Before last weekend I knew nothing about Black Panther. That is not unusual for me. I am an underachieving nerd who never got into comic book superheros. If it was not Batman, I passed on it. One glimpse of the trailer for Black Panther was enough to draw me to the unexplored Marvel universe of Wakanda. I was not disappointed. Black Panther is one badass movie.
This post contains spoilers about Black Panther.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with the Black Panther comics, do not worry. There is nothing about the movie that requires prior knowledge of Black Panther or the Marvel Universe. The origin of Black Panther and the basic plot of the film are concisely explained within the first minutes of the movie. While there are characters from other Marvel films in Black Panther, I followed along without being lost in intracomic backstory.
The setting of Black Panther is massive. It bounces between Oakland, South Korea, and the fictional African country of Wakanda. Wakanda is located in sub-Saharan Africa and is its own world-within-a-world. The people of Wakanda are sitting on a stockpile of the most precious metal in the world, vibranium. That metal allowed them to conceal their development of an advanced civilization from the rest of the world for centuries.
Despite the huge scale of Black Panther, the film is never bloated. It does not waste time in meaningless locations. The story never veers from a Shakespearean intra-family struggle. By sticking to its story, Black Panther maintains the quick pace required of a blockbuster. That is a rare feat for any movie with a running time over two hours.
Black Panther also blends drama and humor. Letitia Wright’s turn as the wisecracking sister of the titular character gave Black Panther some comic buoyancy. Her humor keeps the movie from being a dark blockbuster like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
The Black Panther Cast
Black Panther also features an impressive cast. Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman, and Lupita Nyogn’o are just a few of the names to headline the movie. A Jar-Binks hampers so many flicks of this ilk. This is not an issue in Black Panther. All of the characters that share screen time are relevant to the plot. With the exception of Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue, the characters in Black Panther are not portrayed in a cartoonish manner. In spite of their superhuman abilities, every character felt necessary and real.
Stars will normally stand apart from the pack in any action movie. That is not the case in Black Panther. An unusually large number of supporting actors were pertinent to the story.
Instead of just watching Superman or Spider-Man do their thing, T’Challa (the Black Panther) relies on a cool group of bodyguards who are unlike anything I have every seen in a movie. They are not the implausible oversexualized heroines (i.e. the Sand Snakes from Game of Thrones) that usually appear in fantasy flicks, T’Challa’s bodyguards just wreak havoc. No impracticable midriffs. No nonsense. Just amazing warriors.
As good as Chadwick Boseman is as T’Challa, Michael B. Jordan deserves mountains of praise for his performance of Erik Killmonger. Jordan reprises the traits of Adonnis Creed, his character from another Coogler-directed movie: Creed. In both instances his characters rose from an unforgiving youth with an enormous chip on their shoulders. Creed is out to prove that he belongs in the ring. Killmonger wants to rule Wakanda and share their technology with the world. Jordan taps into that same edge once again and delivers a knockout performance. Because of the way Jordan and Coogler relay his story, Killmonger is more of a sympathetic antagonist than an archvillain. In many ways, he is the hero of Black Panther.
The Best Action Scene In Black Panther
The action sequences that first attracted me to Black Panther are well-choreographed and most importantly, unexpected. More than one sequence forced a literal jaw drop. The car chase and casino scene in Busan are amazing, but it is not my favorite scene in the film.
During the final fight between T’Challa and Killmonger, a train interrupts the characters several times. As the train passes through the fight, the dueling panthers are stripped of their powers and masks and stare at each other through the windows of the train, allowing the rivals to take stock of each other.
The scene is an interesting choice. This is the first time that T’Challa and Killmonger had time to size each other up. Instead of a more routine scene before the brawl, the sequence slows the film down. I am amazed at the patience of the moment. By taping the breaks on the fight, Coogler allows the drama to build even more.
Black Panther Is One Badass Movie
Everything about the movie is impressive. The direction, the writing, the action, and the production are flawless. The special effects, CGI, and cinematography are stunning.
Black Panther is a huge deal to a lot of people. It is not often that you get to watch a movie that is historically important in its opening weekend. Black Panther is a rare blockbuster that features a predominately black cast and is helmed by an African-American director. While that is an undeniable part of Black Panther’s legacy, the cultural impact of the film should not distract from the fact that it is a damn good movie.
Perhaps the potential cultural impact of Black Panther prompted a collective effort between production, direction, and acting. Getting this story right is big deal for a lot of people. Even more likely, a great story finally received a shot at the big screen. Coogler managed to create a comic book movie that did not feel like one. For two hours I was immersed in Wakanda. Before the film I knew nothing about the character. As the film progressed I became invested in their stories. Black Panther is one badass movie that that surpassed every expectation I had for it. Go see it.
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