Under normal circumstances, you would believe that Black Panther is the next step in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to get us to the Avengers: Infinity Wars in less than 3 months. Well, you would be wrong because Black Panther is the most important superhero movie ever made and it’s exactly the movie we need right now in these times…at least that’s what I’ve been told. I’ve been really biting my tongue at the hype behind this film because I hadn’t seen it yet so I couldn’t pass legitimate judgment without watching it…with that said, the virtue signaling from progressive film critics is something I’ve haven’t seen in some time. What I mean by virtue signaling is many people out there have given Black Panther a favorable review based on how good the movie is. But there are other people out there that were using this film as a tool to push their political agenda much like they did with Wonder Woman and Ghostbusters. After two whole weeks of being dumped on the head about how this is the first black superhero movie (it’s not), about how diverse the film is (when it’s majority black as opposed to majority white), and about how finally black people have a hero to inspire too (Because you know President Obama isn’t a real hero I guess). As bad as the virtue signaling has been, this ultimately has nothing to do with the film itself. So finally I was able to see Black Panther myself and as expected the film is pretty good.
The film begins as an explanation of the origin of Wakanda, the country which is the home of Black Panther. Centuries ago, a giant piece of vibranium fell from space and landed in the African country. Using the vibranium, the people of Wakanda isolate themselves from the rest of the world and used the alien metal to create the most technologically advanced society on Earth. Meanwhile, a new threat to the throne of Wakanda is rising in Killmonger, who plans to succeed in his father’s plan by using vibranium weapons to give to black people all over the world so they can conquer their ‘oppressors’. It is up to King T’Challa (Boseman) to take his throne and stop the madman who could put the entire world in danger.
I’ll start with the positive, despite my complaints about the overpraise of diversity, there is no denying that the majority black cast gives this movie a unique feel which is a good thing. Disney has a bad habit of being too formulaic with the MCU and fortunately, that is not the case here. With so many veteran actors in the cast including Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, and Angela Bassett it was impossible for them to drop the ball but the standout in this film is Shuri played Letitia Wright. Shuri is Black Panther’s sister who is the tech genius of the movie. Her personality and style brings a sense of joy to the film that makes it enjoyable and makes her character a very important medium to the story. Cinematographer Rachel Morrison deserves high marks in this movie because the scenery is simply amazing. The CGI looks rough at times, but the way they bring Wakanda to life is stellar and on par with Guardians of The Galaxy and Doctor Strange as one of the best looking MCU films to date.
Some of the problems I had with a film is that Black Panther at times feels like a secondary character in his own movie. Ryan Coogler spends so much time building up all the other secondary characters in the movie that it felt like he didn’t give enough time to the main character especially when Black Panther disappears for a portion of the movie. The pacing was a bit jarring at times as well, they eventually find their groove in the 2nd act, but there were definitely times the film felt bloated with characters and could have improved by cutting 10-15 minutes off the runtime. If you are expecting a superhero movie, there isn’t much superhero action for most of it and the film does get very heavy-handed at times. The villain of the movie is a straight-up black supremacist. Michael B Jordan gives his most memorable performance to date, but something that made his character jarring was the fact that his character is supposed to be conflicted and understandable. While you feel for his initial situation (which is the fault of Wakanda ironically), his actions are anything but noble and his Malcolm X like dialogue loses the moral high ground coming from the guy who literally basks in the number of deaths he has caused.
Black Panther is a unique and entrancing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that does everything it needs to do to set up the character before Avengers: Infinity Wars. It isn’t the best MCU film ever made, it isn’t going to reshape the superhero genre, and it’s not the next step of the Civil Rights Movement it is hyped to be, it’s just a movie. Overall, I put this film on par but slightly better than the last couple of MCU films Spiderman: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok. While it isn’t as humorous as those films, the filmmaking is better and the overall story is more compelling than Superhero movies before it.