Hail To The King
Every so often there comes a film that raises the bar in terms of significance. With Black Panther, Marvel has raised the bar for the future of their cinematic universe.
Chadwick Boseman returns as T’Challa, who’s positioned to take the mantle as king of Wakanda after the tragic events of Civil War. His mantle becomes threatened, however, as an old enemy – as well as a new one – stand in his way. In order to protect his family and his country, he must do what he feels is right.
The film itself oozes style. From the initial opening displaying a visual history of Wakanda to the Kendrick Lamar-produced soundtrack; Black Panther never loses grip of what it is. It’s an engrossing family-drama that explores ideas and concepts about acceptance, place in society, fate, love, and so forth. All wrapped up in a superhero film that’s in capable hands by director Ryan Coogler. With the script Coogler is able to make a Shakespearian-type story that does right by the character; a story that features an African-American cast in the spotlight of a comic-book film (it’s long overdue).
Its Shakespearian aspects come from this dual balance between good and evil. T’Challa and his family; his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett); as well as his general Okoye (Danai Gurira), and girlfriend Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). There’s also the iconic Forest Whitaker as Zuri. Both Wright and Gurira might be the standouts in terms of stealing the show. The women of the film are portrayed especially strong and intelligent (as they should be). It’s great seeing this trend in Hollywood these days, with last years Wonder Woman and now Black Panther. Hopefully, we’ll continue seeing strong embodiments for years to come.
As for Panther’s villains, both Klaue and Killmonger are exactly what villains should be: delivering a challenge for our protagonists to match-up against. Marvels track-record when it comes to villains has been “okay” at best. This film breaks that curse. It’s a delight to see Andy Serkis back as Klaue, the only problem is I would’ve liked to see even more of him. Who knows, maybe Marvel will give us his own origin story? The real threat though lies with Michael B. Jordan, who brings a force and swagger to Erik Killmonger that’s equal parts menacing and cool. Initially, he’s played up as a run-of-the-mill villain, but as the story progresses you understand and feel for where he’s coming from. In fact, you can’t help but root for him at different moments throughout the film.
For as much creativity and originality the film garners, the same cliched tropes found in other superhero films – especially Marvel films – remain. It might be superhero fatigue on my part, but towards the end of the third-act moments of revelation and/or surprise feel stale. In fact, I found myself somewhat bored by the visual battle that felt like it HAD to be in there. Instead, I wanted more character-driven scenes that I thoroughly enjoyed which explored themes rarely tacked in this genre of film.
Black Panther is thought-provoking and engrossing. Marvel delivers another hit, that – despite formulaic at times – succeeds.