Black Panther Movie Review
I’m a bad liberal. Despite all the anticipation for Black Panther, with its nearly non-white cast and cultural relevance, I really didn’t care—I just wanted a good movie. And frankly, after being called a racist for saying I thought the movie trailers looked dumb, I was prepared to be the contrarian and call Black Panther just another Marvel movie with a new look.
The thing is, Black Panther isn’t just another Marvel movie.
Consistently entertaining, with rich characters and a story that at least feels different than any of the other movies that preceded it, Black Panther is an engrossing blast of a film.
And as a white male who went in with the mindset described in the first paragraph, I cherished the diversity and the opportunity to see so many [good-looking] black actors and actresses on screen, playing developed, positive characters in a big-budget blockbuster. The diversity does help the movie feel fresh, not only because the cast has a different makeup than your usual blockbuster but because the storytelling, from director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (Creed), is honest, colorful, vibrant, and heartfelt.
For a superhero movie set in a fake country, of course.
Despite one brief stretch that is sort of boring (my friend, who was largely disappointed by the movie, would argue there was more than one stretch, and not brief), Black Panther feels much shorter than its 2:15 running time. The story is both patient and fast-paced, rarely rushing into action when story and character development does the job better. Chadwick Boseman is terrific as the title character, and Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright make up the strong supporting cast. Wright is especially good.
Perhaps most notable is that Black Panther boasts one of the best villains to be seen in a Marvel movie. It’s been a running criticism that Marvel movies have, aside from the over-utilized Loki, delivered consistently subpar baddies, so it’s more impressive than it probably should be that the villain here—Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan (star of Creed, just to bring thing full circle)—is both well developed and easy to hate, even if his motivations are understandable, even relatable.
Black Panther isn’t without its issues, however. Though you simply have to accept the whole “hidden advanced civilization” angle that is required for the comic book adaptation, there are some cheeseball moments that don’t entirely work—armored rhinos come to mind—that could have easily been downplayed.
More importantly, the action isn’t all that good. Not only does the movie not have a lot of it, it’s hard to point to any one action scene and argue it stands out in any way or form. The visual effects are okay, but make sure to stay away from the 3D screenings; the 3D is not good and makes for a choppy, unflattering experience.
Black Panther is a fun, vibrant comic book adaptation that feels notably different from other Marvel movies, and that alone is a victory. As an action movie it won’t win anyone over, but a strong screenplay, well-written characters and great acting make it more than a worthy Marvel movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.