“Black Panther” features T’Challa, who returns to Wakanda following his father’s death to resume his rightful place as king. This is Marvel Black Panther Movie Review.
A tiny Black kid on a makeshift basketball court in Oakland, California, interrupts his game in 1992 to look up at the sky. He’s looking at the loss of hope, depicted by blazing lights moving away into the night.
Those lights, we later learn, belong to a futuristic flying machine coming to the mysterious African kingdom of Wakanda, which serves as the setting for “Black Panther.”
His father had told him that Wakanda had the most beautiful sunsets he’d ever seen, so he clings to that apparent sense of beauty throughout his darkest hours. When he finally watches the sun set over Wakanda, he has a terrible emotional reaction.
Viewers of “Black Panther,” one of the year’s best pictures, will have the same reaction, as it transcends the superhero genre to become an epic of operatic proportions.
The genre’s countless battle sequences are present, but they float on the surface of a vast ocean of character development and attention to grandiose and minute details.
Wakanda is a fully realized, unabashedly Black realm, a tapestry of the richest, sharpest hues and textures. Ruth Carter’s costumes and Rachel Morrison’s magnificent cinematography stand out so clearly that they become almost tactile.
On the day her son is crowned king, you can almost feel the fabric of Angela Bassett’s headdress as it shines in the sunlight.
Bassett is just one of many well-known and emerging performers of color who bring their A-game to “Black Panther.” Others include Forest Whitaker, Sterling K. Brown, and “Get Out” actor Daniel Kaluuya.
The entire cast produces characters with nuances rarely seen in minority characters in the film; these people are capable of contradicting human responses with long-term implications.
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Their emotions are rich, instantly accessible, and tinged with shades of grey that are rarely explored in blockbuster entertainment. You know you’re in the presence of outstanding acting and writing when the villain manages to make your eyes tear up while attempting to murder the hero in the previous scene.
Michael B. Jordan portrays the villain in question, Killmonger. Jordan and writer/director Ryan Coogler’s collaboration will be remembered with the same regard as Scorsese and De Niro’s.
Though this is the first picture in which Jordan plays a supporting role, the team conveys a cinematic shorthand that is emblematic of their trustworthy cooperation.
A film like this is only as excellent as its villains, and Jordan belongs in the anti-hero Hall of Fame with the likes of Gene Hackman’s Little Bill Daggett from “Unforgiven.”
Jordan, like Hackman, entices you with his appealing comedic swagger before showing his surprising depths of viciousness. He’s hissable, yet his character progression includes sympathy and understanding.
Coogler is an excellent choice for this topic. It touches all of the nice points he enjoys exploring in his flicks. So much is said about which notable directors should direct the next superhero film, but few would be allowed to leave such a personal imprint on a product so devoted to audience feelings.
By adding everything we’ve come to anticipate from his films in the script he co-wrote with Joe Robert Cole, Coogler transforms the MCU into the RCU—the Ryan Coogler Universe.
T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), like Oscar Grant in “Fruitvale Station,” is a typical Coogler protagonist, a young Black man seeking his place in the world while coping with his own inner demons and an environment that demands things from him that he is apprehensive about providing. T’Challa, like Donny in “Creed,” lives in the shadow of a late father who was recognized for grandeur, which he likewise desires to accomplish through similar means.
Google carries these same character attributes to his inspiration Jordan Killmonger, who has a “two sides of the same coin” connection with the hero, as is customary in comic book lore. This theory is applied to their plans as well.
T’Challa wishes to keep Wakanda isolated from the rest of the world, protecting his kingdom by employing superior technology purely for the sake of its people. Killmonger wishes to steal that technology and distribute it to others, particularly disadvantaged Black people, so that they may fight back and dominate the world.
Furthermore, the dual, reflected imagery of T’Challa and Killmonger is masterfully brought to the forefront in a sequence where both men embark on the same spiritual trip to see the dads they yearn to see.
However, the tone of these identical travels is diametrically opposed, as if to exemplify the adage that one man’s Heaven is another man’s Hell. These scenes have a way of getting under your skin and driving you to confront them afterward.
Coogler’s universe is likewise not dominated by men. Women in his films advise and soothe the male leads while maintaining their own lives and agency. It’s Octavia Spencer’s Mrs. Grant in “Fruitvale Station,” and Tessa Thompson’s creative girlfriend in “Creed.” “Black Panther” raises the stakes significantly by introducing us to a slew of fascinating, powerful, and clever women who fight alongside Black Panther and earn their own cheers.
Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia, T’Challa’s ex for whom he still carries a torch. Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, is the equivalent of James Bond’s Q; she provides the vibranium-based weapons and outfits that Black Panther employs.
Danai Gurira plays Okoye, a warrior whose skill may rival T’Challa’s because she doesn’t need a suit to be a badass. All of these women have action moments that elicited audience acclaim, and they’re all fully realized personalities. Okoye, in particular, has a storyline that is a microcosm of the Black Panthers’ primary ideological debate.
“Black Panther” is still Marvel’s most mature offering yet, despite its action sequences (which are refreshingly uncomplicated, focused on smaller conflicts than usual) and discussion of metals that exist only in Stan Lee‘s head.
It’s also the film’s most political, with no qualms about alienating some elements of the Marvel fanbase. To be sure, it’s doing a terrific job of unsettling people sick with the Fear of a Black Planet on Twitter.
To wit, Wakanda has never been invaded by White people, it is the most advanced place in the universe, and, in a move that appears relevant despite the fact that it has been canon since 1967, Wakanda masquerades as what some presidents would refer to as a “shithole nation.” Coogler really twists the knife on that one: in the first of two post-credits sequences, he concludes with a scathing rebuttal on what immigrants from those countries may bring to the rest of the globe.
When it comes to endings, Coogler knows how to do it right. His final shot in “Creed” is a tearjerker, and the final sequence (pre-credits) in “Black Panther” made me cry even harder. As in “Creed,” Coogler presented youthful brown faces in awe of a hero, which is uncommon in mainstream cinema.
The final scene of “Black Panther” is a reenactment of the moment described in my opening paragraph: in the present day, a little Black kid on a makeshift basketball court in Oakland, California, interrupts his game to look up at the sky.
It’s a conclusion brimming with meta, symbolic meaning. A lot of brown kids will be watching at this movie with a similar sensation of awe and perception-changing delight starting this weekend. Because the main superhero, as well as practically everyone else, resembles them. It took a long time, but it was well worth the wait.