther owns your heart with the world building, the discussion of political and racial themes, and some fantastic character moments. Apart from Logan, this might be the only superhero movie where I wanted less of action and more of these Wakandan characters interacting with each other.
That doesn't mean that the action sequences are bad. T'Challa's ceremonial fistfights with both M'Baku and Killmonger are nail-biting, but that whole Busan chase sequence that starts from a Royal Casino-like setting is bloody awesome.
However, Black Panther is at its best when it lets us into the world of Wakanda and teaches us about its culture. While it belongs to the wider MCU (the inclusion of Freeman's Ross and Serkis's Klaue points towards that), Black Panther works perfectly as a standalone movie. Also the way it imbues black oppression into the narrative without sounding too preachy is impressive, but then Black Panther is made by the man who gave us Fruitvale Station. Marvel, don't let Coogler go!
Being a Marvel movie, there is enough humour, though the trailers do not betray this, that do not overshadow the seriousness of the plot at any moment (Looking at you, Age of Ultron).
That said, it is the characters I love the most about Black Panther. The cast is just fantastic. Chadwick Boseman's straight-man hero nearly gets overshadowed by some of them, but he holds his head high with a regal performance. He may be a staunch ruler, but he also terrifically portrays the traits of a playful brother and a gooey-eyed lover. But the hero is only good if the villain is awesome, and that's where Michael B Jordan strikes well. The tragic background given makes Killmonger somewhat sympathetic even if his actions don't and that makes him quite a nuanced villain - aided by Jordan's terrific performance. Is he the best Marvel villain after Loki? Maybe yes, but I wish the movie could have explored his character more.
However, it is the women in the movie who are the real heroes. Lupita Nyong'o is really good as T'Challa's ex-lover, a spy torn between her heart and her duty to the country. Letitia Wright is fantastic as T'Challa's geeky but badass sister Shuri who could be more brilliant than Tony Stark, and she provides most of Black Panther's LOL-worthy moments. Danai Gurira as the Dora Milaje Chief is a scene-stealer, with some awesome action sequences of her own. Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Andy Serkis, Winston Duke all get their moments to shine. This is Us' Sterling K Brown wins your heart in a brief cameo.
The cinematography by Oscar-nominated Rachel Morrison is fluid, with her camerawork giving Coogler quite a few opportunities to bring in his trademark one-shot takes. The background score is fab with Kendrick Lamar's "StarGazing" being the pick of the lot.
So does that make Black Panther a perfect superhero movie? As I said before, it has imbibed certain failings of its predecessors. The whole family twist is predictable, so is the pattern of how things fold out in the third act. Wish the writers could have written these sequences with a different take. But the final moment with the villain will touch you. Also, the VFX looks very patchy in certain portions.
- Chadwick Boseman as the hero
- Michael B Jordan's excellent antagonist.
- Ryan Coogler's deft direction
- The excellent supporting cast, especially the badass female leads
- Terrific character interactions and racial themes discussion
- Subdued humour
- Cinematography by Rachel Morrison
- BG score
- The third act could have been better.
- VFX patchy in a couple of portions
- Needed more of Killmonger, and even the hammy Klaue (Serkis)
- Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker don't get much to do
- Kids may find the racial themes too complicated.
If you are tired of superhero movies that are just wham-bam types, Black Panther is definitely a fresh whiff of breezefor you. You have to give to Marvel for trying to reinvent itself with each of its latest offering. I am still in two minds to call Black Panther the best MCU movie there is, but it is definitely in the topmost league. Do yourself a favour and visit the world of Wakanda, when the movie arrives this Friday. Now, eagerly waiting for Avengers: Infinity War!