Marvel’s latest is their most unique and dynamic film to date. While not in the same regard as their best work (‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, ‘…Winter Solider’), it’s unique tone, visuals and story make it stand out above others that have come before it. From its opening scene, it’s an unapologetic reminder this is the first superhero film led by a black man and it’s not going to do things the way they’ve been done before. It’s most shocking omission is the lack of action – and that’s not a weakness in the slightest. By not being made up of “crashy, crashy, bang, bang!” moments, it gives all of the character interactions time to work and feel real, not just discussions after discussion of how to stop the bad guys.
Speaking of bad guys, Marvel have had a long standing issue of weak villains sticking out in otherwise brilliant films, but Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) has broken the curse and is the second best villain Marvel have ever produced (if you can still count Loki as a villain). The key to a great villain comes down to the performance and how they portray their characters’ motivations. I won’t delve into his motivations as it’s best left a surprise, but they go beyond the typical “I want the world to burn!”. As for Jordan’s performance, he’s proven himself multiple times before, so it should be no shock he is the best part of the entire film. Instead of spending the majority of his scenes angry and screaming at people, Killmonger spends most of his energy being calm and calculating, with a certain charm you know is evil, but can’t help making you like him more and more. He goes through nearly every emotion during his character’s arc, allowing us to see things from his perspective and turning his strength into a vulnerability at times.
By not being made up of “crashy, crashy, bang, bang!” moments, it gives all of the character interactions time to work and feel real…
Luckily, it’s not just Jordan who shines. Chadwick Boseman is given time to really flesh out T’challa’s concerns and doubts about how to rule Wakanda which make him stand out as a truly original hero in Marvel’s ever expanding line up. The other stand outs are Letitia Wright as T’challa’s sister Shuri and Winston Duke as M’Buka. Shuri is really funny, and not in the vein of Thor’s Darcy attempting to be funny, genuinely hilarious with some of the best jokes produced within the MCU. Alongside this, she is T’challa’s own version of James Bond’s Q, making her one of the most useful members of his “team”. M’Buka originally seems like a one-note, forgettable character, but once he is allowed more screen time, you’ll be wondering why he isn’t in every scene possible. Every character could get a shout out as they all excel in their own individual ways, except for one. Zuri (Forrest Whitaker) is a character who feels out of place as a uneven figure who clearly should be one of the key players, but ends up being totally wasted and confusing at times. Like in ‘…Rogue One’, Whitaker employs a very peculiar accent and is too over the top in what is a pretty grounded film for the subject.
The plot itself isn’t just a means to an end, it’s one the most sincere and heartfelt stories ever to grace the superhero genre.
While the film could’ve lost ten or so minutes from the first half, it does an an excellent job of keeping things from ever spiralling into a chaotic explosion fest. When the action hits, it’s well choreographed and edited to keep it high octane as well as easy to follow. Yes, the finale goes a bit too CGI dependant, but compare these fight scenes to last years ‘Justice League’ and it’s evident how well crafted ‘Black Panther’ is. The plot itself isn’t just a means to an end, it’s one the most sincere and heartfelt stories ever to grace the superhero genre. Not only does it deal with issues within the world right now like racism and oppression, it does so in a way that isn’t tacked on or just there to be political, it advances the story and really helps bring everything together. Some people may be sick of Marvel seemingly getting praise no matter what, but they’ve learnt that by making each of their films distinctively different, we never get a rehash of what superhero films used to be; fun but formulaic.
Much like when ‘Iron Man’ was released in 2008, it feels like the start of a new era within the genre.
Coming out of ‘Back Panther’, I found myself enthralled by how unique it felt. Much like when ‘Iron Man’ was released in 2008, it feels like the start of a new era within the genre. While there are still a few kinks to work out within future instalments, this really seems like a moment where the superhero genre is becoming so much more than just that. Much like how recent westerns have had a multitude of genres attached to them, ‘Black Panther’ proves there’s an audience for more layered and complex stories. This is a film for everyone, especially people who aren’t keen on comic book films, as this will be the one that changes your mind.