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Movie Review: Black Panther

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

For nearly a decade, Marvel has had a massive issue when it comes to diversity in their films. I n many films, people of color and women are abundant but only as supporting characters —  only white men got to be the heroes. Comic book films in general have had this problem as there hasn’t been one led by an African American since Blade Trinity thirteen years ago. But finally with the release of Black Panther, perhaps things can finally change. Is this historic watershed moment what many claim it to be, or is it just a passing moment in an ocean of status quo?


The Story for Black Panther is very well done. For starters Wakanda is an excellent setting, being unique from other places in the MCU while creating a fantastic look at what the future could be with unhindered progress. The lore and the way the whole country works is deep and interesting, even a simply political argument between leaders is thoroughly engaging as any reason to learn more about Wakanda is interesting and wonderful to learn. Certain themes also kept coming up when it came to Wakanda and the one that I picked up the most was the theme of isolationism. Since it’s birth Wakanda had been isolated due to European colonialism and they had to remain hidden lest their powerful resource vibranium fell into the wrong hands. For a few hundred years that was all well and good but in recent years Wakanda could have done a lot to help the world, even stop certain villains from rising, but they were concerned more with protecting themselves. This leads to an a very interesting moral dilemma for T’Challa as isolationism has not only led to the world still being far behind but in the case of the film’s villain has led to terrible things happening. The idea that isolationism does not work in this day and age is one that struck a major cord considering what is happening in our country right now. But all of that, those fascinating details, that’s just the world itself but how is the story in a whole? The story itself does play out like a typical Marvel films: Our hero is introduced, succeeds in fighting some villains, the main villain comes in and takes the hero down, third act dilemmas and finally victory. Generic stuff however one that does the job for a first film. Not to mention Black Panther has a lot of great stuff to fall back on.


The characters for Black Panther are some of the most interesting and dynamic Marvel has ever offered


T’Challa is a great main character. He’s kind and compassionate and cares deeply for the safety of his home and people. What makes his character work so well though are the moral dilemmas he has to face when it comes to the traditions of Wakanda and his own family. T’Challa already had a massive burden placed upon him and throughout the film he has more trials to work through. These make him and even more interesting and likeable character.


Erik Killmonger is by far the greatest villain in Marvel’s cinematic universe. Killmonger could have easily been yet another Mirror Villain, a character who has the same abilities as the hero but uses them to of course take over the world. But there is far more to Killmonger then just that. He has an immensely sympathetic backstory that, while not excusing his acts of villainy, make his action understandable. That, combined with his overall goal, honestly made Killmonger an incredibly likable villain so much so that to an extent I felt he was in the right. That is both a flaw and a massive strength for the film. I found it difficult to root for the heroes yet knew that Killmonger still had to be stopped. Every confrontation between T’Challa and Killmonger filled me with such emotion that I haven’t felt since Creed.


Shuri is an immensely likable character. Shuri is incredibly intelligent, so much so I’m very eager to see her put down Tony Stark when they meet in Inifnity War. Shuri is also very charming and an absolute delight whenever she’s on screen, out of all the characters introduced in Black Panther she’s the one I’m looking forward to seeing again the most and hopefully when Tony Stark inevitably retires from the position of Iron Man Marvel considers her to take up the mantle.


Nakia is a good character. She’s very loyal to her friends and is also a very competent fighter and though not used often in fights is she still has a chance to show her great prowess. She’s also the love interest to T’Challa and the film handles their romance incredibly well, making for one for the better romances in the franchise’s history.


Okoye is a very enjoyable character. Like Nakia she’s an excellent fighter and proves time and again how good she is. Her more straight forward, no nonsense personality makes for some humorous scenes as well as she works very well off of the other characters. She’s also the leader of the Dora Milaje an all female group of warriors who are incredibly intimidating. Like Wonder Woman before it’s great to see some progress being made with female characters especially strong fighters like Okoye and Dora Milaje.


Ulysses Klaue is our secondary villain and though in the film very briefly he still manages to leave a good impression. He’s incredibly sadistic and violent and loves every single  debaucherous second of evil he commits. He is an entertaining villain though in terms of story and overall plan he pales in comparison to Killmonger and though entertaining it was the right call to shove him off to the side.


Everett K. Ross is a dull character. He has his moments of humor but for the most part he serves as a sort of replacement for Phil Coulson and he’s absolutely perfect in that regard. Coulson was also rather boring for the most part.


The acting for Black Panther is just incredible


Chadwick Boseman is great as T’Challa. Boseman easily manages to give off the impression of being a strong but kind and benevolent leader. Boseman is captivating in his role though honestly I find him to be a better T’Challa then Black Panther.


Michael B. Jordan manages to steal the show as Killmonger. Jordan gives a strong, emotional and empathetic performance in every scene he’s in and even manages to outshine Boseman every now and again. In each and every role he’s taken Jordan gets better and better and for the moment his role as Killmonger is his best.


Letitia Wright is great as Shuri. Like the character Wright is very charming and enjoyable, so much so that whenever she was on screen I was guaranteed to smile and laugh. She works incredibly well with Boseman and the two are very convincing as brother and sister.


Lupita Nyong’o once again proves how great of an actress she is. Nyong’o is absolutely fantastic as Nakia, being memorable and grabbing my attention with each and every line of dialogue. As if she wasn’t awesome enough Nyong’o also learned three different martial arts for her role: Judo, Jiu Jitsu and Silat, how awesome is that? Unfortunately while she does get to fight quite a bit it really seems like she isn’t allowed she show her full prowess which is a shame but hopefully knowledge that won’t go to waste in the future.


Danai Gurira does very well as Okoye. She gives off the impression of immense strength and works well with many of her co-stars. This chemistry she has leads to many great moments with her.


Some of the supporting cast managed to be inedible as well. Forest Whitaker, though not used much, still manages to give a good performance as Zuri. Daniel Kaluuya is very good as W’Kabi. Angela Bassett is both great and almost unrecognizable as Ramonda. And of course Winston Duke manages to be an incredibly powerful, memorable and often times very funny presence as M’Baku.


Andy Serkis gives a very enjoyable performance as Klaue. Serkis seems to know that he won’t be around for long so takes every opportunity to have the most fun with his character, His glee and excitement are almost infectious and he makes for a very exciting first act.


Martin Freeman does well as Ross. There isn’t much to say about his performance other then he was just there. He wasn’t bad by any sense of the word it’s just he didn’t have a lot to work with.


The action scenes for Black Panther were rather underwhelming.


If there is any kind of problem with action scenes that Marvel is having it’s shown in full force with Black Panther. The action, to me, just wasn’t exciting or even that memorable and it’s due to Marvel’s heavy reliance on CGI. Now granted this isn’t bad all the time, in other movies it works well and here sometimes there are moments that are very cool and could only be accomplished by CG. But there’s so much here that didn’t need to be CG such as when T’Challa donned the Black Panther armor. When that happens he stops being a person and becomes a cartoon character. Every fight, every motion is done completely with CG and to see a cartoon fight hand to hand, something a person who knows how to fight could easily do, is distracting and causes the action to be unimpressive. This is why I felt that Boseman was great as T’Challa but not as Black Panther, because a cartoon takes over for him. Even when he ahs to fight and is not in the suit the fight is so choppily edited so as to make it seem like he’s competent. And that bothers me greatly. Lupita Nyong’o learned three different martial arts for her role and no one could get a trainer for Boseman to learn just one? Coogler’s direction in the action is also not done well. His cinematography is shaky and his editing is too quick. However, this is the first actual action film he’s made so the fault isn’t truly his own. But here’s the thing: To me for a good action film all you need is good action scenes. To be a great action film all you need is a really good story and really good characters and in those regard Black Panther has those down to a tee.


The effects, sets and costumes for Black Panther are a mixed bag


The CG for the most part is very obvious and can be very cartoonish in regard to the fight scenes. However, there are times when it does look appealing and does work in moments that would have been too dangerous for the actors and stunt team to do. The sets are well built and are very unique, the whole of Wakanda looks absolutely incredible and unique. The costumes are what really stand out though. The costumes are all different and are many beautiful shades of color. They are absolutely stunning to look at the department who made them should be proud.


Final Thoughts: Despite some problems Black Panther is easily one of Marvel’s absolute best films and the first great film I’ve seen this year. The story is incredibly good with good lore and a lot of things to make one think. The characters are fantastic and emotional, the acting is phenomenal and the costumes are magnificent. While the action was a let down it still doesn’t stop Black Panther from being the great film that it is. Black Panther is a great historical moment in film history and God willing maybe Hollywood will now wake up and realize that the world isn’t populated solely by straight white men.


Verdict: 4.5/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I've loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor's in Journalism and I have Asperger's Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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