Review by Meherzad Shroff.
Political in more ways than one, Black Panther is the latest installment from Marvel Studios and is action-packed with a focus on character. It’s not just another superhero movie.
An origin story, Black Panther introduces us to Wakanda, a technologically advanced African nation hidden from the world. The nation of Wakanda was founded atop a special metal called vibranium which arrived on Earth by asteroid – this is the same metal which was used to construct Captain America’s famous shield. We follow T’Challa, the titular Black Panther, whose father has passed away (an event shown in Captain America: Civil War and again here by flashback). T’Challa is now King of Wakanda, but a decision by his late father leads both T’Challa and Wakanda to a fateful encounter with an enemy seeking political and personal retribution.
I want to start off by saying that I had a lot of fun with this movie. The characters, action and production design are all consistent with each other and enjoyable. It is paced well, which allowed me to get sucked into the story and universe, and is also visually distinct from the other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (‘MCU’).
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa ably portrays a complex character. We see T’Challa’s struggle trying to rule a kingdom when he feels he isn’t ready, which grounds the story and the character. Like all great heroes which we have seen in these kinds of movies, T’Challa’s battle is internal and external.
The way the filmmakers have portrayed Wakanda in this movie is very immersive; I found myself deeply invested in the setting, more than other fictional worlds portrayed in similar films. We have seen so many worlds in the MCU such as those shown in Guardians Of The Galaxy or Thor, but I did not find myself connecting to them as strongly as I did with Wakanda.
Both of the villains in Black Panther are great and possess memorable personalities giving them a strong presence on screen. Klaw (Ulysses Klaue played by Andy Serkis) is terrific, but I would have liked to have seen more of him. Serkis creates a character who is deranged yet calculating. The other, primary villain is played by Michael B Jordan, who is Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens. He is a badass, plain and simple. Without giving too much away, Killmonger wants to expose Wakanda to the world and use Wakanda’s advanced technology to create a new world order.
Moreover, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia and Letitia Wright as Shuri are great supporting characters. I am happy that the story does not focus too heavily on the relationship between T’Challa and Nakia – they don’t make it cheesy.
It was great to see such a mainstream movie dealing with issues of race and equality. It’s not the first film to do this but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be valued for its impact in the current climate. The filmmakers don’t tread lightly, but I didn’t feel that they were preaching to me either. I enjoyed these themes and the extra layers they gave the movie, which gave me pause to question certain ideas, certain paradigms, that have become commonplace at present. I saw Black Panther with my wife and we discussed how the main villain in certain aspects was not wrong, with T’Challa countering Killmonger’s extremism by being an almost Gandhi-like figure.
Finally, in a movie like this the soundtrack is key to the ambiance of what is going on and I felt that they got it right. It really helped to sell the experience and immerse me in Wakanda.
Ultimately, Black Panther is a very capable standalone that also works as a part of the greater MCU, and of course leaves me excited for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War this year.