Eighteen films into Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), we have become used to the formulaic layout that each superhero origin film starts and ends with. Marvel has become an expert in the efficiency in which they create a superhero film and very rarely, outside of the Guardians Of The Galaxy, has the franchise taken
risks by pushing the boundaries of Superhero films. Until Black Panther. After T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) was introduced and was universally praised as one of the shining stars in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War it was only a matter of time until we see a standalone film featuring Marvel’s royal king once again.
To direct the inaugural Black Panther movie, Marvel handpicked Ryan Coogler, one of Hollywood’s brightest directors with an already impressive resume to helm the project and introduce the MCU fandom to Wakanda.Coogler’s first feature-length film Fruitvale Station tells the story of the last 24 hours of the life of Oscar Grant
(played by Micheal B. Jordan), who was shot to death by a police officer at Oakland’s Fruitvale BART station on January 1st, 2009 which was widely praised by critics in 2013. Continuing his hot streak he resurrected a dead-in the water Rocky franchise (let’s be honest) in 2015’s Creed (also starring Micheal B. Jordan), it was
only a matter of time until Coogler was snatched up by Disney. Selecting Ryan Coogler to kickstart a new film franchise might have been the best thing marvel has done since casting Robert Downey Jr. as Ironman , and that is no small feat.

Black Panther follows King T’Challa after the events of Civil War, as he returns to his home nation, the isolated but technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda. T’Challa is put to the test as both king of his country and as the mantle of Black Panther when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda at risk due tofamiliar and new foes. To protect his country from going down a dark path lead by the hate filled Eric Killmonger(Micheal B. Jordan), T’Challa must learn what it truly means to be king, and ultimately the Black Panther.

Okay let’s get the obvious out the way, this film is stacked ​with talent, with both phenomenal actors and actresses to the production cast behind the camera, and it shows. Speaking from solely a technical standpoint, outside of the CGI in the 3rd act (we’ll talk about that later) , this film is flawless in it’s execution. The film has some of the best still shots to date in the MCU, with cinematographer Rachel Morrison using unique camera angles and a balance of close ups and wide shots to suit the story narrative, intensifying the drama alongside beautiful costume design from Ruth Carter allow for the characters to pop from the screen. Ryan Coogler
alongside Rachel Morrison filmed and photographed the hand to hand scenes with wide shots to capture different fighting styles based on the origins of the characters and really allowed viewers to feel the magnitude of the action. But wait! there’s more, Ludwig Göransson was the composer of the Black Panther’s score who’s
frequently worked with the directed Ryan Coogler, but even all-around star Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) and the soundtrack of the film was produced by Kendrick Lamar A.K.A King Kendrick. The musical score composed was the best Marvel has released to date, filled with rhythmic drums and horns that are all so
common in Africa when royalty is present on the screen but has the ability to switch to more modern and contemporary music when characters influenced by western civilization are the focal point of the scene.

From the opening scene you notice that Black Panther is an amalgamation of various African cultures meshed together, showcasing and embracing one another’s background that has never been highlighted in a film of this magnitude. This is extremely apparent due to the recurring theme of the film regarding tradition, as T’Challa is faced with the dilemma of either foregoing traditional paths former Kings of Wakanda chose to go on or to continue their tradition, albeit flawed. Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther provides a rather calming presence that is needed to a film filled with larger than life antagonists between Eric Killmonger and Ulysee Klaw (Andy Serkis).

The supporting cast of the film provided such strong and vibrant characters, from the female army the Dora Milage, led by Danai Gurira or the Q to the T’Challa’s James Bond in Letitia Wright all provide different personalities to capture the attention of the audience as Chadwick Boseman provides a subtle, but very needed
presence in the film. A pleasant surprise is the ferocity and fearlessness of the women of Wakanda in themain cast — Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Danai Gurira as the leader of the Dora Milage; Okoye, Angela Bassett as Ramonda and Letitia Wright as Shuri , as at any point of the film were not afraid to step up and lead the
fight, dismissing the old damsel in distress stereotype that spreads throughout the superhero genre like the plague.

Let’s address the hulk-sized elephant in the room, Marvel’s incapability to make a compelling villain. Sure there have been some villains that don’t feel like cookie cutter villains See: Vulture (Spiderman: Homecoming), Loki(Avengers) and Hela in Thor Ragnarok, for the most part the villains fall flat consistently. Thankfully, Michael B. Jordan brings a high level of intensity to the role of T’Challa’s main nemesis Eric Killmonger delivering a phenomenal performance and deserves far more screen time than he ultimately receives.

The aspect that impressed me the most about Black Panther was the character arc that T’Challa had to go on. As he was forced into kingship, a large burden was placed onto him unexpectedly and throughout the film he learns about the flaws his ancestors acted upon and he must learn how to separate his emotions from the mantle as king and must solely act in the betterment of Wakanda. We see that T’Challa is a flawed character and even though he is the Black Panther, he shows kinks and cracks in his armor and must learn how to become a representation of a Wakandan.

The film carries the same flaws as any other Marvel movie exhibits with a third act filled with unnecessary and meaningless CGI that takes away from the masterful direction by Ryan Coogler, reminiscent of the 2007 disappointment of Spiderman 3 and falls in the trap of making jokes that may be funny the first time you see
it,but will inevitably feel dated when revisiting the film in the future.

Black Panther celebrates its hero’s culture and embraces being unique while delivering one of Marvel’s most all-around and balanced origin stories to date. Ultimately it does suffer some of the Marvel tropes that are riddled in their previous films, but due to the prolific casts, storyline and characters we get one of the better
marvel films that have been released so far and a fitting introduction for a king.

Grade:A-

Ananth Para
paramana@mcmaster.ca

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