Review: Black Panther

February 16, 2018

Usually, I can’t stand it when I go into a movie that a ton of people have already seen and have been hyping it up.  In the case of Black Panther, there had never been a more-hyped Marvel film.  The lead-up was epic with lines like “the greatest superhero film ever made” and “Marvel’s finest achievement.”  I sat down and looked at my friend and said, “this movie better blow my knickers off to live up to the word on the street.”  I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this but it exceeded that hype.

Before we get into the film, which I promise to not spoil, you have to marvel (pun intended) at the foresight and bravery of creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.  These two geniuses created this world of a black superhero living in a hidden African nation that was more advanced than any country, who had a legion of strong and fierce soldiers that were all female, way back in 1966.  For context, that was only one year after Martin Luther King marched on Selma and during a time when black people were viewed as inferior by huge parts of the country.  And when Black Panther was deemed “too controversial” and despite weak sales, they doubled down on him and made him part of The Avengers, their most successful comic series.  Talk about superheroes! 

As far as the movie goes, there is also tons of credit to go around.  Let’s start with director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitville Station).  Not only did he direct the film but he wrote it as well and let every ounce of his soul bleed through.  This film not only stays true to its source material but is a biting statement reflecting SO MANY racial struggles still going on today.  Everything from slavery, to class, to politics are explored here in ways that gave me goosebumps.  It’s safe to say that this is a massive statement on President Trump.  There are scenes in the film that are almost cathartic to watch, if you fall on the anti-Trump side of the aisle, feeling the rage of those who hate to see power abused and love country over party.  There is even a line, given directly to the camera, that says, “only fools build walls.”  What’s more impressive is that none of that ever feels preachy.

Besides the political power the film punches, it also offers plenty of real punches too.  Black Panther has as many thrilling action scenes as you’d expect from any Marvel film.  The colors and imagery Coogler chooses are also incredible.  This man knows how to tell a story and make you jump to your feet with passion even for stories that you don’t think you’d enjoy too much.  He did it with Creed and now he’s done it with Black Panther, which studios have never ever expressed an interest in bringing to the big screen.  

The cast is selected in what can only be called brilliant.  Chadwick Boseman (42, Get On Up), Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Fruitville Station), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, The Jungle Book), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Sicario), Forest Whitaker (Rogue One, Arrival), and newcomer Letitia Wright, who chews up every scene she’s in, are all stellar.  No one phones it in and Jordan even gives one of the best performances of his career as the complicated villain Killmonger.  It’s refreshing to see Marvel allow a villain to be so hard to define.  They’ve been accused as having very weak villains in their films but that all stops with Black Panther.

The final credit that I want to point out goes to producer Kevin Feige and his absolutely impressive Marvel Cinematic Universe.  After a decade of billion dollar-earning films, it would be easy and understandable if they rested on their laurels.  They could have hired safe filmmaker to make a safe film, just like it could be said for all their movies; but they don’t!  Marvel continues to take risks and make movies that are the same AND totally different in tone.  Thor: Ragnarok was like a Monty Python film.  Captain America: Civil War felt like an international thriller.  Guardians of the Galaxy was an epic, silly space adventure.  And now we have Black Panther that is a political and social statement on every level, released in a month that movie sales are historically way down but to get it out during Black History Month with a fire soundtrack all done by Kendrick Lamar.  I mean...helmets and cowls off to Marvel because you continue to impress.