Black Panther review: Spoiler free.
Black Panther, the eighteenth movie in the Marvel cinematic universe, follows the story of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as he adjusts to his new role as King of Wakanda after the death of his father. The film is being heralded as one of the finest entries in the superhero genre, but is it as good as all that? Let’s find out.
T’Challa faces challenges to his reign from foes both old and new as he tries to understand what it is to be a true leader and struggles with the weight of his father T’Chaka’s past and the future of his African nation. Aided by his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), and his friends, the spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) he faces arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and the mysterious and dangerous Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who threaten the people of Wakana’s very existence.
Boseman portrayal of T’Challa shows a young man who, whilst stoic and confidant externally for the benefit of the people, is unsure of himself and his future internally. Boseman was one of the break outs of Captain America: Civil war, and his character is truly one of the best in the MCU. The supporting cast are excellent, with Nyong’o and Freeman both being joys to watch, whilst Wright’s Shuri steals every scene she is in. Rumours of her recieving her own spin off film are hopefully true . The villains are excellent too, with Serkis returning from Age of Ultron to bring a delightful insanity to the role of Klaue, although he is outshon by Jordan, who’s Killmonger is one of the best villains in a franchise sorely in need of good villains, rather than simply going back to the Tom Hiddleston as Loki well. Jordan creates both a sympathetic and manical character, who’s motivation is so fascinating one finds themselves wondering if the villain is in fact T’challa, not Killmonger. In addition, the side characters are strong, with Forest Whitaker marvellously filling the role of Zuri, Wakanda’s chief mystic, and Winston Duke playing the incredibly enjoyable M’Baku with zeal.
The design of Wakanda’s is breathtaking, a unique blend of science fiction city and traditional African village, flawlessly inserting high science tech that puts the technology of Tony Stark to shame alongside the beautiful countryside. Unlike some sets in superhero films which seem overly complicated or CGI, one could be tricked into believing that Wakanda is just as real as some of the real world places used by Marvel. Ryan Coogler, the director and screenwriter, who received acclaim with his 2015 film ‘Creed’, clearly put a lot of thought into how he wanted to build this world, and make it very distinct from other entries in the decade old franchise. Indeed, it is one of those rare films in the franchise, a film that functions just as well as a standalone as it does a part of the MCU, something that can be said of maybe only three other films. With Panther, Klaue and Ross being the only returning characters from the wider world, and the events of Civil war barely mentioned, one can see why many see this as refreshing, as one can go in having seen all 18 films, or none.
The film does have it’s drawbacks. Certain characters fall into obvious and predictable roles, the love interest, the traitor, the tech wizard etc, and the film, whilst different enough from other MCU films, follows the same basic pattern of ‘set piece, character moment, twist, final battle with hoardes of nameless enemies’, but at least it missed out a sky beam. In addition, whilst it is not a major gripe, many of the cast are actors doing accents not their own, be it Freeman’s American, Serkis’s South African or Boseman’s ‘Wakandan’, and there is always a slight drift and inconsistency, especially as Boseman literally created the accent from scratch. Freeman too falls into his default role of ‘delightfully flustered’, and honestly could have been replaced with Bilbo Baggins or John Watson and the changes would be minimal. Finally, whilst the CGI is good there are moments of disbelief (looking at you giant combat rhino’s), and sometimes, the technobabble runs away with itself. What is Vibranium. How does it work? Nobody knows.
Overall however, Black Panther is an excellent film that brings a unique flavor to the Marvel canon, and at times can be thought of a simple thriller that doesn’t need a connection to the MCU. In addition, as the first film to star an African superhero, well, ever, it is able to marvelously represent a part of the world so often overlooked, without feeling forced. Black Panther was one of the breakout characters of Captain America Civil War, and it was joy to see him lead his own film, and I cannot wait to see him in Infinty War and beyond.