Review: “Black Panther” Leaves Unique Footprint

Chadwick Boseman stars as the titular Black Panther in this Ryan Coogler-directed blockbuster. PC: Marvel Studios.

I am not as drawn to the Marvel films as others may be. I find a lot of them to be recycled and very formulaic. “Dr. Strange” was “Iron Man” mixed with “Batman Begins” except the protagonist was an irredeemable jerk. “Thor: Ragnarok” was virtually a poorly improved joke machine with no character or emotional weight. I have disliked many of the recent ones with the exception of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and that leads to my preference on the studio as a whole: I hate a lot of their movies and like a few of them. Their newest, “Black Panther,” has brought me to the more rare conclusion; I liked this one.

While the plot feels a bit formulaic at times, the world, themes, and characters remain some of Marvel’s strongest. These characteristics are what make a formulaic plot-line an ultimately well-thought-out and strong narrative. “Black Panther” fixes a lot of the bugs in the last few films but it never comes off as amazing (at least to me). The bar has been set really low. “Black Panther” is good, in some parts really good, but there are still small flaws to be found.

The hidden country of Wakanda is introduced and built upon well. Within the first 20 minutes the kingdom lives and breathes, and there is already a sense of scale established. It wastes no time with overly-long action sequences and instead sets up the characters and stakes properly before diving into the action. The film tackles more relevant themes that are a bit more complex than the typical, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

The villain challenges the themes offering great contrast and is one of the more compelling villains Marvel has given us. There are a few tidbits that do not add up, such as a gadget that is introduced and never seen again, but they are forgivable. There are also a few jokes here and there for the people who want them and they are average, at best. The actors were thankfully more focused on their characters, but if you thought “Ragnarok” was funny then you will not have a problem with these jokes. The actors handle everything else very well.

Chadwick Boseman reprises his role as the only interesting character in “Captain America: Civil War,” T’challa. Boseman brings more depth to the character than ever before while Lupita Nyong’o plays the Wakandan spy, Nakia, a supportive and heavy influence on T’challa. Danai Gurira brings on a lot of the high-octane action as the badass warrior, Okoye, but Michael B. Jordan steals the show as Killmonger. He portrays the villain as a man who relishes in his own hate. He’s basically tortured himself so much that he does not want to care about anyone anymore. I found this interesting and was happy to see this mold into an emotional if not satisfying moment near the end.

If there is one problem that is easy to point out it is the CGI. There are many shots that come off as cartoony or unfinished. This doesn’t surprise me though because the effects for Marvel movies have consistently been this way, however in this film the bad CGI actually causes the climax to lose some tension. It is hard to be invested while you watch the character’s heads float around a mediocre CG setting. What saves the effects is the distinct visual style and art direction of the film. This is definitely the most visually interesting Marvel movie to date. Besides the final fight, the action is decent with the car chase being the standout for me.

Some might be disappointed to find the action a little sparse in the first two acts, but I feel it helped the pacing and character development. This film lets a lot of its scenes breathe and manages to hit its emotional beats. I wasn’t crying, but I understood the gravity of everything happening and was more invested, unlike “Thor: Ragnarok’s” pathetic attempts at making me feel something then throwing a joke at me. “Black Panther” manages to convey something compelling to the audience while retaining its blockbuster-like entertaining qualities. Is the movie amazing? Some may think so and that’s great. I think it was good and a major improvement over “Ragnarok.”  

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