Superhero movies are a modern staple for the blockbuster moviegoing experience. They are flagpole events for movie theaters that are guaranteed to draw big box office numbers. Marvel has cemented themselves as the best studio for the superhero genre. Every year they produce at least two movies that seem to continually shatter box office records. In 2018, Marvel has two highly anticipated films slated for release; Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther. The former is the endgame for a cinematic event the MCEU has been building for a decade, so its clear why audiences are dying to see it. The anticipation around Black Panther is more culturally based. Aside from offering one of the coolest and most unique protagonist, the movie features a powerhouse cast that is predominantly black. From the story to the characters to the overall production, Black Panther delivers on all fronts and lands itself the title of one of Marvel’s best films to date.
Following the death of his father, T’Challa returns to the his isolated and technologically advanced home of Wakanda. While enemies outside plot to infiltrate Wakanda and overthrow his throne, the Black Panther must prove his claim to the throne.
While Marvel does offer some of the best superhero movies, their origin stories have gotten more and more formulaic over the years. The hero discoverss his powers, has some form of a god complex, goes through varying trials and tribulations to come to a new stasis that lays the ground work for subsequent films. Marvel nailed this with Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger, but this started to feel overly familiar with later films like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. Black Panther is an entirely new kind of origin story for Marvel. Not only are audiences introduced to a new hero in the cinematic universe, a whole array of rich characters that fill out the flush and vibrant world of Wakanda. Every character is given an equal amount of screen time and at no point feels like an after thought. So many of the stories interwoven into the movie could be fleshed out into their own story. In past origin stories, the hero is introduced discovering their powers within a world that is very familiar. There are so many different elements at play here that work in tandem to really bring the movie to life.
Ryan Coogler has proven himself as an accomplished young filmmaker. His previous works Fruitvale Station and Creed are both powerful films, with the latter earning an Oscar Nomination. Both films are very character driven pieces that allow for great storytelling, and Coogler brings that to his work on Black Panther. He fully utilizes the world in which these characters live to further explore the conflicts that drive each one’s individual arc. Coogler also has a delicate hand when it comes to portraying some of the plights of people of African descent, from tensions with other cultures to differences between themselves. These stories transcend the archetypes typically found within the superhero movie to allow for more human stories to take shape.
The world of Wakanda is astoundingly breathtaking. Marvel has a solid track record for deliver top notch CGI spectacles. The CGI is what allows the wonders of such a technologically advanced civilization such as this to be so visually striking. The costume design consists of a wonderful blend of many different aspects of black culture and African heritage to make for a unique but inspired wardrobe. The cinematography by Rachel Morrison, who just received an Oscar nomination for her work on Mudbound, delivers truly stunning imagery that separates the film from the typical muted palate of MCEU. All aspects of production are top notch, and deliver a blockbuster that has no faults at the surface level.
The cast of Black Panther absolutely knocks it out of the park. Every actor delivers a powerhouse performance that does not seem to outshine any of the others. Chadwick Boseman (42, Marhsall) comfortably fits into the skin of a humble leader stepping into the shoes of a king, wanting to lead his people faithfully by his throne while still forging his own path. Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) continually proves that she is one of acting’s most badass actress while still retaining a degree of delicate femininity. Luptia Nyong’o and Letita Wright fill out the supporting roles in Wakanda diplomacy, demonstrating that powerful women help support the throne in this thriving kingdom. Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Sicario) brings his stoic calmness to deliver a performance of a reserved warrior who has grown wary of the sameness he has seen from his leaders over the years. Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes, The Lords of the Ring) delivers a terrifying performance as one of the films antagonist that is almost as unreal as some of his motion capture performances.
It seems impossible to think that such a cast could have a stand out actor, but Michael B. Jordan has proven again that he is an actor that deserves to be reckoned with in the years to come. One criticism Marvel has continually received over the year is that their films typically have a one dimensional antagonist who just seems fixated on world domination or total annihilation. Jordan plays Erik, also referred to as Killmonger. His character is a sort of fallen angel from the isolated walls of Wakanda. His arc bears striking similarities to that of the biblical Cain and Abel story. Killmonger is less of a villian than he is an antagonist with extremely sympathetic motivations. That is exactly the type of rich character Marvel needs to continually bring into their movies, and the kind of chracter that showcases Michael B. Jordan’s acting prowess.
Black Panther is another great chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ryan Coogler’s sharp filmmaking skills deliver a compelling story with rich characters. The cast is absolutely impeccable, and Bosewick and jordan deliver a portagonist/antagonist combo that breaks the stale formula Marvel has been criticized for before. Not only is Black Panther a great blockbuster, its a cultural flagpole that transcends the superficial entertainment value blockbusters tend to lend themselves to. Black Panther opens everywhere this Friday, and is absolutely worth seeing.
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