"Black Panther" (2018)- Movie Review

Written and Directed by Ryan Coogler
Co-written by Joe Robert Cole
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o

‘A Marvelous Achievement’

Over the past decade or so, comic-book films have followed a familiar formula. Aimed towards fans of the comic-book genre, these films have focused on white male heroes saving the world. If box-office numbers are any indication, these films have proven to be successful and gathered a huge following. However, when it comes to storytelling these films have often fallen short of expectations. By focusing on a white male hero, the superhero genre has left little room for diversity and representation.

To be fair, there have been exceptions to this trend. For instance, last year “Wonder Woman” proved that there is room for women to shine in the male-dominated genre. However, these movies are rare and few in quantity. Like a birthday, they only get released on celebratory occasions.

In a genre that has deteriorated over the years, Ryan Coogler’s latest film “Black Panther” is a breath of fresh air. The first-ever superhero film led by an all-black cast is thrilling, ambitious and emotionally resonant. With the help of a talented cast, writer/director Ryan Coogler has crafted a marvelous superhero film that succeeds on nearly every level. Refreshingly, the film avoids the familiar formula of films in the genre. Unlike other films in the genre, it is driven by character development rather than action. Through gorgeous visuals, fully formed characters and fantastic performances, “Black Panther” proves that there is potential for African-American stories to be told in the superhero genre.

Starring Chadwick Boseman in the title role, “Black Panther” tells the story of a fearless warrior named T’Challa. Following the death of his father, T’Challa returns to his homeland of Wakanda to claim his rightful place as king. However, when a vengeful outsider threatens to dethrone T’Challa, the fate of the nation is put in danger. In order to reclaim his title as king, T’Challa must face his greatest foe yet.

Its an engrossing story that is skillfully brought to life by writer/director Ryan Coogler. Although this is his first time making a comic-book movie, Coogler shows immense talent behind the camera. Blending stunning visuals with larger-than-life characters, the director manages to create an entire world from scratch. Despite the challenges that come with making a comic-book movie, Coogler manages to avoid them. Through a combination of visuals and character development, Coogler has crafted one of the best comic-book films in recent memory. It is quite a feat, especially for a filmmmaker that has never made a comic-book film before.

When it comes to visuals, it is unlikely that you will see a film that is as stunning as “Black Panther” this year. The film draws the viewer into the world of Wakanda through gorgeous visuals. Whether it is the colorful costumes or lush locations, it is hard to not gape in awe at the visuals. These stunning visuals make way for exciting action sequences that keep the viewer invested. The fight sequences are tense, brutal and exhilarating to watch. Every scene serves a purpose and drives the story forward. Although stunning visuals are something we’ve come to expect from comic-book movies, rarely have they affected a film’s quality this much.

While “Black Panther” features plenty of eye-popping visuals, it is driven more so by character development. It is rather unusual to see a comic-book movie pay attention to character development. More often than not, these films focus on action and characters serve as a backdrop. However, that is definitely not the case in “Black Panther”. The script is filled with larger-than-life characters that you normally don’t see in superhero movies. For instance, T’Challa is a conflicted hero struggling to deal with the loss of his father. At times, he is emotional, vulnerable and prone to making mistakes. This makes T’Challa an interesting but flawed superhero that one can easily relate to.

As far as casting is concerned, they couldn’t have picked a better actor to portray T’Challa than Chadwick Boseman. As the king of Wakanda, Boseman delivers his finest performance to date. With intense expressions and a confident posture, he captures the essence of the iconic character. Its a role that marks a departure for Boseman, who has spent most of his career playing historical figures (ex. Jackie Robinson). However, he proves to be the perfect actor for the part. Although this is only his first outing as the character, Boseman proves that he was born to play the role. Hopefully, this isn’t the last time we see the actor in the role.

Although Boseman plays the titular hero, there are times when he is nearly upstaged by the villain. Michael B. Jordan is fantastic in the role of the fierce and menacing Killmonger. This is the actor unlike you’ve ever seen him before: intense, charismatic and aggressive in his first villainous role. He steals nearly every scene he is in with memorable dialogue and an intimidating presence. Villains have often been a weak link in comic-book films, but that is definitely not the case here. With Killmonger, Michael B. Jordan has created a sympathetic villain whose motivations are just and believable.

Among other standouts in the cast, it is hard to not mention the powerful women. Lupita Nyong’o is as always amazing in a small yet significant role. Danai Gurira is terrific in the role of a strong and powerful leader. And finally, Letitia Wright is hilarious, providing comical relief and persona as T’Challa’s sister.

Despite the terrific performances from the cast, “Black Panther” is not a film without flaws. At nearly two and a half hours, the movie is a little long and drags in certain places. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I had issues with the pacing. There are times when you are invested in the film but then the story screeches to a halt and you lose interest. If the filmmakers had paid more attention to the pacing, it would have elevated the movie to another level.

Nevertheless, “Black Panther” is an exhilarating film that will restore your faith in the comic-book genre. In a genre that has been dominated by white male superheroes, the film proves that there is a yearning for African-American stories to be told. Comic-book films of this quality don’t come along often, but on those rare occasions that they do its a cause for celebration.

4/5 stars

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