“You are a good man, with a good heart. And it’s hard for a good man to be a king.”
So, Black Panther has joined the billion dollar club! It’s about time I reviewed it, isn’t it? Yes, I saw it the weekend it came out, but I’ve been otherwise engaged since then. And I wanted to see if time did anything to alter my view of Black Panther. It gave me a chance to step back from the hype surrounding Black Panther. Black Panther is yet another film, like Wonder Woman, upon which criticism is focused on the cultural aspect of the film, rather than the inherent quality of it. Let’s be honest, Wonder Woman hovered between decent and mediocre. Having a superhero film with a black person as the titular hero isn’t anything new, is it? Blade came out twenty years ago! Of course, it’s hard not to focus on the cultural aspect of the film when that’s all that anyone talks about. But my feeling for the film is still what it was after I first watched it. I bloody loved it!
For those of you not in the know: Black Panther tells the story of what happens to T’Challa of Wakanda after the events of Captain America: Civil War. He’s crowned King of Wakanda, but a familiar enemy, Ulysses Klaue, interrupts the peace and isolation of Wakanda. We see an event from the past of T’Challa’s deceased father, T’Chaka. T’Challa locates his brother in Oakland, California, and accuses him of stealing vibranium, the substance that has made Wakanda the most advanced country in the world. That event haunts his son T’Challa in the form of Erik Stevens (played by Michael B. Jordan), a contender for T’Challa’s throne…
“Just remember, don’t freeze when you see her.”
First of all, this looks and sounds like nothing else in the MCU universe. Sometimes, it’s hard to even remember that it’s an MCU film (or, indeed, a comic book film). The drum-heavy soundtrack is possibly the most memorable of the MCU, and of course, that isn’t saying much. Yes, the MCU score is simply there most of the time. But Black Panther’s music beats its way into your skull. That, plus the occasional rap song, immediately distinguish it from anything else in the MCU. It feels authentically “African,” or as African as a Western white male like myself can appreciate.
Apart from the obligatory hero destroying a flying vehicle by jumping on it action scene, Black Panther is visually distinctive as well. Even when the CGI occasionally fails to impress, it’s still something different from what we’ve seen in the past. As for the action scenes: they range from the spectacular (the casino fight followed by the car chase, for example), to the mediocre CGI-infested final battle at the end. But the great action scenes outweight the mediocre ones. I’m thinking of T’Challa’s fight to be crowned king, and his first fight against Erik Stevens. They feel as brutal as they look.
Ahhh, as for Erik Stevens (otherwise known as Killmonger)…the MCU have rehabilitated yet another Human Torch! First it was Chris Evans, now it is Michael B. Jordan. He’s easily the most sympathetic villain in the MCU. He’s come from one of the many poor, black districts of the USA, and his grievances are totally believable. This is where the cultural aspect of Black Panther cannot be ignored. It’s hard not to believe that many black people will be seething with righteous anger whilst listening to Erik Stevens talk about black people being held down by white people. Is it right to fight injustice with violence? Killmonger convinced me that it could be…
“Praise! Another broken white boy to fix.”
However, it’s the rare occasion where the MCU villain outshines the hero. There’s nothing wrong with Chadwick Boseman’s performance as such. It’s yet another great casting decision from the MCU. He portrays a naïve new king, who has to balance respecting the past with looking towards the future, with aplomb. He’s sympathetic, but not as sympathetic as Erik Stevens. And when I sympathise with someone who wants to slaughter people, then there’s something wrong, isn’t there? For me, the true heroes of Black Panther were the females, from T’Challa’s sister Shuri, to T’Challa’s ex-gf, Nakia, to Okoye, head of the all-female special forces of Wakanda. Each gave us a different kind of hero, but all left a lasting impression. You could even say it’s more of a girl power film than Wonder Woman…
Someone said that to me that they thought Black Panther was a confusing mix of The Lion King and Rocky III, overhyped because it’s the first superhero film with a largely black cast. I can almost grasp the similarities, but would not it’s overhyped. It’s one of the rare times where the film lived up to the hype. I was ready to be disappointed, but from the clever and innovative opening sequence, I was hooked. I bought into T’Challa’s struggles as a new king, but bought even more into Killmonger’s grievances. By the end, I had tears in my eyes. Black Panther instantly sold itself as one of the top MCU films. It deserves to join the billion dollar club!
VERDICT: 9/10. Black Panther deserves all the hype it received and more. From being starkly different from any other MCU entry, to valuing plot over comedy (like other MCU films I could name…), to giving us a great villain, Black Panther is everything you could want from a comic book film. In fact, I’d say it’s something more than a comic book film…
What did you think of Black Panther (2018)? Leave your thoughts below!
Click here for my review of Captain America: Civil War (2017)
Click here for my reviews of the MCU catalogue!