Film in review: “Black Panther”


Blake Gasner, Features Reporter

The superhero genre is no longer JUST home to a bunch of fun popcorn flicks. A line of very talented directors have crafted a variety of complex and groundbreaking films for the genre over the last several years, whether it be “Captain America: Civil War,” “Logan” or “Wonder Woman.” Now, ten years after “Iron Man” (the first film in the formidable Marvel Cinematic Universe), we have “Black Panther,” the quintessential cherry on top for comic book films.

It’s official if you never believed or refused to believe in comic book adaptations before, “Black Panther” annihilates all the doubters. The superhero genre is THE force to be reckoned with at the movie theater currently. It’s a type of film that magnetically attracts massive audiences of all ages to the theater, while yet still possessing the ability to convey powerful and crucial messages, a commodity that is too infrequent today. Thankfully, it is with great enthusiasm that I can now say “Black Panther” executes this formula to wonderful results.

Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station,” “Creed”) directs an all-star cast featuring the likes of Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kuluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, and Sterling K. Brown. Besides Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis (Bilbo and Golem/the Tolkien white guys) the whole cast of this multimillion dollar production is black. Groundbreaking is an understatement.

The film follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), a man who is presented with the difficult undertaking of holding the mantle of Black Panther and also stepping into the throne for Wakanda following his father’s death in “Captain American Civil War.” The task is a strenuous undertaking, and only grows increasingly burdensome when a forgotten reject from Wakanda’s past resurfaces and attempts to overthrow the throne. Not only does “Black Panther” take the time to examine the characters’ motivations and psychology amidst all this conflict, but it also utilizes this psychology of the characters to examine the current state of our world, in general.

The standout in this category is the tenacious dynamic between Boseman’s T’Challa and Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. Both are portrayed in emphatic fashion by their respective talents, while also presenting a component Marvel has lacked in the majority of their films: great character conflict. Killmonger does exactly what EVERY great villain should do: present heroes with the error of their ways and do so in a way that is genuinely understandable from an audience perspective. Although Killmonger goes about achieving his ambitions in a completely wrong and extremist manner, he has overarching frustrations that are completely justifiable, making him the best version of “dangerous” that a villain can possibly attain.

Boseman is also great as T’Challa, but this is quite frankly a given. He is definitively one of the best current talents in Hollywood. We learn and prosper through his mistakes and revelations. This is why this movie is remarkably exciting; the social commentary about not only race relations, but also borders and boundaries, is extremely effective and unlike anything we’ve seen in comic book films before.

The adoration for Africa itself is very touching as well. Typically presented as a place ravaged by destruction and misfortune, “Black Panther” provides a beautiful source of pride for any who may feel conflicted about how their ancestral land is presented in the media. Although Wakanda, the country that calls the film home, is fictional, it is still heartwarming to see Africa given a positive presentation in such a massive scale picture. The culture, landscapes and overall design of this African El Dorado are breathtaking and definitely one of the most explosively unique aspects of “Black Panther” as a whole.

All this withstanding, “Black Panther” is still not exempt of its own issues. One will come across several scenes with spotty CGI during their experience watching the movie. Because Wakanda’s appearance is supposed to exude technological advancement, the film becomes caught in the trap of an overreliance on “spellbinding” gadgetry and “mind-blowing” visuals. In the majority of superhero films, this would lead to an overabundance of style rather than substance, but the movie more than makes up for this by ACTUALLY providing great narrative substance.

On top of the occasional unconvincing CGI, “Black Panther” suffers from a couple scenes during the first half of the film that really pale in comparison to past action scenes we’ve seen in Marvel flicks. Coogler’s work on “Creed” proved he can direct an absorbing fight scene, so this is a disappointing result to receive from a film that possessed so much great potential for visceral action. Beyond this however, “Black Panther” still shines above the majority of its predecessors and will stand as a game changer in the genre for years to come.

Consensus: If in the mood for a film that does not only strive to entertain, but also utilizes our favorite genre (superheroes) to tell a thought provoking and highly aware story, furnished with great performances and direction, then “Black Panther” is the film for you. 4/5