Black Panther is Unapologetically Brilliant [Review]
Directed by Ryan Coogler
Written by Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Based on Black Panther by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis
Production company: Marvel Studios
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release date: February 16, 2018
Running time: 134 minutes
Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture
After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.
Black Panther is not simply another Marvel movie, it is not just another super-hero blockbuster, and it is not just a statement on race and culture in the world. It is all of these things in one brilliantly stunning unapologetic package. More than anything else this film genuinely moved me in a way I did not expect with its depth and beauty. While Black Panther was exquisite on many levels, it is unfortunately not without flaws. However, I do not feel those flaws detract much from the film as a whole, and in no way diminished the impact and importance of the final product.
The first and most glaring flaw was in some of the visual effects. There were moments when the digital layering of elements did not blend the way they were intended. It was unfortunate, and at times appeared unfinished. I am not entirely convinced that the (digital) print we saw was the final version of the film, or perhaps there was a mis-calibration of the projector in the theatre. I almost did not bring it up, but if this was not an artifact of a malfunctioning projector or a bad print, it definitely warrants critique. There were also some supporting characters that were thinly developed but hinted at much more than we were shown. While obviously not every supporting character needs a comprehensive backstory to be fully developed, but there was some subtle context around some that was a little too subtle and I do not feel came across as intended. For example, W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), his relationship to T’Challa and Wakanda I felt was not defined well enough. These are admittedly superficial critiques, which is why they don’t impact my overall opinion on this film.
What Black Panther achieved is a wonderful marriage of classic Marvel and African culture with a woke social conscience and a story containing echoes of Hamlet. It’s a super hero movie that addresses cultural racism, inequality, and historical slavery and colonialization earnestly – while being visually beautiful and eloquent. The look and feel of the film—the few maligned composite shots aside—is uniquely African, and to my eye honest and authentic. While the story and structure build upon the traditional Marvel film model, they also expand and in some respects break the mold to form this multi-faceted film. A film that is not only immensely entertaining, but thoughtful, poignant, and significant.