#MOVIEREVIEWMONDAYS: "Black Panther"

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“Black Panther” is directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler, and stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the titular superhero and king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, who must defend his country from the cunning Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who plans to take the Wakandan throne for himself.

“Black Panther” has gone through a circus of anticipation from critics and fans alike. The hype is near unparalleled, but does this film live up to it?

First let’s start with the films acting. Boseman is great as our hero, displaying both youthful fright as well as ferocity. The standout, however, is Michael B. Jordan as the menacing usurper, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens.

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe has an unfortunate trend of wasting their villains, ruining their potential and thereby turning them into blank, cookie-cutter characters. Killmonger may be the one to break that curse. He is exqusitly written, is portrayed in a brilliant ambitious fashion by Jordan, and unlike other villains in the MCU, he’s relatable. While he is an extremist, you can understand his intentions, and why he ended up following the path he started. The best villains in cinematic history have things in common with us.

Other standouts include Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, T’Challa’s lover; Danai Gurira as Okoye, the head of the Wakandan special forces, and Winston Duke as M’Baku, the leader of the feared and isolated Mountain Tribe. The characters and performances of Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker, however, were subpar and poorly developed.

Now let’s talk about Ryan Coogler, the film’s director. Brilliance. He brings style, unique camerawork, and vision unlike any scene in the MCU before. His background with critically acclaimed hits such as “Fruitvale Station” (2013) and “Creed” (2015) marked him as the perfect director. He and his cinematographer Rachel Morrison bring a long-needed jolt of creativity to Marvel films.

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The production design is also off the charts. Many Marvel films tend to be bland in color, usually located in largely-grey areas. “Black Panther” makes a complete U-turn in this regard. Wakanda is an explosion of color and technology, uniquely blending traditional African culture with advanced technology to create a utopia. This is one of the best-looking movies of the past decade.

What makes “Black Panther” stand out amongst the plethora of superhero movies these days is its message. Although subtle and not necessarily in your face, Coogler tries to make a statement about the condition of poor African Americans in urban America. Among the mediocrity of most superhero movies, this makes the film stand proud. Whether or not the message works is up to you.

While this movie is great and enjoyable, it’s not perfect. There are some factors where it performs poorly.

First there is the CGI. At some points, its fine, but at others, it’s awful. In the coronation scene in particular, it appears as if they didn’t even try. Many of the people are so obviously fake it’s embarrassing. It’s almost as if this weren’t a multi-million-dollar production.

Then there is the pacing. For the most part, this isn’t really a problem. The first act is very slow and inconsistent. Some patience may be required for the first 20 or so minutes.

There are also some issues with the screenplay. Like most Marvel movies, some of the dialogue is cheap and awkward, though much of it was likely fixed by Coogler’s talent, and there’s bad humor. This is a major issue with superhero movies, especially Marvel movies today: the humor. Granted, it’s not as bad in this movie, and it’s far less prevalent, but it rarely works. Disney and Marvel simply must stop writing in forced comedy into their scripts. It’s unwarranted and tiring.

 

Consensus

“Black Panther” is a much-needed breath of fresh air in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite a slow start and minor inconsistencies in the screenplay, the film’s pitch-perfect direction, production design, and acting propels it forward as one of the greats of the superhero genre.

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