Wow. Weeks, no, months before this movie was set to come out, I told people to calm their feelings and go in cautious just in case the movie was garbage. I was still coming off of some rage from Thor: Ragnarok, thinking that Marvel had lost their minds and that the film division would also make it a political preachfest. I was livid at the sheer amount of hype that people were building around the movie, but boy was I wrong. All I can say is wow, that was a fantastic movie, not the best that Marvel’s done so far, but it certainly reaches those heights for me.
The Plot: Black Panther is the continuation of the origin story for King T’Challa of Wakanda that began in Captain America: Civil War. In the movie we learn that the perceived third world nation of Wakanda had really been a utopia that had kept their real status away from the rest of the world out of fear that their culture would be lost or exploited. After the events of Civil War, T’Challa has to take up the mantle of The Black Panther and continue the legacy of the past Black Panthers, but has to deal with outside threats in the form of the vibranium thief and new super-criminal Ulysses Klaue and the deadly Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, a man with ambitions to the throne of Wakanda with very radical motives.
Script/Dialogue: Coming into the movie, audiences may have expected the standard Marvel faire, witty lines chopped between every two or three sentences with little regard to the drama occuring during many of its scenes, but Black Panther bucked the trend set by Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok by actually allowing the dialogue to have weight. From M’baku’s challenge for the throne of Wakanda to Killmonger’s speeches about the domination of the rest of the world by black people, no line of dialogue feels overly hammy. Sure, Shuri has a cringe worthy joke or line here and there, referring to dead memes or making race based remarks, but they feel organic because they’re evenly spaced out. Legitimately, it might be the actual best written Marvel movie because of the politics that it’s able to insert as well. The dialogue shows the opposing sides between Killmonger, angry about the lot in life that black people have been given around the world and the radical direction that he’s willing to take to complete his goal versus T’Challa who believes that peaceful solutions could be had without needless bloodshed.
Action: The choreography in this movie might be some of the most well-coordinated and intense in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in recent years. When Klaue was using his cyber hand and any time he got into a gunfight, you could see the unhinged nature of his character in his body language, whenever The Dora Milaje appeared and fought together, you could feel how much of cohesive unit they were and how coordinated their attacks were. T’Challa and Nakia both foguth with a calm grace to them, not letting any movement go to waste. Killmonger, chief among them all, fought with a focused rage, only wanting to hurt anything in his path.
Acting: I hate Black Panther in the comics. He’s pompous, a cheater, a man who will go through anyone to complete his goal. He’s had an entire people killed, cheated on his wife, refused to allow the world access to cures for diseases because he’s felt that they weren’t worthy. Many people have said that Chadwick Boseman is a pretty spot on representation of T’Challa, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Boseman’s Panther was humble understanding and willing to listen to an opinion other than his own and came off as charming and cordial to almost everyone he faced in the movie and for that, he was fantastic. Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, however was the breakout star of the movie. His motives were strong and Jordan performed with an anger and cockiness that made him an absolute treasure anytime he appeared, delivering his lines with the just the right amount of base or the right amount of snark, see “Hey, auntie.” as one of the best examples.
A simple line and yet with even just that he was able to catch an amazing smugness. Not to mention how buff Jordan got for the role and how he moved whenever he and Black Panther fought, not wasting a single movement when he didn’t need to. Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia, Angela Bassett’s Ramonda, Danai Gurira’s Okoye and Letitia Wright’s Shuri were also absolutely fantastic. Nyong’o sold her arc as the semi-self-outcast Wakandan who only wanted to help a world that she felt had been ignored by the King and felt threatening and legitimate as a fighter when she had to. Bassett never disappoints in any role that she’s in (yes I am biased), but as T’Challa’s mother, she kicked it into a new level, displaying grace when a scene called for it and SPOILERS, actually seeming fearful and horrified when T’Challa is defeated by Killmonger and thrown off of the ceremonial cliff.
Gurira already had clout as the samurai sword wielding badass, Michonne, in the Walking Dead, but as Okoye, she displayed a ferocity and class that would make most action movie heroes run for safety, coming off as one of the most fearless and dedicated members of the Panther’s Dora Miliaje. And Wright’s Shuri was a joy. A sheer joy in her comic relief relief whenever she appeared, she had a peppy spirit that certainly helped lighten the movie with her jokes and even the sheer amount that she cared for T’Challa, really illustrating how close the two characters were as their brother and sister relationship was very relatable.
Daniel Kaluuya’s W’Kabi, Winston Duke’s M’Baku, Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross and Andy Serkis’ Klaue were also pretty good in the movie. Kaluuya was stiff in some parts, especially regarding a scene with bad CG rhinos, but otherwise, he was convincing as a man who’d had enough of The Royal Wakandan family’s inability to get a job done and sought to take things into his own hands. Duke as M’Baku was much better than I had expected him to be.
I thought he’d be similar to comic book Man-Ape, but he was funny, had weight when he talked about tradition of his people and most of all, he was so imposing, making me actually believe he could lift a man from the back of his neck like it was nothing. Freeman did well as Ross as he had in Civil War, but this time with a bigger part, he was able to shine with a few bits of comedy, but served as a good foil for Shuri with some of his bewildered lines at the new sights he’d witnessed coming to Wakanda. Andy Serkis as Klaue was something I could watch over and over again and never get tired of how funny and insane the man had been. Thank goodness they didn’t stick him with the bad comic costume, but he really sold the fact that Ultron had cut off his arm and he had to get new, bionic one that made him a serious danger to the Black Panther.
Setting: The settings in the movie are few and even fewer look great compared to other recent releases. The nation of Wakanda looks very much like a standard sci-fi city with glowing neon lights, high rises and flying ships in many of the backgrounds juxtaposed over African grasslands. It may sound like an oversimplification, but with Blade Runner 2049 having also recently come out with better CG than the cities in Wakanda, Marvel knew it could have done better. Seoul, South Korea was done fantastically and actually made good use of all of the neon signs for spectacular visuals during the amazing chase scene. The best, however, is the cliff arena that was used for the battles for the crown. The cliff walls seemed to extend past the sky and the waterfall gave a real sense of terror at the thought of someone falling over and into the depths below.
Costume Design: The costumes in the movie were very well done with none seeming too far out there in terms of ridiculous design. The Black Panther outfit was fantastic, as well as the other iterations that we see throughout the movie, Killmonger’s Vegeta inspired chestpiece and outfit were great for his character. Kaluuya’s tribe and the blue that they used really popped on screen when placed in front of the very bright Wakandan sun and the gorilla tribe fit their motif with pelts and pieces stitched all over their clothing. After some extensive googling, I can definitely say that I feel as though Black Panther captured the essence of some African garb, taking inspiration from the Maasai tribe for the Dora Milaje and the Zulu nation for the headdress that Ramonda wears.
Sound/Music: The soundtrack, curated by Kendrick Lamar, was absolutely crucial to the movie. It elicited and helped to convey every emotion that should have been felt in every scene. On the crowning day, when all of the Wakandan peoples danced to celebrate T’Challa becoming king, the music helped to hype it up as a grand celebration. It showed how prosperous the nation of Wakanda itself was with upbeat tunes and how dangerous the villains were with hard beats and heavy drums to back them. It raced during the chase scene in South Korea and was absolutely beautiful in the last few scenes of the movie in a very somber way.
Summary: All in all, I can absolutely say that this movie was fantastic and everyone can find something to like about it, going from the music, to the dialogue, to the story or characters themselves. I find it difficult to fully immerse myself in most movies and did get taken out of the movie when I saw former King T’Chaka’s lazy eye, but I was engrossed in every aspect of this movie. It had a great story with no clear hero, great dialogue that didn’t break up the emotion of the scene and was visually amazing to look at aside from some patchy CGI. I highly recommend this, not only as a great comic book movie, but a great movie in general!