‘BLACK PANTHER’, directed by Ryan Coogler, starring Chadwick Boseman as the titular character, is the eighteenth film in the ‘MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE’ and follows T’Challa after the events of ‘CIVIL WAR’ in which he is crowned King of Wakanda and as King, he is faced with an obstacle that shakes his beliefs, everything he knew, and how he moves forward with his nation as its recently crowned leader.
Let me start of by saying how thrilled I am to see a superhero movie that dares to break the mold – a Marvel Studios movie, no less. I have never made it a secret; I have become exhausted of the superhero genre as of late. I grew up with the genre, I love the genre, however the superhero movie boom has left me numb to it as I feel the majority nowadays are interchangeable with one another. ‘BLACK PANTHER’, on the other hand, is an exception to the rule.
Right off the bat, Ryan Coogler establishes this movie’s identity. It is a visual marvel (pardon the pun), and there hasn’t been a superhero movie – especially a Marvel Studios movie – like it. The setting of Wakanda helps give this movie its own sense of style, as it teems with colour and personality that helps it stand out from the sea of superhero movies in recent years.
The music helps further add to the character that is this movie. As I stated in the ‘THE WOLVERINE’ review, I am something of a junkie for good soundtracks and musical compositions in films. ‘BLACK PANTHER’ deliveries a memorable score that will stay with you long after the movie. I am not the most musically in-tune person, despite my obsession with film soundtracks, but I can say that I consider it a must buy. Visually and musically, there is no other superhero movie like ‘BLACK PANTHER’.
Let’s talk narrative for a second, spoiler-free, of course. ‘BLACK PANTHER’ is a very personal story and a very human story. The direction the story took did take me by surprise, as I was not expecting such an emotional and, yes, relevant story – at least, not in a Marvel movie. Not to sound pretentious, but it is quite a Shakespearean story. One of the reasons I have grown numb to superhero movies is because I feel the majority of them rely heavily on the “go big or go home” mentality. It feels like a common trend to have a villain, usually a CG one, who threatens to destroy the world and a band of quipy, colourful heroes must team up to put an end to their schemes. ‘BLACK PANTHER’ presented a more grounded dilemma, not unlike Christopher Nolan’s ‘THE DARK KNIGHT’ trilogy or last year’s ‘LOGAN’.
I can’t and won’t go deep into Killmonger, since I don’t wish to spoil the movie for anyone who has yet to see it. His character, Michael B. Jordan’s (who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors today) performance, and the conflict he presents to T’Challa are understandable. They say the best villains don’t see themselves as the villain but as the hero of their own story; this statement couldn’t be more truer than with this character. You sympathize with his turmoil, and many will understand where he is coming from – which is, in many respects, the correct place. However, his means do not justify the end. He’s an antagonist with a point, but his actions are extreme and cross a line. His character is fascinating, to say the least. It seems to be a trend growing over at Marvel, with Vulture and Killmonger being villains who steal the show from the hero – for very different reasons, of course. Killmonger is what grounded the story to the degree it did. Not only did his backstory and motivation humanize the character, but it humanized the movie as a whole.
Let’s talk flaws for a moment. There are two issues that I have with this movie and while they do not detract from the movie itself, I did find them distracting. The action scenes, I felt, were very inconsistent and were not shot the best. Certain action scenes had the camera focused on one particular character and followed them around, showing off the intense and brilliant choreography and stunt work. Other instances, the camera moved at a breakneck pace, moving from one focus point to the next, making it hard to make out what is going on at times. While it is understandable, having fast paced action sequences can be exciting; it wasn’t done the best here.
My second problem comes with Martin Freeman’s character. Let me say that I LOVE Martin Freeman; he’s one of my favorite actors and his character is always a welcome addition. However, he wasn’t implemented well in the climax, I feel. His entire segment in the climax could have been cut and the movie would have been the better for it. It is clear why he is in the movie and I don’t think he should have been removed entirely, but his part in the end did slow down the pacing of the climax and it did feel like it was there just to pad out the runtime. It took away time from the bigger battle and the personal conflict between T’Challa and Killmonger. Ultimately, his role was predictable.
In the end, ‘BLACK PANTHER’ is a welcome addition to not just the ‘MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE’ but the superhero genre as a whole. I have saved this for last and it is a vital part of the film: it’s important. It’s important to a group of people who have felt underrepresented for so long and can finally feel represented in a genre that they adore. And to the naysayers, this movie isn’t being praised in the media solely for what it represents: it is being praised because good filmmaklng and storytelling deserves to be praised. And a good film that celebrates an entire group of people and tells them that they are no longer supporting characters or villains, but the leads in their own stories and they deserve to be celebrated is a film worth celebrating. This is one movie that is a definite must-see in theatres.