In an oversaturated market, Marvel’s newest release comes as a fresh new film to its wrinkled roster. “Black Panther” finally made its long awaited debut, critically acclaimed long before its public release and toting a star studded roster of Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, the star of Creed, Lupita Nyong’o, star of the three-time Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave” and Martin Freeman, our beloved Bilbo, to name a few.
Along with a soundtrack produced and curated by Kendrick Lamar featuring SZA and The Weeknd, “Black Panther” was highly anticipated by both Marvel fans and casual moviegoers alike. It delivered on every level.
It follows T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda after his father’s death, and his quest to prove himself, alongside his sister (Letitia Wright), his ex-girlfriend Nakia (Nyong’o) , and the head of his secret service-esque bodyguards Okoye (Danai Gurira). Wakanda is a fictional African country built upon a mountain of vibranium, a powerful extraterrestrial metal that is hailed as the strongest metal on earth. The movie revolves around two main antagonists: Klaw, (Andy Serkis) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and their own desires for the Wakandan vibranium horde.
Most Marvel movies tend to follow similar arcs and subsequently become relatively monochrome, with villains that are emotionally disconnected from the audience, boring concrete tinged color grading and writing that lacks in variety and storytelling depth. “Black Panther” shines where its predecessors failed. Although it may not have hours of gut pumping action, or snappy one liners when beating up the baddie, its action is refined and concise as well as powerful and potent. Its color scheme is jaw-dropping and the costume design accents its vibrant aesthetic seamlessly.
What the movie lacks in typical Marvel adrenaline, it makes up for with incredible casting, acting and emotion. From the conflicting passions between T’Challa and Nakia, to the father son relationship between Killmonger and his father, “Black Panther” built emotional bridges better than any of its predecessors
This movie brings what most Marvel movies haven’t: characters that are full of life and reflect that to the audience. Ryan Coogler, the director, also directed the Academy Award nominated “Creed,” starring Michael B. Jordan. Their past work together is evident, for the chemistry Jordan brings on set as Killmonger is incredible. Every second he spends on screen feels so right, you can’t get enough of him. His charisma on screen is almost overwhelming, and his anger and passion is portrayed effortlessly by Coogler.
Killmonger, born in Oakland, has a violent passion for civil rights, which seems ironic for an antagonist, but like any other villain he is driven to take his passion to another level. Jordan plays a villain whose revenge on the Panther is justified, but somewhat misguided. The key to creating a villian in any superhero film is to not push the villain to the peripheries and have the protagonist be the sole attention, but focus on making the villain a main character. Jordan fills this role; the most touching moment in the film comes with Killmonger’s confrontation of his past.
What makes “Black Panther” special is how it shifts the Marvel movies away from the stereotypically white dominated Hollywood blockbuster film, towards a powerful piece created by and starring African Americans. Ruth E. Carter stands out as one of the big name talents behind the Black Panther’s foreground. The aesthetic of the movie is driven by the costume design, and Carter does fantastic work.
Throughout Hollywood’s history, costume designers have been told to make women’s costumes sexy. In “Black Panther,” Carter dresses her women like warriors, some bald headed and showing no skin, breaking the rigid barriers of past costume design. Carter also drew from tribal African wear to accentuate the authenticity of Wakanda.
What makes the soundtrack by Lamar so potent within the film is the resonance of his background in Compton, along with Jordan’s character in a similar neighborhood wracked by poverty in Oakland. This makes the rhythmic hip hop beats pair seamlessly with both the down to Earth Wakandan feel, and with the modern black antagonist Killmonger.
The cinematography is altogether astounding, utilizing unique effects to portray drama on another level. Some of the camera work combined with the colors of the set and the beats of the soundtrack create unforgettable cinematic moments, and considering its handle as an MCU movie makes it even more impressive.
“Black Panther” has shattered box office records already earning numbers much higher than predicted, following three days after its release a total of $361 million in earnings, proving to be a hit that many didn’t see coming. If you are interested in the Marvel Universe at any level, or are simply looking for a great watch, “Black Panther” has it all.