By Andrew Jenck
I should address the fact that Black Panther is the first major super hero film to not only feature a black person in the title role but also a predominately black cast with only two white actors in major roles. Hence many social justice war-I mean well-intentioned “liberals” believe that it should be exclusive to only blacks and that no white critics should review it nor should whites even be allowed to see it. What they don’t realize is that filmography is an inclusive medium that can offer its audience a different perspective on one’s culture while not talking down to its audience, and for the most part it works. So, yes, ignore anyone who tells you otherwise.
I don’t think I need to go into too much depth with Marvel Studios, as my opinions on the whole franchise are about the same as others. I find myself enjoying most of the films, though tend to separate them into two different categories: A and B. Category A are the films that I immensely enjoy and find to breathe some fresh new air into the decade-old franchise, and Category B are films I consider solid but not in too much of a hurry to return to. Black Panther falls somewhere in between those two categories. Yes, I am aware of the critical acclaim it has received, and would not say that it is unearned. This is definitely a film I would recommend, having great actors, a solid script, interesting worlds, and entertaining action sequences; just not quite as memorable as some of the other films.
Perhaps the biggest strength of Black Panther is its setting and visuals. The world of Wakanda is very well crafted and a lot of thought was put into it. The color of the clothing really pops and strikes a balance of comic book visuals and African setting. Director Ryan Coogler, off of Creed, creates action of tribal warfare but with a science-fantasy element to it. The camera work can be a bit shaky but still works, and the hand-to-claw battles feel vicious but graceful. What’s especially unique is how the action clearly derives from tribal warfare but is given a technological advancement that manages to be believable in this world. An all-women military is featured, but the film never draws attention to their gender and instead lets their actions speak for themselves. Coogler handles the setting very well and it feels genuine.
The cast is spot on. Chadwich Boseman is calm but maintains a presence as the titular character, and he captures the turmoil and burden his character feels through the story. Lupita Nyong’o takes what could’ve been an underdeveloped love interest and adds charisma and screen presence. Martin Freeman doesn’t show much of his comedic chops but still poses as a good outsider perspective and shows genuine confusion and observation in the role. Leitta Wright, as the sister, provides a fun sibling dynamic. The stand out in the film is Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, who manages to be one of the interesting villains of the MCU, acting a role that garners sympathy and provides a great counter to Black Panther’s morals and what to learn from.
Really, the film does a lot of things right and is executed well to the point where I’d call it one of the best solo Marvel films, but I feel what holds it back is its story. The story is well-told, don’t get me wrong, but it does feel like a product of the Marvel machine. Touching on issues of negligence, race, legacy, and betrayal, there are certainly good themes to chew on, but I can’t help feel its being held back and not allowed to go all out with it. Coolger has been known to make films that showcase some of the dirt and grit of lower-class, but this seems limited to only have the characters talk about it and not showcase it. I understand that the Marvel movies aim to be family friendly, but in dealing with the issues today I feel the subject matter warrants a little more edge, while still being accessible.
Nevertheless, Black Panther is a solid film that you won’t regret paying money for. It gives everything that you’d expect from Marvel with a little more substance to be considered one of the better films. The film achieves its goal of presenting African culture in a mature way that can be enjoyed by all races, which is definitely a major plus.