This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For 10 years the, MCU has captured everything that makes the Marvel characters unique in superheroes. Each film has brought something special to the table, whether it be great character pieces, challenging themes and the best of spectacle. But “Black Panther” manages to bring it all and so much more as one of the absolute best of the MCU.
What truly makes any story worth telling is the characters that inhabit it, for that is where story comes from. Story is driven by character. They are what pulls the audience into the story. But if a story is just driven by story, the audience is left with nothing but mindless exposition, useless symbolism and allegories without purpose. Fortunately, “Black Panther” suffers through none of that as the characters are complex and multi-dimensional with their own goals and motivations that are made perfectly clear for the audience.
The fact that “Black Panther” is only director Ryan Coogler’s third film at 31 years old is awe-inspiring for young aspiring storytellers. His direction brings out the best of all the characters and tells the film’s excellent story beautifully.
When it comes to performance, the entire cast steals the show. Chadwick Boseman embodies everything that makes T’Challa/Black Panther great while building off of what he started with T’Challa’s debut in “Captain America: Civil War”, Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister Shuri brings a performance that is heartfelt and intelligent. Danai Gurira, as general of the Dora Milaje Okye stands out as a traditionalist of Wakandan ways. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia defines what it means to be a Social Justice Warrior, by not calling out people for not agreeing with her philosophy, but by actually elevating people and by actually fighting and promoting social justice in a positive manner, which is very refreshing.
But one cast member manages to do one thing, which is solving what is often seen as the MCU’s biggest problems, having weak and forgettable villains. Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger brings a certain complexity to the role that has not been seen in the MCU before. His goals and motivations of wanting to be king of Wakanda due to rough past are completely justified, and leaves the audience challenging their own moral beliefs as Killmongers’ goal and motivations are good, but it is methods that are problematic. It can be argued that Killmonger is the best comic book villain since Heath Ledgers’ Joker.
Another strong point of the film is the themes. Themes bring challenge and meaning to a film, and “Black Panther” delivers on a whole new level.
The film’s challenge of choosing between tradition or innovation and globalism vs isolationism, along with questions of how to live up to and move on from a complicated legacy gives the audience something to truly think about as they leave the theater.
Also, its theme of social justice makes Black Panther the most political of the MCU films. The best of the MCU like “Captain America: Civil War” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” bring challenge and complexity along with consequences that defy different genres while at the same time bringing great character pieces like “Iron Man,” “The Avengers,” “Doctor Strange,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” and the previously mentioned. But Black Panther manages to embody the best of both worlds.
The score is another factor that elevates “Black Panther” to new heights. Ludwig Göransson creates a score that mixes extremely well with traditional African music that blends with the tone of the film beautifully.
There are a few nitpicks that the film has. But they are very minor and do not take away from the film at all. The action scenes throughout the film start off strong, but they begin to stumble by the third act of the film, along with the CGI.
It is definitely not up to the standards of action and visuals of the last two Captain America films, but ultimately that is not what “Black Panther” is about, as it is about much bigger things, so it is not as bothersome.
“Black Panther” is a fantastic film from beginning to end. Its story, characters and themes make the film a masterpiece in both the MCU and superhero films in general. While it is not the absolute best of the MCU, it definitely breaks the top three out of 18 films currently with more on the way, maybe even top two after “Captain America: Civil War.”
This is a film that should be recommended to everyone whether you know the character well or if one has not seen him before and is the perfect film to watch in the remaining days of Black History Month. It shows that representation in film is something to not gloss over, all while serving as a pinnacle of black excellence.
Overall grade: A+