Black Panther is such a different beast than the other movies in the Marvel cinematic universe. I went in expecting an experience like the Captain America sequels, but I was mistaken. It happens.
For those not familiar with the character, here is a quick summary. Black Panther’s first on-screen appearance was in Captain America: Civil War. He’s the king of an African country called Wakanda. They are an isolated nation. They hide to protect their greatest resource: vibranium, a metal that can do whatever the plot desires. T’Challa (the alter ego of Black Panther) is thrust unto the throne after his father’s death.
Other Marvel films focus on the title hero and toss them into a conflict. Usually their conflict is humility, punching a giant monster, or punching your friends. Black Panther instead focuses on the world. Black Panther, despite playing the main hero, actually takes a backseat to the hero protagonist of the story: Wakanda. His country, his allies, and his enemies grab the viewer’s attention.
Wakanda is beautiful. Plain and simple. It’s colourful, imaginative, and inspiring. Unlike the other fictional locations in Marvel movies, I got to experience the Wakandan culture, its customs, and its people. It also accomplished it through the clever combination of exposition and showmanship. Ryan Coogler, the director, avoided massive exposition dump. He spaced out the traditions and dictations in small bite sized chunks. In addition, he avoided the clichéd trope of the newbie who needs everything explained to them. There was little « What’s that? » or « Why is that? » or « <MADE UP WORD>? Explain, please ». This is quite refreshing to see in a blockbuster movie.
The sets and costumes were astonishing. They are breath taking and unique. Every tribe, every person, every location was different and exciting. It’s not just City A, City B, Generic Build A, and Generic Building B. I felt that this country had a unique voice.
I was initially worried with the movie’s decision to have loads and loads of characters. The list of famous actors, and recognizable names is probably the longest in any of the Marvel films. Other movies that tried to do this failed. They thought by stuffing a movie with recognizable names then fans would want to see it. To my surprise, Black Panther did a spectacular job not just introducing characters, but also using them to their their fullest. Everyone served a purpose, everyone had a moment in the sun, everyone was well thought-out and broke all kinds of barriers. I can’t give away too much. The main villain stands out especially. They will definitely be in the same group as Loki, Hela, and maybe Ego, as interesting and memorable Marvel villains. In short, the cast is perfect. The only downside is that I felt that Black Panther could have done more. But as I mentioned earlier, the story wasn’t about him.
The movie is practically flawless. There was little to no filler and fluff. All the characters were three-dimensional. Honestly, despite being so good, (and I’m nitpicking here) I felt the action was good but not great. At times it relied too much on shaky cam, and at others it just felt overcrowded. The unique uses of vibranium were awesome, and the sets were equally breath taking. They helped elevate the action to a new level. But I don’t recall a time when I gasped in awe. I remember this in the Russo brothers’ works, and in Thor: Ragnarok, less so in Black Panther. I’m not saying the action was boring, but I think (for a comic book movie) it could have done a little more. This is simply nitpicking. I really got to dig deep here. It has no major effect on the overall enjoyment of the film,
Finally, and most importantly it has very powerful messages. They don’t hammer it in, or force the audience to believe in their cause. They introduce different sides of an argument, and show the value in discourse, in medians. It’s very well thought out and executed. It’s heartfelt, and well meaning. Black Panther really is an awe-sinpiring hero.
Black Panther is a solid and beautiful film. It’s going to be one of the more memorable Marvel movies. It’s close to being in my top five. I truly believe that the movie should have been called Wakanda instead, because the world is by far the focus of this film.