- Directed by Ryan Coogler
- January 29, 2018 (Dolby Theatre) / February 16, 2018 (US)
The new king of the African nation of Wakanda is challenged by a long-lost relative who wants to end the country’s isolationist policies and begin a worldwide revolution.
Black Panther is certainly one of the deeper MCU films of recent. While it definitely goes for cool visuals and superhero action the story also aims for significant meaning rather than being just a shallow superhero adventure. Props for that.
The story takes place in the fictitious African kingdom of Wakanda but the actual topic seems to be in part race in America. There are two opposing philosophies facing off in this film. On the one hand T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) wants to maintain the isolationism of Wakanda to preserve it and N’Jadaka/Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) wishes to become more directly involved to the point of using advanced Wakandan technology to fund/fuel revolutions of the oppressed of African heritage around the world.
That is two very different views. While the traditional Wakanda stance is touched on, Killmonger’s view is given much more exploration. The former is treated rather shallowly and makes the split a bit superficial. Killmonger by the end of the story is framed as not that bad with T’Challa coming more or less over to his side by finally opening up Wakanda. Killmonger killed T’Challa’s dad and deposed him but by the end T’Challa is like “He has a point so let’s do it.” Huh? How many people ever get screwed over royally and then decided that the screwer is right?
Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) was a great sub villain and probably one of the more colorful bad guys presented in the MCU in quite some time. He’s intelligent and tough and crazy and smart but disposed of with very little fanfare. I’m not bothered that his death is used to secure an alliance between Killmonger and W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) as well as sway the ruling council but given his buildup it just felt a little anti-climactic.
The special effects are pretty heavy here and used to the point where environments and objects look fake. I swear they even have a fake rhino in this. You can only have actors performing so much in front of a green screen before you just can’t immerse yourself in it. I am a definite proponent of physical sets and minimal CGI. CGI should help tell the story but not be the main visual go to otherwise the human brain has trouble becoming invested in it. Use CGI to clean things up or to add details that cannot be done but too many flashy images or completely false environments are not conducive to effective visual storytelling.
Aside from Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, and Andy Serkis we have Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker in various roles. An amazingly talented cast that gives it their all. The talent is undeniable in this movie. These are not actors who give just serviceable performances but rather individuals who are consistently at the top of the game which helps to elevate the material.
T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is a charming character and rather entertaining but comes off as a bit too good at everything just because. I’m not a fan of characters like that. The romantic tension between Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and T’Challa comes and goes and is more of an afterthought to humanize the character of T’Challa than it is a sub plot. They have great chemistry, but it doesn’t appear to be leading to much of anywhere.
Politics is very much at the forefront here. Not only real-world politics but the politics of the fictional nation of Wakanda. What occurs makes often makes sense only in that connotation. Director Ryan Coogler helmed a well-directed film with a better than usual script. He delivers a rather meaty story that is a comic book superhero political drama.
Black Panther is an entertaining and exciting movie. It touches on some deeper themes even if a bit superficially. However it’s an exciting ride with some substance which makes it worth giving more than one look to so I will recommend this one!