Movie Review: Black Panther
This week, two of our staff members, Cale Berger and Thomas Troyan, went to see Marvel’s “Black Panther”. Overall, they gave the movie a 8.5/10 rating. Here are their in depth looks at the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
By: Cale Berger
10 years into its existence, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just getting better with age, and Black Panther may be their best film yet. Young director Ryan Coogler brings his visionary expertise to the MCU, making a movie with one of its deepest, most fleshed out stories stories. The film combines stunning visuals, impeccable costume design, and wonderful performances from all involved.
As the cast was announced over the last year, most expected the performances to be impressive. They did not disappoint. Chadwick Boseman once again impresses as the titular hero, T’Challa, encapsulating the swagger and reverence of the character perfectly. His chemistry with both Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia and Letitia Wright’s Shuri is organic and real. Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger is one of the best villains in the MCU. Continuing the angle taken with Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, this character is relatable, angry, and extremely realistic. He has understandable motives and aspirations that give this film more depth than most good versus evil struggles in the MCU.
The stakes of this film seem palpable throughout. Not in plot, but in meaning and cultural awareness. While it does not overtly express its angle, the film serves as an appropriate social commentary that comes at exactly the right time. This type of social commentary has only previously been apparent in Marvel’s Netflix shows, so it is refreshing to see this critical focus appear in a feature film. It may make some people uncomfortable or even angry, but this movie addresses a topic in society that needs to be discussed.
As is the case with every movie, there are some drawbacks. Only one of the fight scenes is great (it’s really good), while the others suffer from the weight of too many characters and close, underwhelming shots. I would have also liked to have seen more of Killmonger and the development of his character and ideology. Jordan was quite possibly the highlight of the film, but I still wanted the character fleshed-out even more.
Overall, this is a great movie. It’s action-packed and fun without relying on crippling quips and jokes like previous Marvel movies. The attention to detail is apparent throughout, and the cultural representation in the cast, costumes, and sets is phenomenal. I will definitely be seeing this movie again because it was so enjoyable and thought-provoking.
By: Thomas Troyan
For the past few months I’ve been fearing that Marvel’s gotten too big for its own good. Of the seventeen movies they have released, I’ve seen fifteen, and even then only maybe five of those I would say are good movies in their own right. For the longest time they’ve been held back by formulaic plots and villains. They’ve become little more than a visual spectacle that, at this point, we get two if not three times a year. Every time they announce a new movie, I find myself apathetic to the idea of another two hours of action, with the occasional joke thrown for a moment of levity. After seeing this formula repeated over the past ten years, it’s gotten stale, and while Marvel has really only given us a handful of movies that I’d call bad. So where does Black Panther play into this?
Black Panther was interesting to me for a few reasons. Notably there was the casting, with names like Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o. It is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to feature a predominantly black cast, with only a handful of major roles played by white actors. Further, it was directed by Ryan Coogler, who has gained acclaim with films like Fruitvale Station and Creed. Still, I was cautious as I stepped into the theater, aware that at the end of the day, this was still a Marvel movie. Yet as the movie went on, I came to the conclusion that this may be the best movie released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The film is a story about tradition, culture, and what it means to love your nation. Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa, who must ascend to the Wakandan throne after the passing of his father, and the decisions he must make not just as a ruler of his people, but as an icon to the outside world as the Black Panther. He’s asked to question the isolationist ideals by his country of Wakanda and by his ex-lover Nakia, a wonderful role played by Lupita Nyong’o. The highlight of the film for me however goes to Michael B. Jordan’s role of Erik Stevens. A foil to T’Challa, Stevens is a character who thinks that it is Wakanda’s duty to help the people around the world in need. And while he is the villain of this story, he is still relatable, and it is refreshing to see a villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe who goes beyond being evil for the sake of being evil.
And while the movie has a lot going for it, it still suffers in places for being a Marvel movie. Some of the action scenes felt very lackluster, devolving into a series of close-ups and quick cuts that weren’t that interesting to watch, or battles between large numbers of characters that feel disposable, which has been one of the issues with Marvel in regards to their action scenes. Which leads to the film’s biggest flaw, which is that it’s still a Marvel movie.
So is Black Panther a good movie? I’d say yes. Every issue I had with it came from the fact that it has to exist as apart of this giant monolith of “Marvel Movies.” It is one of the few that I had a desire to see again upon leaving the theater. And while it may not give me any faith in future Marvel movies going beyond what’s currently been set, it really delivers a powerful message by its own existence.
Having a movie like Black Panther isn’t important as a piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s important for the message about representation that it delivers. Until now, the movies gave the message that in order to be the big hero that saves the day, you had to be white. There were of course minor roles played by minority actors, but the big names like Iron Man or Thor were white. But Black Panther finally delivers the message to a wide audience that anybody can be a hero. Hopefully this will serve a stepping stone into a society where our heroes can finally represent all of us, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.