My favorite character in Captain America: Civil War was T’Challa (Chadwick Bosenan), aka Black Panther. It wasn’t just his speed, claws, or vibranium suit I liked. It was his moment with Zemo (Daniel Brühl). In that movie, Zemo’s master plan was to tear apart the Avengers by splitting their loyalties. This revenge plot lead to him bombing the UN and killing T’Challa’s father. T’Challa swears vengeance upon his father’s killer. Towards the end of the film, T’Challa confronts Zemo, who says he acted out of misplaced revenge and attempts to kill himself. T’Challa stops him, declaring that revenge will not consume him as it did Zemo. Black Panther continues this theme of revenge. Going into detail would probably reveal too much of the plot, so I’ll leave a section after the ratings for spoilers.
Ryan Coogler joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as the best director since Joss Whedon and James Gunn. His long takes and moving camera are recognizable techniques from his previous film Creed. I read that he brought on his own collaborators, something that definitely shows. The most obvious is Creed and Fruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan, who plays the surprisingly sympathetic villain Killmonger
What’s mostly absent from Black Panther is the trademark Marvel “feel” we’ve come to expect from these movies. While it’s a welcome change, I worry it may deter some moviegoers from buying tickets. In my opinion, it’s how the MCU must grow. Some of the most awkward parts involve the trademark Marvel jokes. They never detract from the movie and got many laughs from the audience in the theater, but Black Panther is strong enough to do without the extra humor. Comedy does not engulf the movie like Spider-Man: Homecoming or Thor: Ragnarok.
The cinematography in this film is stunning. My qualms with the CGI are minimal, but it is harder to be invested in the scenes where Black Panther and Killmonger are completely animated. Some things cannot be done practically, but nonetheless I found myself patiently waiting for the two men to remove their masks (a recurring issue in superhero movies). The sequences involving the mines and the astral plane were breathtaking.
Don’t just see Black Panther just because it has received positive reviews. Don’t just see it because it’s the first GREAT black superhero movie (the quality of movies like Blade, Spawn, and Catwoman were wildly inconsistent). See it because we as an audience deserve something new and exciting. Coogler has given us a visually stunning, thought-provoking film that ranks as one of (if not THE) best MCU film.
As a movie: 8/10
As an MCU movie: 9/10
After their final battle, the mortally wounded Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and T’Challa watch the sunset. T’Challa offers to heal Killmonger, but he refuses. In one of the best movie lines I’ve heard in a long time, he declares he’d rather die than live in a prison. He says to lay his body to rest in the ocean with his enslaved ancestors, who threw themselves off the boats, knowing death was better than bonds. It’s a line that shook me to my core. T’Challa has appeared in only two MCU movies thus far and twice has had to confront villains who were completely right to be vengeful. Whether or not you get it, revenge will consume you.