Friday, 16 February 2018

Film Review: Black Panther

Black Panther steps into the spotlight in his own solo film helmed by Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman.

Prince T'Challa (Boseman), after the death of his father in the events of Captain America: Civil War, returns to his homeland of Wakanda, an isolated and technologically advanced African nation, to ascend the throne and take his rightful place as king.

However, a rival claimant – Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) – reappears, testing T'Challa's mettle as both king and as protector of Wakanda, the Black Panther.

Ten years into its sprawling cinematic universe experiment and Marvel has reached another milestone; Black Panther is its first film headlined by, written by and directed by black actors and filmmakers, as well as feature a predominately black cast. Consequently, it feels, sounds and looks markedly different to its predecessors; this isn't just Captain America in a different outfit. Wakanda and its people aren't just a backdrop. Coogler, with co-writer Joe Robert Cole, has captured a moment in time with powerful and resonant themes and characters in Black Panther. Its 'blackness' (for want of a better word) is integral to the story, not just cosmetic. Like Wonder Woman was last June, Black Panther is an important film for the time in which it opens, albeit not a straight-up excellent one.

First let's start with positives; as with pretty much every film under the sun, the cast in Black Panther is next level. Boseman, transitioning from supporting player in Captain America: Civil War to lead here, is a compelling combination of nobility and uncertainty. Still learning what it means to be king, T'Challa's arc is a familiar yet satisfying one across the film.

A trifecta of kick-ass ladies lend their support – Nakia (Lupita N'yongo), a spy and love interest for T'Challa, Okoye (Danai Gurira), a loyal warrior and guardian, and Shuri (Letitia Wright), T'Challa's sister and a talented scientist. While all three get their moment to shine, it's without a doubt Shuri who steals the show; Wright is hilarious and brings such a boundless amount of energy and excitement to the film.

In terms of villains, Black Panther isn't lacking; Andy Serkis returns as Klaue, a South African arms dealer, chewing the scenery and cackling like a maniac, while Jordan's Killmonger makes his case as one of the best antagonist in the MCU to date. Like all the best villains, you can almost see where Killmonger is coming from. Given his backstory, you feel for him. Jordan really sells us on this through his brilliant performance, but I did feel a little disappointed by how little he was actually in the film. After being introduced at the beginning, Killmonger disappears going on 40 minutes.

In terms of visuals, Black Panther is up there with Thor: Ragnarok as one of the best in the MCU. Everything from the production design to the costumes leaps out of the screen in vibrant colour. Deep purples, vivid oranges, rich greens and blues; this movie is simply stunning. Some of the VFX is a little dodgy, particularly in one scene set by a waterfall, and I found the action a little hit and miss. A car chase through the streets of Busan is a highlight; the third act smackdown is lacking. The score, from Ludwig Goransson, is a rhythmic soundscape of tribal drums, percussion and orchestral fanfare. It's a brilliant mix that suits the film to a tee.

While it's powerful in a character sense, I did find Black Panther a little rote in other areas. At times it does feel like the film is just going through the motions, especially with a runtime that stretches to two hours and fifteen minutes. Certain plot machinations play out how you would expect, which is both a good thing (the film feels like a Shakespearean epic) and also a bad thing (so did Kenneth Branagh's Thor in 2011).

The Verdict: 7.5/10

Long live the king. For all its flaws, I really enjoyed seeing Boseman suit up and sink his claws into a meaty solo film. Coogler's direction is great, Kendrick Lamar's soundtrack and Goransson's score are a great pairing and the cast (save for an overacting Serkis) rise to the occasion. Another Marvel film that will bring the house down with good reason. Roll on Black Panther 2, 3 and 4.

Black Panther is in cinemas across Australia now.


  1. Glad to see the love for Shuri. She really was a breath of fresh air. Then again, so was the whole movie. As you said, it looks and feels different from the rest of the MCU and it enriches the franchise because of it.

    1. Shuri was so good! And I couldn't agree more, it was such a distinct vision :)



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