Wednesday, February 21, 2018

My Review of Black Panther (2018)

Written by Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole
Directed by Ryan Coogler

T'Challa: "We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe."

Following the rapturous reception the character got when he first appeared in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, this was always going to be a film that would impact audiences beyond the usual comic book fans. It was also going to be a film that would generate a lot of hype to the point where you'd wonder if said hype would be justified.

The answer to that though is a resounding yes though. While I'm more of a DC film universe guy, I do like the Marvel universe as well and even I was anticipating this movie. I really wanted it to be great. However it was more than that. If you see only one comic book movie of the year, then this is the one to see.

Following the death of his father, T'Chaka (John Kani), it now falls to the current Black Panther, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) to take up his father's mantle and become king of fictional African technological wonderland, Wakanda and after enduring a rather challenge trial, including temporary losing his powers, beating a would be challenger in M'Baku (Winston Duke) and going on a quest to the ancestral plane, T'Challa assumes the role and is determined to be a fair ruler and to learn from his father's mistakes.

One of the mistakes being the failure to apprehend arms dealer, Ulysses Klause (Andy Serkis) and along with former girlfriend/activist, Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), the head of his female led army the Dora Milaje, Okoye (Danai Gurira) and CIA operative, Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), T'Challa comes close to taking down Klause, only for the arrival of Michael B. Jordan's antagonist Erik "Killmonger" Stevens/N'Jadaka to enter the fray and cause even more mayhem.

In terms of ongoing villains, the MCU have had their hit and misses, but it's safe to assume that Killmonger will definitely fall into the former category even after the dust settles with this movie. He's an engaging and reasonably sympathetic baddie in the sense that he actually wants justice and feels that with Wakanda's advanced technology they should be making more of an effort to help those who are oppressed but his methods are also a stark constrast to T'Challa's and he wastes no time in nearly usurping the current King in order to take over as both rule of Wakanda and as the Black Panther.

While the movie does move a little quickly in Killmonger's victory to defeat, the journey there is rather compelling, especially in light of the connection that he shares with T'Challa and the latter's convictions in not wanting to repeat former mistakes from previous monarchs. I really did like that T'Challa showed his willingness to learn and try to make things better, even if Killmonger himself couldn't do the same himself.

In the title role, Chadwick Boseman is excellent as T'Challa/Black Panther as is Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger but this film has so many excellent performers and moments throughout. For example, both Nakia and Okoye are wonderfully drawn out characters but the standout female character easily has to be Letitia Wright's Shuri, the younger sister of T'Challa and Wakanda's tech genius to boot. She's warm, clever, engaging, funny and easily one of the best female characters ever seen in a comic movie. She's a character you'll leave the cinema wanting to see more of.

As for Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker, both of them do excellent jobs as T'Challa's mother, Romanda and statesman Zuri while Daniel Kaluuya was on good form as T'Challa's ally briefly turned traitor, W'Kabi. Both Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis put in strong performances as both Everett and Ulysses alike and Winston Duke was another standout for me as M'Baku but to be honest, there's not a single bad performance in the entire movie.

For a movie with a very big political slant (one that too many media outlets have seized in an attempt of baiting people), it never feels like the audience is being patronised. The issue about what to do to help other places in need is skillfully handled and it's poignancy is truly felt in one of the two post credits scenes on offer here as well.

- The opening weekend for this movie is a strong indicator that this is going to be another billion hitter for the MCU.
- Post Credits for this movie include T'Challa taking to world leaders about helping out with Wakanda's advanced technology while another scene had Shuri looking after Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).
- Most of the action in this film might have been in Wakanda but we also saw London, California and Korea during prominent scenes as well.
- The soundtrack is one of the best movies ones we've had recently. There's a few musical highlights but my current favourite would be Kendrick Lamar/SZA's All The Stars.

Black Panther is a triumph of a movie. Both entertaining and topical in equal measure with plenty of pathos, humour, heart, jaw dropping stunts, gorgeously shot sequences (the ancestral plane ones being the obvious case in point), engaging characters, a hero willing to change and an engaging villain. The best thing being as well that we won't have to wait long to catch up with some of these characters too before the inevitable sequel is commissioned given that Infinity War will be out in a few months time.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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