REVIEW: Black Panther
Director Ryan Coogler deserves all the praise he gets for Black Panther…and then some. I’m not gonna sum up the story because I’m sure you’ve seen the previews, and I mean come on, it’s been out for like a year now.
Character-wise, this movie blows its competition away. Chadwick Boseman makes poise look cool as the titular protagonist, Danai Gurira steals every scene Okoye is in, and Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia owns one of the strongest supporting romantic subplots I’ve ever seen in an action movie. The villains enthrall with Andy Serkis delivering as always and Michael B. Jordan putting in the performance of a life time. Seriously. He makes a character named Killmonger sincere and complex.
The minor characters not only get their due but suck you in with magnetic performances. From the all-time greats like Angela Basset, Forest Whitaker, and Martin Freeman, to young stars like Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling K. Brown, and Letitia Wright, the term “acting heavyweight” doesn’t even scratch the surface of what this film is.
Aesthetically, Panther is dynamically opposed to what audiences have come to expect from the superhero genre. Not a frame looks drab or copied from the MCU pantheon. A scene taking place in the throne room will stun you just as much as the Korean car chases, an absolute credit to the remarkable cinematography and set design. Meanwhile, Kendrick Lamar’s memorable hip-hop riffs bouncing between Ludwig Göransson’s exceptional score make for some amazing musicality to match the visuals, and the Foley work feels futuristic but not familiar.
Nothing looks like this movie, nothing sounds like this movie, and I feel like I needed a sequel yesterday.
To my chagrin, some of the typical MCU trappings hold the film back from reaching its full potential. The tone gets a little hard to read in places, the dialogue lands flat every now and again, and in terms of pacing...it’s a Marvel movie. There’s just too much that it wants to accomplish, and by Act 2, it becomes clear the run time won’t be able to accommodate. T’Challa coming to grips with his father’s mistakes, Killmonger’s rise to power, the civil war in Wakanda, these plot elements could have had a movie all their own but instead are rushed into the finale. They’re rushed well I might add, but rushed all the same.
Even with its flaws, Black Panther is a step in the right direction for comic book filmmaking and I can’t wait to see what comes next.