A Brief Review of Black Panther (SPOILER-FREE)
Black Panther and all related trademarks are property of Marvel Entertainment.
(DISCLAIMER: This review will not contain spoilers for Black Panther, but there will be spoilers for Captain America: Civil War and potentially other films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe/MCU. Be warned.)
Black Panther’s debut in Captain America: Civil War was a major hit with audiences, so it was inevitable that the character’s solo outing would generate a lot of hype. However, that hype also came from another defining factor in Black Panther’s existence: it was the first superhero movie with a primarily African-American cast to receive mainstream attention (Blade and Hancock, despite their popularity, unfortunately didn’t reach as vast of an audience as the MCU has).
Because of its cast, the film was heralded as a cultural landmark even before it had come out. Despite this preemptive hype, the movie doesn’t exactly live up to the mold-breaking movie people wanted it to be. The movie itself, however, is one of the strongest solo outings presented by Marvel Studios’ to date, as well as one of their best movies in general.
The movie follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), still reeling from the unexpected death of his father T’Chaka during a civil war. Returning to his home nation of Wakanda for his coronation, his life begins to unravel further when an outsider (Michael B. Jordan) with Wakandan technology enters the picture. More and more secrets about his country’s troubled past begin to come out as the movie continues, leading T’Challa to question the legacy that his father left behind.
The story, while it seems rather typical from this summary actually goes to some very unexpected places for a Marvel movie. Jordan’s performance as Killmonger is easily the highlight of the movie, and his role in the story makes him one of the most compelling and even sympathetic MCU villains to date. For a movie franchise that seems to have trouble forming compelling villains, this recent outing was extremely welcome to see. The rest of the supporting cast are also rather strong in their roles, with two of the highlights being Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira. Their performances were some of the most human and convincing characterizations I’ve seen in the entire MCU.
Weirdly enough, the performance I was least impressed with was Boseman as Black Panther. He did a good job in the role, but often times I felt he was slightly overshadowed by his co-stars. The biggest issue with the movie is its computer generated imagery (CGI) effects, which ranged from doing the job well to simply looking uncanny with the realistic constraints the movie sets up. However, the CGI on T’Challa’s suit was consistently strong and felt natural within the movie’s setting.
The problem with doing a spoiler-free review of Black Panther is that most of its best aspects are locked behind spoiler territory, and revealing these things outright would dull the movie’s overall impact on its viewers. That’s why I urge you to see the movie yourself before making a final judgement on it.
I feel that the ending was well-handled and set a good precedent for its viewers, but that people have over-emphasized how “groundbreaking” it is. Other films have taken concepts similar to this and ran with them quite well, sometimes even better in that regard. So before you pass judgement on this movie, seeing another film with a similar message to share like Get Out might help put things more into perspective. All in all, Black Panther is one of the better movies to come out of the MCU, despite having a few hiccups and people boosting its importance far too much. It’s a definite recommendation from me.