Movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe always cover real-life issues in a fantastical way. While "Spiderman: Homecoming" deals with the journey from adolescence into adulthood and Iron Man focuses on the struggle between the desire for power and the need to protect, none have specifically taken on the issue of racial disparity.
"Black Panther" stands out not only because of this, but also because it is able to take on this issue in a nuanced way without beating the audience over the head with its lesson like some other films.
The story follows T’Challa, played Chadwick Boseman, who doubles as the Black Panther, a masked super hero, and the new king of the nation of Wakanda.
Thanks to the mysterious super-metal vibranium, the five tribes of Wakanda have thrived in technological advancement, but because of this they chose to hide themselves away from the world in order to keep their semi-utopia away from the tainted ways of the outside world.
T’Challa wants to keep things that way per his late father’s wish but is faced with opposing thoughts from those who would have his crown, members of his family and the main villain of the movie Erik Killmonger, portrayed brilliantly by Michael B. Jordan.
The issue of race is what drives Killmonger, and the way the film handles each side of his argument is refreshing to see in a cinematic universe that has previously steered away from such divisive topics.
The movie definitely shows it’s shared DNA with other Marvel films of late, but it sheds enough of the superhero movie tropes to allow it to stand out for the better. Every scene feels important, and the tight runtime sitting just over two hours makes sure to not overstay its welcome.
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That welcome would be hard to wear, though, as "Black Panther" is an achievement of a movie.
The quasi-futuristic setting of fictional Wakanda artfully blends traditional African art, fashion and culture with the techno-fantasy elements found in the likes of “The Avengers."
While seeing a character wearing clothes that resemble those of the Maasi people of East Africa and traditional Ndebele Neck Rings discuss battle strategy aboard a flying hover-craft would seem jarring in any other setting, “Black Panther” is able to weave these elements together seamlessly.
Overall, the film is visually stunning. Whether it’s the dense mountain valleys of Africa, the technological wonder of Wakanda or the neon-lit streets of South Korea, the backdrops only add to the visual thrill of the action on screen.
The score of the movie offers a constant juxtaposition between African tribal music and American hip hop beats which offer an added level of potency to the opposing viewpoints and character attributes of the main characters.
Musical cues help dictate the action of the film in a way that made the audience take notice of what they were hearing instead of it just being background noise. The music of "Black Panther" is easily the best the MCU has to offer, both within the movie and in its soundtrack curated by Kendrick Lamar.
Everyone in the cast does an extremely solid job, but that is expected from the movie’s star-studded roster.
The supporting roles played by Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya and Forest Whitaker are all well done, too, as each one of them add emotional weight to the story. However, it is the women of Wakanda that truly shine.
|Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright star as the leading ladies of the film, each playing a character important to T’Challa and each managing to steal the show out from under him. |
Nyong’o plays the smart and stealthy head spy of Wakanda, Nakia; Gurira plays the no-nonsense general of the Wakandan army, Okoye and Wright plays the little sister of T’challa who also designs and develops all Wakandan technology, Shuri.
"Black Panther" has the strongest female cast to ever be in a Marvel film and one of the strongest to be in an action film in general. While the characters played by Boseman and Jordan are cool, these women can only accurately be described as completely awesome.
"Black Panther" is a superhero movie that has a lot more heart than those that came before it. When the credits rolled the audience was left with a fulfilled feeling, as one feels when eating at a four-star restaurant rather than a fast food place. There wasn’t just one flavor, there were many notes, each complimenting the others to create something multi-layered and interesting rather than just filling.
Black Panther is well worth the price of admission and cannot be recommended enough.
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