HOLLYWOOD—I have seen a LOT of comic book movies in the past 15 years. Some great, some bad, and some of epic stature, but nothing compares to “The Dark Knight” in my opinion which hits on all cylinders. However, “Black Panther,” Marvel’s first foray into the universe of an African-American superhero is a phenomenal treat America. Let me put this out there, because this annoys me to the core as a critic. Yes, “Black Panther” has a predominantly black cast, but the idea of it being a ‘Black Movie’ is something people should seriously stop pushing.
This is not just a good ‘Black Movie’ this is a stellar film that will deliver something to all regardless of race, culture or age. That preconceived notion that this is a movie that will only appease to a specific demographic is an alarming trend, and I’d like to stop it before it runs amuck. Now that we’ve gotten that disclaimer out the way, let’s talk about this treat of a gem that is so enthralling I did not look at my watch ONCE, during this 2-hour plus extravaganza.
That’s a testament to the strong narrative, as well as the sensational character development. I mean I was almost certain, and I mean certain with all the characters in this movie some would come across very one note or underdeveloped, but that is not the cast here people. The narrative follows a civilization of people from the fictional country of Wakanda. Yes, I know some people might start Googling the place to see if it really exists.
Inside Wakanda, its residents have manifested one of the most powerful metals in the world vibranium. Its substance is known to give the Black Panther aka T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) his superhero capabilities. This substance is not all about superhero capabilities though. It has been used by Wakandans to advance their technology and leave a life of luxury in a Third World country that would surprise many from the outside world.
Now, this is a very interesting plot point in my opinion, that as a spectator that makes you think. There is a level of social politics in play in “Black Panther” that has a larger purpose on a global scale. It makes you question why the United States doesn’t do more with its wealth to share to those Third World countries that are under-developed and in need of vital resources that we have plenty of. This is a very similar dynamic that plays out with T’Challa and his former lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), who has made it her mission to assist those who are less fortunate. Boseman and Nyong’o have an interesting dynamic; the chemistry is there, but the film doesn’t push it as far as I think it could. You can see the characters as lovers, but rather they are actually in love is another story. T’Challa is surrounded by iconic warriors. Guarding his every move as his protector and one of his confidants is Okoye (Danai Gurira) and W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya). Okoye is character who against all odds holds an allegiance to the king of Wakanda, and that is further expressed through Gurira’s poise, yet silly banter at times.
I have to say if there was a scene stealer in this entire flick it has to be Letitia Wright, who plays Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister and the brains behind much of the technology and gadgetry in the country. I mean Wright brings an effervescent energy, likability, charm and comedic timing that is sheer brilliance to the movie. I honestly did not expect to laugh watching this movie, but I chuckled more times than I could count.
While Boseman delivers a solid performance as a man being forced into a position that he has hesitations about, it’s Michael B. Jordan who has a meatier role in my opinion. Jordan who portrays Erik Stevens aka ‘Killmonger’ has a presence that is captivating. While an initial ally to Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), its apparent Erik has ulterior motives. The character grows throughout the narrative and when his presence is first made in Wakanda it’s simply unforgettable. The battle between these two to hold the title of King of Wakanda is revelatory to watch, especially that iconic water battle.
Visually speaking “Black Panther” introduces audiences to some special effects, that quite frankly I’ve never seen on the big screen before and they’re not just tossed into the movie as a sole purpose of catching the viewer’s eyes; there seems to be a purpose and it furthers the narrative. Those kudos are earned by director Ryan Coogler who has ONLY directed 3 feature films. I mean “Fruitvale Station” was a dramatic masterpiece, and “Creed” showed that while Rocky is long gone, there is still more story to tell.
He has this way of ensuring to give the audience just enough with the script and the staging to want more, but at the same time to deliver subtle clues that play a larger role as the movie progresses. I mean I was well aware the opening scene for “Black Panther” was important, I just didn’t know exactly how it would play into the rest of the movie which caught me slightly off guard, but I liked it. Other notable players in the film include Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Sterling K. Brown, Martin Freeman and Winston Duke.
“Black Panther” in all of its glory is a cultural experience that while fictional will resonate with one’s core. It has a very resonating message about social politics, ethics, morality, family and when you toss a bit of superhero action in there you get a film that can appease to all, regardless of the color of your skin.