Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan
Director: Ryan Coogler
Running Time: 134 mins
Black Panther is an American film and the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Following the death of his fatehr, T’Chilla rises to become King of Wakanda, as well as the legendary Black Panther, but a challenge to his throne soon arises.
This film marks a very interesting point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for both good and bad reasons. On the one hand, Black Panther is another strong superhero movie from Marvel, furthered by being given a unique and palpable African flair that makes it stand out well amongst the crowd of comic book movies of late. On the other hand, it doesn’t offer all that much of a unique story, while its somewhat more serious atmosphere means it’s by no means as entertaining a watch as we’re used to seeing from Marvel.
I want to start on that point, because it’s been clear that, over the last three or four years, particularly since the release of Guardians Of The Galaxy and Ant-Man, that Marvel have got into a great rhythm of making hilarious and light-hearted superhero movies. Although the likes of Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange have elements of seriousness to them, Ant-Man, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 and especially Thor: Ragnarok have been far more geared to being all-out comedies than simple comic book movies.
It’s a formula that’s worked wonders recently, and has kept the Marvel movies feeling fresh and lively throughout.
Black Panther, on the other hand, is easily Marvel’s most serious film since Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There is humour here, but the overall atmosphere of the film isn’t designed to be a raucous and insane comedy, with the film’s more archaic dialogue, setting and more all leaning towards a far more serious and heavy atmosphere.
I’ve always been interested to see how Marvel mix serious drama and popcorn entertainment, with Civil War having proved the biggest success in that regard so far, but I think Black Panther is a step a little too far, as it goes through the paces of any normal Marvel movie, with a story that’s fairly formulaic and simple beneath the surface, but without any of that wacky comedy that’s managed to make some of the series’ most recent entries feel so lively and fresh.
In short, I just wasn’t as exhilarated or entertained by Black Panther as I wanted to be. It’s a good, strong film, and I’m glad to see Marvel trying something a little more serious, but the fact that it doesn’t have an incredibly unique story means that everything feels a little duller, and didn’t put the smile on my face that I really wanted.
With all that said, what Black Panther fails to do in offering a unique plot, it makes up for with a very different and vibrant use of African culture, settings and more to give the film a great spark and flair throughout, something that really made what would have otherwise been a fairly ordinary Marvel movie stand out a lot more.
From beginning to end, I adored the film’s visually vibrant and dazzling combination of space-age sci-fi and traditional sub-Saharan African traditions and customs, with many of the characters’ costumes and make-up proving truly amazing to look at, and working well as the symbol for the film’s unique spotlight on the culture.
What’s more is that, if we’re talking about being fresh and different, it was brilliant to for once see big action battles not taking place in the middle of big, built-up metropolises against a horde of faceless robots and/or aliens, and although I can’t say that Ryan Coogler does the most amazing job at directing the action sequences (something I was disappointed by given his stunning directing in Creed), the fact that we’re seeing all these battles in such a different setting with such different surroundings was really impressive.
Overall, Black Panther is a movie that’s a little hard to really pin down. On the one hand, I can’t say it’s the greatest, or even most entertaining film simply because it goes with a formulaic superhero story, while lacking the great comedy and energy that Marvel has made work so well over the years. On the other hand, it’s a unique take on the superhero genre, and its stunning visuals and fresh settings mean that it still makes itself stand out in the mind amongst all of the superhero movies of late, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6 overall.