REVIEWS

Review: Ryan Coogler's 'Black Panther' is Gorgeous, Engaging, and Culturally Significant

by
February 16, 2018

Black Panther Review

Originally co-created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and published by Marvel Comics, Black Panther made his first appearance in 1966's Fantastic Four #52. The first superhero of African descent in mainstream American comics, Black Panther debuted years before early black superheroes such as the Falcon (1969), John Stewart's Green Lantern (1971), Luke Cage (1972), and Blade (1973). Crossing racial and cultural lines, Black Panther has continued to resonate with readers over the years, spawning multiple publications, and appearing in numerous video games and animated series. It wasn't until 2016, however, that the iconic hero made his big screen debut. Included in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman) was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's massive fan base, setting the stage for this stand-alone feature film. Enter director Ryan Coogler's Black Panther, the eighteenth entry in Marvel's shared cinematic universe and, perhaps, the most absorbing and entertaining installment yet.

Co-written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole (American Crime Story), the film's story picks up after the events of Civil War. Following the death of King T'Chaka (John Kani) at the hands of Helmut Zemo, Prince T'Challa (Boseman) returns to the East African nation of Wakanda to assume the throne and the role of the nation's protector, the Black Panther. Hidden from the outside world, Wakanda is a technological wonder powered by the alien mineral vibranium - the same miraculous metal that Cap's shield is made of. Armed with superior technology developed by his whiz-kid sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), accompanied by spy and love interest, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and the head of his elite all-female security force, Okoye (Danai Gurira), T’Challa travels to South Korea to apprehend Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), an illegal arms dealer (first seen in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron) who is selling vibranium on the black market.

Black Panther Review

In a thrilling sequence straight out of a globe-trotting espionage thriller, T'Challa and his crew infiltrate a luxe, high-stakes casino and dismantle Klaue's thugs with lethal efficiency. But before Black Panther can bring Klaue back to Wakanda, the one-armed arms dealer is rescued by the mysterious Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), a formidable new foe equipped with deadly tactical skills and intimate knowledge of Wakandan history. When T'Challa returns home empty-handed, Killmonger takes advantage of the king's failure and appears at Wakanda’s border bearing gifts and a shocking revelation – one that allows him to challenge T’Challa for the right to the throne.

Black Panther is the first MCU movie to feature a black superhero as the title character. It isn't the first Marvel movie with that distinction, however. Wesley Snipes' Blade broke the color barrier in 1998, years before more popular Marvel properties like X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2002) made their big screen debuts. Still, there is plenty about Coogler's film that is culturally significant. Black Panther celebrates black excellence, and nearly every role – lead, supporting, or otherwise – is played by a talented black actor. Chadwick Boseman delivers a stoic, understated performance that anchors the film, allowing the rest of the cast to shine - especially the stunning, intelligent, and ferocious women of Wakanda. Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Danai Gurira (AMC's The Walking Dead), and newcomer Letitia Wright (Black Mirror) threaten to walk away with the whole movie while Michael B. Jordan, the star of Coogler's previous films Fruitvale Station and Creed, emerges as perhaps the most fully realized villain in a MCU film to date. Killmonger is the best kind of bad guy, one who you can empathize with – a victim of circumstance who believes he is doing the right thing, even if the entire world is telling him he's wrong.

The rest of Coogler's impressive ensemble does not disappoint. Angela Bassett (Queen Mother Ramonda), Forest Whitaker (Zuri), and Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi) bring their A-games, as do supporting players Winston Duke (M'Baku), and Martin Freeman (CIA Agent Everett K. Ross). It isn't just the performances that make Black Panther great, though. Coogler's slick, audacious directorial style, coupled with the crisp, vibrant, and soulful photography of Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Fruitvale Station, Mudbound) make Black Panther the rare film that finds a harmonious balance between substance and spectacle. The visuals are awe-inspiring, and the action sequences are thrilling because you care about the characters involved. Nothing feels flashy or over-the-top; everything is earned.

Black Panther Review

The bold, colorful world of Coogler's Black Panther melds traditional African aesthetics with futuristic flair. Production designer Hannah Beachler, costume designer Ruth Carter, special effects makeup designer Joel Harlow, and hair department head Camille Friend deserve recognition for their contributions here. These talented craftspeople captured the heart and soul of Wakanda and created an epic, immersive, and diverse cinematic world that will expose mainstream audiences to African culture and Afro-futurism. Like Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, Coogler's comic book movie will no doubt inspire the under-represented with its powerful depiction of a person of color who is not only a superhero, but also a leader who preaches empathy, understanding, and sincerity over cynicism and hatred. I'm sure it will be not only empowering but moving as well for black audiences everywhere to finally feel represented in this white-dominated, universally beloved genre. And that's important – it's important that everyone can see art that represents them, that speaks to them, and shows them that they can achieve things beyond their wildest dreams.

2017 was a landmark year for superhero cinema, with amazing films including The LEGO Batman Movie, Logan, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Thor: Ragnarok. As great as those films were, I'm not sure any of them are as vital or as brilliantly realized as Black Panther. It's Goldfinger, Star Wars, and The Godfather all rolled up into one gorgeous and engaging blockbuster that not only takes the MCU in an exciting new direction but cinema itself.

I loved this movie, and I'm excited to see more of these characters in more stories and further explore the fantastical, futuristic world of Wakanda. Luckily, we won't have to wait too long; the MCU's next entry, Avengers: Infinity War, hits theaters on May 4th this summer.

Adam's Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Follow Adam on Twitter - @AdamFrazier

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Reader Feedback - 36 Comments

1

Why is that?

deerosa on Feb 16, 2018

2

Sometimes you gotta throw the line out there with no bait 🙂

deerosa on Feb 16, 2018

3

spot on!

Tony P. Henderson on Feb 16, 2018

4

TUESDAY CAN NOT COME FAST ENOUGH! I’ll be back to read x chime in then!

Brandon Cole on Feb 16, 2018

5

TUESDAY? Damn bro... stay off the interwonder super highway til then. Im trying to last til Sunday. #wakandastrong

Duane on Feb 16, 2018

6

How was it different from the same marvel mess? cause nothing really changed in the end.

4chan on Feb 16, 2018

7

agreed

Talking Films on Feb 16, 2018

8

Give me a break with this cultural significance BS. Rosa Parks, MLK, BLACK PANTHER !! Yeah right. Solid film though. 4 out of 6.

Razzbender on Feb 16, 2018

9

"Give me a break with this cultural significance BS..." ... One could argue , that Blade was an anti-hero . and the focus was more on Vampires and their mystique(s) , than whether Blade was a Black guy dealing out justice . Also Snipes has his legal problems since and nobody wants to push him to the masses . just let him fade away , for PR reasons ... Meanwhile , Panther as King of Wakanda is a Full-On Superhero ; Role-model like . and there's no reason to vote Against him as such . Taking that into consideration , when was the Last ( OR ANY ) Time a Black person had such a role in a SH movie ? Never , is the correct answer . Disney is only wise to market AND CATER to the Black community with such a narrative . Because if you hadn't figured out , Black People Go To The Movies . In droves . Hollywood knows the stats , on such racial differences in moviegoing . and you can find them , if you look . Don't cop an attitude , over a Business Decision ..

Dominic on Feb 27, 2018

10

Yeah right, Black Panther is the first movie with an all black cast. Sure. Whatever. #Factsmatter

Razzbender on Feb 28, 2018

11

speak of another one and a Superhero/ Comic book , sci-fi one ?? do NOT give me "Roots" You don't have Facts , you have an OPINION and it's coloring your VIEW of the Facts you misread as it is , as i said NOTHING about the all- Black cast , and only mentioned the Role-model aspect of the LEAD actor

Dominic on Feb 28, 2018

12

Attack The Block Captain Eo Meteor man Space Is the Place Steel The Brother from Another Planet Blankman Son of Ingagi Catwoman Afronauts Sleight Black Orpheus

Razzbender on Feb 28, 2018

13

Sorry None of them Apply ... Catwoman isn't even an all-Black Movie , or a Majority Black one ... Attack the Block is BRITISH street kids not all-Blacks... Your closest one is "Brother from Another Planet " BUT that isn't culturally significant enough . No Comparison to Black Panther and its Wakanda legacy narrative .. Your Desperation , Is Showing ... just give up this racist lean

Dominic on Feb 28, 2018

14

9 hours later and you come back with this 🙂

Razzbender on Feb 28, 2018

15

I'm a busy person , son doesn't deflect , from you being wrong . No matter how long the reply took . ....Actually Ive been sick for two weeks and haven't even seen the film yet myself . But I was never actually a fan of the character in the CBs , so I'm in no rush If your pic is accurate , you're a Caucasian person , trying to tell Blacks what is and isn't "culturally significant" to US . And you don't get the ARROGANCE of such a statement . and yes Disney is technically doing the same , but in the positive spin for it , and to MAKE money . not deride us for taking this narrative and running with it .

Dominic on Feb 28, 2018

16

Saw it last night. I would give it a 4.5/5 as Ryan's direction was definitely on point. Not one actor in the assemble cast was a weak link. Just like Chris Nolan in Batman Begins he does not know how to film action scenes ( hand to hand). The soundtrack (score) was well done and the visuals were good, except some scenes where the CGI is borderline cringe-worthy. End Credit was well done and Michael B. Jordan is the best villain since Heath Ledgers Joker. I will be watching it again. I did catch it in legitimate IMAX and they did a good job retrofitting many scenes to fill up the entire IMAX screen. Tchalla's little sister was a scene-stealer as well. Good review Adam

deerosa on Feb 16, 2018

17

Yeah, I did think the initial action sequence where Black Panther was fighting in the jungle was a bit muddled, but I thought the rest of the action sequences worked really well.

Adam Frazier on Feb 16, 2018

18

Agreed Adam, in many ways it reminded me of Batman Begins. Coogler was the perfect choice and Michael B. Jordan was truly fantastic. I also love the Oakland tie-in as he was a kid who was born and raised in Oakland. Good stuff!

deerosa on Feb 16, 2018

19

The butthurt is strong with you DC fanboy.

Moriakum on Feb 16, 2018

20

B O O M !

DAVIDPD on Feb 16, 2018

21

I loved this film and it's existence and introduction brings so much to the future of the MCU but there is way to much hype for this movie.

tyban81 on Feb 16, 2018

22

Have to agree. Way too much hype. Movie did have some flaws.

Talking Films on Feb 16, 2018

23

This film is WAY overhyped. It's riding on the laurels it's culturally significant and a good movie, which it's certainly culturally significant, but as movie it felt formulaic and predictable. Michael B. Jordan's performance was the strongest part of the film and it's almost worth watching for that alone. Ultimately Black Panther provides a glimpse into Wakanda and it's culture, the plot, however, did not keep me on the edge of my seat. At no point was I ever concerned that things were not going to work out.

THE_RAW_ on Feb 17, 2018

24

"At no point was I ever concerned that things were not going to work out. " Fair point . However , it's because THAT movie is coming , May 4th Thus we need a feel-good movie to bridge that gap , and strengthen a fan base before we get there . For Example , Vision has been fairly unstoppable so far ; couldn't have beat Ultron without him . Yet they are already ffwd-ing to the point in the character's arc where he loses his stone , and becomes merely mortal . Which took YEARS , in the CBs , before they began to explore his vulnerability . So he'll be an uncertain thing , for another movie or two

Dominic on Feb 27, 2018

25

Uhhh...what....what does Vision have to do with Black Panther? I'm not following you...

THE_RAW_ on Feb 28, 2018

26

what i was pointing out was that the NEXT Movie will keep you wondering which character will live or die . IM is the one people are focusing on , but without the jewel in his forehead , drunks from a bar could kill the Vision , much less Thanos ... This is the Feel-Good Movie ; The next one , is to leave you uncertain of outcome , wondering who lives and dies . I'm just mad that they're putting Vision on that potential chopping block , THIS early

Dominic on Feb 28, 2018

27

Gotcha. Thanks for clarifying. Yeah, I guess Black Panther was more an introduction into Wakandan (sp?) culture/mythology and Vibranium technology.

THE_RAW_ on Mar 2, 2018

28

Excellent review Adam! It's that representation on this scale that makes it culturally impacting! Ryan Coogler's definitely 3-0 with his movies, though I sense he bit off more than he can chew a little in terms of the writing. I think the writing could've been tighter in some spots x would have loved to dwell more inside a few scenes. There was so much to marvel at in this world that the movie at times quickly paced thru the story in the beginning-not jarring at all though, it balances well actually. For T'Challa's first standalone he was done right, I liked his role in Civil War better but different tones called for different portrayals (same w/ WonderWoman for me). Kilmonger without a doubt the 2nd best MCU villain written however, Michael's portrayal, half of his respective screentime felt one note; but where it counted the most, I was moved. My entire watch I felt like a child again, having to remind myself not to grow up x be critical just yet lol. Overall I loved it! Coupled with that pulsating score x righteous soundtrack by Kendrick Lamar's TDE camp! Wakanda is rich, the characters are boastful (ala Guardians), x the experience just tasteful x necessarily refreshing! 4 out of 5 stars for me!!!!

Brandon Cole on Feb 21, 2018

29

Hell yeah, glad you enjoyed it!!

Adam Frazier on Feb 28, 2018

30

Who's the first best written MCU villain?

THE_RAW_ on Feb 28, 2018

31

I'm voting that Brandon says Ultron ..

Dominic on Feb 28, 2018

32

I underestimated Michael’s performance on my 1st viewing. 2nd viewing I seen what everyone was talking about.

Brandon Cole on Mar 2, 2018

33

I really appreciated how you could understand Kilmonger's motivation and how it echoed the harsh reality of how we can become a product of our environments. I don't remember the last time I sympathized with a villain as much as I did with this character.

THE_RAW_ on Mar 2, 2018

34

If I’m going with on-paper x on screen, Loki in Avengers. Kilmoger wasn’t in the first half of the movie to progress the story, he literally shined in the last 30mins though. Sorry for the lateness Raw.

Brandon Cole on Mar 2, 2018

35

Thanks for the reply! No worries on the lateness. And I totally agree. I was racking my brain trying to think of who you were going to suggest and completely overlooked Loki. But the Avengers is pretty much superhero film perfection imo (as far as comic vs. on screen).

THE_RAW_ on Mar 2, 2018

36

Yeah I would agree - Loki has the edge just because we've had so many opportunities to see him. In terms of one-appearance villains though, Kilmonger and Michael Keaton's Vulture are the top 2. I think Red Skull is undervalued - I hope we get to see him again soon...

Adam Frazier on Mar 24, 2018

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