Movie Review: "Black Panther" (2018)
Buzz: Something that generates excitement, hype, or a thrill.
That's a good definition for all the talk around Black Panther when it came out a few months ago. I know, I'm late to the game in the MCU. This movie is the last piece of my journey to other side of the (comic book) aisle, so to speak. It's been a damn fun journey to say the least. I find it poetic that the movie that's the most different from all of its comic brethren is the one I get to last.
It's long been a joke that black culture is sorely underrepresented in the medium (can you say Hooper X's rant in Chasing Amy, anyone?). Still, you can't argue the validity of the observation. Luckily, there's Black Panther to show how unfortunate that (heretofore) fact is. So what did this white boy from South Carolina walk away feeling?
Answer: This movie is pretty much the shit. Allow me to elaborate.
The film opens up immediately after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Prince T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman, 42) returns home to the hidden African kingdom of Wakanda to assume the mantle of King and (more importantly) the Black Panther following the death of his father at the hands of Hydra in a U.N. bombing. As he assumes the role, he has to fend off the challenge of a warring tribal leader and the political unrest of hunting down an old enemy and fending off a new enemy with a shocking backstory and connection to the Kingdom of Wakanda.
I dig a movie with layers, first and foremost. A rich comic story should have multiple villains/challenges, conflicting personal relationships, & characters that feel as if they at least could be real. Black Panther hits the mark on all points.
The cast is borderline ludicrous in terms of name/talent- the aforementioned Chadwick Boseman (42), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave), Michael B. Jordan (Creed), Sterling K. Brown (TV's This is Us), & Danai Gurira (Michonne from The Walking Dead) are the "up & comers" whose names you will be hearing for a long time to come. Then you've got the grizzled vets, genre legends, & A-listers: Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit), Forest Whitaker (The Last King, Good Morning Vietnam, North & South), Angela Bassett (What's Love Got to Do With It?, American Horror Story), & Andy fucking Serkis (Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings)!! For Christ's sake, they've got Gollum in this bitch!
There are quite a few scene stealing performances, but I'm giving the "Show Stealer Award" to Michael B. Jordan as the titular villain with the complicated backstory and serious conviction. He walks the fine line between being consumed by revenge and being a man of true passion and noble motivations. It's the classic complex bad guy, but that is a tougher nut to crack than most people believe.
The setting is up there with Asgard as the most beautifully rendered, lovingly detailed world of any Marvel film. I love all the little things that abound throughout the technological marvel of the city and the way it is one with the rainforest (as opposed to the classic concrete jungle). All of the Vibranium-based technology on display is slick and gorgeous. The costume design is eye-catching; your ass is truly seeing what a futuristic Africa looks like. Kudos!
The dual themes of using your gifts for the good of all & embracing the global community / common threat are timely and relevant. They don't club you over the head with it but instead manage to make it natural and impactful. That's impressive considering how unwieldy that particular thematic club is.
It goes without saying too, but............that Black Panther suit is some badass, gangster shit! The fight scene visuals that come from that suit and the geeky tech behind it make for some killer fight scenes. The Black Panther character has real gravitas in his story and presentation, thanks in no small part to great writing and a solid performance from Boseman. I can't think of anyone in comics besides Captain America who looks and sounds so thoroughly the "good guy". Maybe that's why they're so tight in Infinity War?
All in all, I have to consider this a pretty significant accomplishment on all those levels. Let's face it, this is a movie that will have its ignorant haters and pandering sycophants alike. It naturally carries heavy political and social overtones, & they managed to blow the doors off despite all that.
It's not the crazy-fun ride that Thor: Ragnarok was, nor is it laden with the heavy emotion of Captain America: Civil War. It's "the serious one", if you will- a movie that throws serious stuff at you on multiple levels while dazzling you with visuals that are top-notch and showing you that comics really are the universal language. The most common word that comes up in other reviews is IMPORTANT.
I wouldn't disagree with that at all.