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Movie Review: Black Panther

black panther

black pantherWow. You know that rare feeling when you wait for something so long and just hope it matches your insane expectations and then exceeds them? That’s the feeling after watching Black Panther.

This is the 18th Marvel Studios’ film and it’s crazy to think that they’re actually getting better at this whole comic book movie business. And much like The Dark Knight, Black Panther largely avoids feeling like a regular comic book film. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have great action sequences and effects, but they’re just one element of a gripping and highly engaging story that feels much shorter than two hours.

Thanks to Black Panther’s introduction in Captain America: Civil War, Director/Co-writer Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole don’t have to waste a lot of time on origin business. The Black Panther aka T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is preparing for his official coronation as the new king of Wakanda.

Little does T’Challa know Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is plotting his own challenge to the throne that could threaten Wakanda’s way of life.

black panther killmonger confronts t'challa

Forgive the hyperbole, but Jordan provides one of the most captivating comic book film performances ever. It’s enough to Men In Black memories of that abominable Fantastic Four movie. You can see the influences of Michael Fassbender’s Magneto and Heath Ledger’s Joker — two sources Jordan said he used for inspiration. It never comes off like an imitation, but something completely fresh and different.

And like the MCU’s best villain, Loki, Killmonger has some complexities to him that makes him more than the normal bad guy. In a lot of ways as the film unfolds, Killmonger proves the most sympathetic character.

Black Panther doesn’t look like anything that’s preceded it. From the elaborate costumes by Ruth Carter (Serenity) to the gorgeous backdrops, Wakanda looks magnificent. It’s the kind of setting begging for further exploration.

black panther movie review - okoye, ayo and dora milaje

There’s not a weak link in the supporting cast from Lupita Nyog’o, who plays T’Challa’s ex Nakia; Dania Gurira as the general of the Dora Milaje; Daniel Kaluuya as T’Challa’s close friend W’Kabi, Winston Duke as M’Baku and Martin Freeman as Everett Ross. Maybe the biggest scene stealer is Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s sister, Shuri. She provides the bulk of the film’s humor and it’s done in a way not to be out of place.

One of the elements that makes Black Panther so unique is a willingness to tackle socioeconomic and class issues applicable to all races. Undoubtedly one of the core aspects of Black Panther is embracing the various components of black culture from music to dress, but it’s not done at the expense of excluding other audience members.

Thanks to Avengers: Infinity War trailers, there wasn’t a ton of suspense involving the fate of certain characters. That doesn’t stop Coogler from putting together some amazing fight sequences. There is a clear superhero James Bond element to the film and while a Nick Fury standalone would have seemed the more obvious choice, it works seamlessly here.

Black Panther is a fantastic experience and one of the best Marvel Studio films. This is a movie I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to see in theaters several more times. Quick verdict? It’s an instant classic and a genre-challenging effort that bodes well for the future of Marvel movies.

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

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