Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Premise: An adaptation of the Marvel comic book. Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his home country of Wakanda. His claim to the throne is challenged by an outsider with a mysterious past.
What Works: Black Panther is another successful addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Having introduced the character in Captain America: Civil War, the filmmakers are able to avoid a laborious origin story and get to character and plot material usually found in a second or third chapter of a series. This is first and foremost a piece of popcorn entertainment and Black Panther is an entertaining comic book film and one of the better entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The characters are interesting and likable, especially Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther but also Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, a spy who is also T’Challa’s love interest, and Letitia Wright as Shuri, a princess and inventor. The action of Black Panther comes at a steady pace and the film combines adventure and dramatic stakes with good humor. While it works within the established tone and framework of this franchise, Black Panther does a few things that make it a slightly different entry in Marvel’s catalogue of films. Stylistically, it has some interesting visuals and a look that is unique. The plot of the film is mostly insular. Like Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange, Black Panther works as a story unto itself; viewers don’t necessarily have to be familiar with the rest of the Marvel universe to follow the narrative although that helps. It also has a lot of intrigue with the characters dividing into different factions and having their allegiances tested. One of the consistent weaknesses of the Marvel films has been their villains. That has improved recently with the heavies in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming. The villain of Black Panther is Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, and he possesses a complex motivation as he makes a play for the throne of Wakanda and plots a violent revolution. That’s one of the extraordinary qualities of Black Panther; the movie addresses the history of colonialism, racism, and exploitation and dramatizes relevant ideas in a way that doesn’t feel didactic or tagged on. Instead, the political content shapes the characters and adds gravitas to the drama.
What Doesn’t: Black Panther has impressive scale but the movie opens up conflicts that are too wide to be resolved in a single movie. The story is about a civil war breaking out between different factions of Wakanda’s leadership and characters make choices that can’t be easily taken back or brushed aside. But in an effort to wrap up this story in a single installment and keep the running time manageable the filmmakers resolve everything too neatly. There are a number of stylistic touches to Black Panther that are distinct from other entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, those creative flourishes are absent from the action scenes. The set pieces of Black Panther are all a bit generic. Some of the night sequences are under lit, especially an early scene in which Black Panther and his allies rescue women held captive by a militant group. The imagery in this sequence is murky and the editing in some of the set pieces is dodgy with the continuity of the action hard to follow.
Bottom Line: Black Panther is a fun adventure movie with some style and a cast of likable characters. A few specific gaffes aside, this is a fine addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a good film in its own right.
Episode: #687 (February 25, 2018)