- Stunning aesthetics
- Commitment to African culture and Afrofuturism is wonderful with terrific results
- A very colourful film
- A refreshingly different feel for a superhero film
- Exciting, fast-paced and varied action
- As much comedy as you’d hope from a Marvel movie
- Great performances with a strong supporting cast and one of Marvel’s most compelling villains
Black Panther is a special film in a number of ways. Not only is it the 18th Marvel film and the last one before the big third outing for the Avengers, but it’s big for black culture and Afrofuturism, being the first big blockbuster superhero film featuring a black lead and, more importantly, a nearly all black cast (and crew). It’s a step in the right direction for an increasingly out-dated and politically incorrect Hollywood, with arrogant ‘white males’ quivering in their seats. More than this,Black Panther is an incredible movie, more than a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Picking up soon after the last time we saw him in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa/ Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) returns to the isolated and technologically-advanced Wakanda, mourning the death of his father and ready to take his rightful place as King. With ex-girlfriend Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), companion Okoye (Danai Gurira) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) by his side, he proves his worth at the mantle, but soon gets word that vibranium-obsessed bad guy Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) is making a deal in Korea. Urged onwards by friend W’Kabi’s (Daniel Kaluuya) hatred for the man, Black Panther sets out to intercept the deal. However, once meeting up with old friend Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), he realises things aren’t as simple as they seem and it isn’t long before the real antagonist, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), shows up, his eyes fixed firmly on the throne of Wakanda that he believes should be his.
The aesthetics are inspiring, every inch of Wakanda utterly African, each scene evoking a strong and exemplary sense of Afrofuturism. Black Panther is absolutely committed to the African cultures it portrays and the effect is not only different, but visually stunning and incredibly colourful. More importantly, it never feels forced, gimmicky or frequently mentioned, constantly reminding people how PC they are. Instead the blend of African cultures embodied in Wakanda feels natural and organic and its detail is wonderful at every level.
In fact the aesthetics throughout the whole film are gorgeous. CGI, as expected in a film of this calibre, is second-to-none, but the cinematography alongside really captures the beauty of Wakanda, the wonders of a fictional technologically-advanced African country brought to life. Wakanda, stunning as it is, also feels fresh; Black Panther isn’t just another superhero film with the titular character fighting their way across New York City. This freshness stretches throughout the whole movie, making it seem like a new kind of superhero film and putting to rest any doubts that Marvel’s films could become stale or repetitive.
It is a Marvel film though so there are some aspects that we come to expect; some that are welcome and some that are happily missing in this movie. One is the comedy, which is abundant throughout Black Panther. With plenty of laughs from beginning to end – coming from M’Baku (Winston Duke) and Shuri in particular – it helps in allowing Black Panther to fit effortlessly into the broader personality of the MCU. Origin stories are also expected in superhero films, but here that is forgone, something that adds to its strength. It never gets bogged down in origins or unnecessary details explaining comic book lore; instead, like with Spider-Man: Homecoming, it just gets going and tells us what we need to know as it goes, letting exposition fit neatly into the film and never letting it slow down the pace. Superhero action too is worthy of praise as it is some of the best we’ve seen yet. With multiple films of this genre coming out every year, it’s understandably becoming difficult to impress an audience. However Black Panther has a slightly more fresh approach to its action; not too deep-rooted in unrealistic sci-fi/fantasy, the action is fast-paced, fun to watch and brilliantly choreographed with varied action. This latter point is largely down to Black Panther being almost an ensemble film. While the focus of the story and a lot of the action is on T’Challa, he’s not the sole interest of the film. Instead we often see him fighting alongside Nakia, Okoye and even sometimes Shuri. Each with different personalities as well as fighting styles, this lends a varied approach to the fight scenes and make them so much more interesting to watch. Yet the highlight is still the titular Black Panther, with expert martial arts and gymnastics blending together to be an absolute joy.
The joy doesn’t stop with the action though. The quiet times are sometimes just as much fun, with the cast clearly having a blast. Chadwick Boseman builds on his debut in Captain America: Civil War, still retaining the characterisation from that film, but expanding it and making us love this character even more. Wise, strong and determined, he makes a fine King for Wadanda; but funny, sweet and loyal, he makes a fine superhero for the MCU. Boseman excels at bringing out all sides of T’Challa and we can’t wait to see more of him in later this year with the rest of the MCU by his side. By his side this time though are a fine group of characters who could maybe even give the Avengers a run for their money. Okoye has a harsh-edge to her and watching her fight is incredible, yet Danai Gurira gives us a soft edge that she only reveals occasionally, making her enigmatic character more appealing. Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o too bring so much personality to the film, often stealing scenes from the titular hero himself. Michael B. Jordan makes a worthy antagonist, actually being one of Marvel’s best villains yet. Since their history of villains hasn’t been great to date, you could assume that that isn’t too high an accolade, but despite that he is a sympathetic villain with a likeable, funny side – the sort of villainy that made us all love Loki – supported by fellow bad guy, Andy Serkis returning as Klaue. Though not appearing much, he certainly makes his mark and lives up to the character’s reputation. Martin Freeman’s return as Ross is also very welcome and never a gimmicky, unnecessary reference to the wider MCU; instead he is allowed to develop a part that was too small in Civil War. This time he fits in organically and his American accent is as impressive as Andy Serkis’ South African.
It’s safe to say that all the hype for Black Panther was worth it because it really is everything we wanted it to be. With exciting and varied non-stop action, plenty of comedy and an excellent ensemble of characters it fits into the rest of the Marvel cannon seamlessly. And while this one forgoes the sometimes unnecessary origin story, dives into a great plot and actually gives us an enjoyable villain, the best thing that stands out about Black Panther is how fresh it feels and looks and how committed it is to the inclusion of African culture and inclusivity. Yet again Marvel have delivered another outstanding film that instantly soars towards the top of the list.