It’s the first superhero movie led by a black actor if you don’t count all three Blade movies, Steel, and Meteor Man! Seriously, media, is no one on your staff a nerd?
Chadwick Boseman is back as Black Panther in his very own solo movie. Set a week after the events in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa returns to his home country of Wakanda to formally take his place as king of the secret technologically sophisticated African nation, but when his old nemesis, Clau turns up like your proverbial bad penny, the Black Panther coon finds himself not only seeking the one man his father was never able to catch, but also trying to protect his throne from a foreign usurper named Killmonger.
Here’s what I like about this movie: It feels different from the other films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Let’s face it, none of the MCU movies have been bad… well, except for Iron Man 2 and Thor 2 and The Incredible Hulk… but they are awfully formulaic. Black Panther takes the MCU formula that has worked… nearly flawlessly for the last decade and says, “No thank you” and then goes off and does its own thing. The result is a movie that is deeper than your typical superhero movie.
T’Challa, for example, isn’t just fighting bad guys, but he’s also struggling with taking over a legacy and, as it turns out, it’s a flawed legacy. The more and more he embeds himself into the role of the Black Panther, the more and more dirt he uncovers. The more misdeeds he learns of. The more he digs, the less of a hero his own late father becomes.
When he does fight a bad guy in the form of Killmonger, it’s interesting because, even though Killmonger is the undisputed bad guy in Black Panther, the movie slyly gets you on his side ever so slightly. Yes, he’s talking about worldwide domination and killing millions of people, but peppered in with that bombastic insanity are grains of truth that root themselves in your brain. Amazingly, he’s also somewhat sympathetic… a damaged little boy at his core and, despite the monster he is, you can’t help but feel pity for the person he used to be.
And that, dear friends, is what makes Black Panther special. Not only is it a superhero movie with a 95 percent black cast, not only is it a good superhero movie on top of that, but in many ways, it’s transformative… it tells the kind of story where characters learn and grow, even from the lessons of their enemies. It’s a movie that takes place in shades of gray where no one is right, no one is wrong, and sometimes the most heroic thing you can do is listen to what your enemy is saying.
Beyond that, this movie is beautiful. The costumes, the landscapes, the colors… it’s amazing. Sure, there’s a more-than-blunt artificiality to some of the more heavily green-screened vistas that becomes rather distracting, but for the most part, Wakanda feels like a fantastic and real place.
There are some unfortunate storytelling decisions in Black Panther. The biggest is actually one of my pet peeves and that is trying to convince the audience that a character that they know good and well isn’t going to die has died and, in Black Panther, they carry it on way too long and it becomes increasingly annoying.
Still, Black Panther is a strong movie and a unique film for the MCU franchise. Chadwick Boseman was wonderful as Black Panther and Michael B. Jordan is an incredibly charismatic foe. Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright are all incredibly fun too. I honestly couldn’t find a weak point in the cast. Everyone was committed and they work very well with one another.
What’s more, Black Panther doesn’t feel the need to interrupt drama and heavy moments with jokes as other MCU movies have. This movie relies on organic humor that comes naturally and the charm of the cast. It feels like this movie treats you like an adult!
I stuggle to say that it’s “the best” MCU movie, but it’s certainly up there. If anything, I would call it a breath of fresh air… kind of what Thor: Ragnarok was to the Thor movies, Black Panther is to the whole MCU. Something new, something special, and something welcome.