Seeing the outpour of support for this film has already solidified it has a cultural icon around the world has been quite the experience and thankfully that icon may have just be solidified, as Black Panther, in my view, is worthy of the title of iconic.
Black Panther continues the story of the crowned King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) immediately after the events of Captain America: Civil War – T’Challa must face a threat to his throne as he struggles to protect his country, the ultra advanced Kingdom of Wakanda.
Any film centred around the struggle for a throne or Kingdom often portrays only two sides, good and evil, usually involving a jealous family member or power hungry warlord; Black Panther attempts to cast aside this aged trope by introducing a villain that is arguably more complex than even the film’s lead character. The villain named Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) has sympathetic motives and convincing arguments for his actions, he isn’t your standard irrationally maniacal MCU villain. T’Challa and Killmonger both mirror each other in varied ways, the film focuses heavily on the differences between them and what makes their perspectives and life experiences so different from one another.
The story often shifts towards T’Challa’s conflict with ruling Wakanda and whether keeping Wakanda secret is the best for the world; the theme of divisions and barriers between people was explored extensively throughout this film; references towards slavery, segregation, inequality within lower income areas are all touched upon as a way for audience to relate these fictional events back to reality. Ultimately this film is heavy on its themes over being witty in its writing, the themes that director Ryan Coogler has weaved into this story speak volumes in comparison to what would usually be explored in a standard MCU film or Hollywood blockbuster.
Chadwick Boseman doesn’t veer away from his characters reserved and strong-willed nature much at all; similar to the characteristics of Captain America, he remains focused, honourable, and without major moral imbalance. Throughout the course of the film it isn’t hard to notice that Boseman’s portrayal becomes a little flat and monotonous in most scenes after a while. I’ll say this, I am perfectly content with an absence of comedy in any MCU film, often preferring it, but charisma does not equal comedy, and this is something that Boseman struggles expressing throughout his role as the Black Panther, simply more charisma, not comedy. I would like to see more layers to his character as a whole, whether they are quips, wit, or general personality traits – these are the small details that are missing to make him more attractive as a character.
The supporting cast were fantastic – Michael B. Jordan embodies Killmonger’s complex mindset and style in an entirely believable fashion, keeping tensions high and making action sequences much more exciting. Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright are the main supporting roles, with Martin Freeman as somewhat of an observer and occasional comedic relief in certain moments. Danai Gurira plays the Wakandan Military General; her entire performance stands right at the top for this film, from her expressions and reactions to scenarios, natural chemistry with characters on screen, and visual presentation, she was sensational. Lupita Nyong’o plays the ex of T’Challa, her performance is steady and consistent throughout, though she doesn’t make quite the same impression as Letitia Wright playing the role of T’Challa’s sister, a brilliant scientist, and the princess of Wakanda. Letitia Wright’s portrayal is charismatic, emotionally compelling, and one of the films most enjoyable aspects.
Ultimately this film had ups and downs visually, the camera-work and cinematography is some of the best ever seen in the MCU with long take action sequences. Additionally the beautiful visual imagery, fantastical production design and costuming are the films central pieces of visual aesthetic. Where this film falters in its quality of visual effects, some backdrops, animations, and general CGI work have very questionable moments, I would go as far as to say it was close to becoming a crippling issue if they were slightly more commonplace throughout the film. Without a doubt the film’s tantalizing soundtrack will draw a crowd, overseen by Kendrick Lamar and with ludicrously fitting themes for characters and locations, it’s truly hard to find faults. Ultimately the mastermind behind it is composer Ludwig Göransson.
Ryan Coogler has more than proven himself, he has created a narratively rich story within the sterile environment of Hollywood, with possibly more socially relevant undertones than any MCU film has ever made. Yes, this film didn’t have a perfect pace, the best visuals, or the best lead actor – but it makes up for it by offering up a fantastic cast, one of the best villains in the MCU, and a wickedly rich world of detail and culture. With a powerful ensemble cast, firmly rooted themes regarding division, and a captivating villain – Black Panther slashes expectations, offering rich world building and an intensely detailed culture.