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Movie review: “Black Panther” is Marvel’s most original, most important film yet

“Black Panther” was written and directed by Ryan Coogler and stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Daniel Kaluuya. The film centers around T’Challa (Boseman), the newly crowned king of Wakanda, returning to his home country, where he is met with deciding how to rule his people his people, something that was forced onto him when Killmonger (Jordan) comes to take his throne.

Marvel is at the top when it comes to the superhero genre, that is, as long as DC stays brutally inconsistent, so any new release of the former is met with my excitement. However, in the case of “Black Panther,” the brilliant choice of putting “Creed” writer-director Coogler at the helm heightened my hype tenfold. Add that to a monster cast, exceptional trailers and a simply superb Kendrick Lamar-powered soundtrack, and this quickly became one of the most anticipated movies of 2018.

The Good

Right off the bat, it must be said how truly unprecedented “Black Panther” is in every sense of the word. Coogler turns this film into his own, and it is evident in the storytelling and the attention to detail that he gives it. Marvel has stuck to a formula for many of its previous efforts, and it has worked wonders, but Coogler turns this all on its head with a movie that stylistically and thematically feels like no superhero movie before.

The emphasis on the world and the character building is stunning to watch, and because of how much care there is, it is easy to get completely engulfed in everything Coogler puts on the screen.

This movie is unapologetically black, and because of that, there is a passion and an importance that shines through every single scene. The costume design, as well as the creation of Wakanda, is a gorgeous spectacle to behold, and the themes of acceptance and abandonment hit on every single account. The film succeeds on emotional levels that are not seen often enough in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

What Coogler and company pulled off here is special, not simply because of its majority-black cast, but because of how the cast and crew came together to create something that feels powerfully black, and works because of how impressively it all comes together.

Boseman is terrific in the lead role of T’Challa, giving the character a ton of personality, as well as a strong sense of emotion and heart, as it is obvious just how much his character loves the nation he rules.

Nyong’o and Gurira both play very strong female characters who consistently go back and forth in a love triangle with Boseman, and the chemistry that these three shared was brilliant.

The standout performances, however, came from Jordan and Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s sister, Shuri. Wright is hysterical from her first scene onward, consistently landing her lines with the help of a great script by Coogler.

For how great Wright was, Jordan has the top performance of the film by a solid margin, as his character of Killmonger is, simply put, one of the best villains Marvel has ever created. There is so much to love about the ways Killmonger is developed, as there is a significant amount of emotion given to his backstory that is constantly lacking with superhero villains. Jordan played the part to perfection, and his character was, in many ways, one that masterfully wraps up the themes of the film, and one that was perfect as the counter to Boseman’s T’Challa.

Though this is not a movie that relies on its action sequences, the action is exceptionally well shot and incredibly tense. The action always feels crucial instead of being simply for entertainment, and the suit that Boseman wears makes for some spectacular moments that had my jaw dropped.

Not only is the soundtrack by Lamar great, but the musical work in the film itself stood out as major highlight. Ludwig Goransson composed the film, and his use of classic African sounds with a modern flair made for a heightened atmosphere, along with Rachel Morrison’s terrific cinematography, had me totally sucked into the movie.

The Bad

There are rare attempts at comedy that felt a little forced or out of place, and while these misses were much less frequent than the hits, the attempts that didn’t work really stood out when they happened.

The opening third of the movie is a little slow, and it took me a decent amount of time to get fully enthralled with the plot, but the character work and world-building was so tremendous and so completely satisfying that it is hard to even say that this is that large of a flaw.

Overall

“Black Panther” was a movie that the superhero genre needed, and the result is something that will stand the test of time. This movie manages to perfectly build a world we have never seen, expertly craft characters on both sides of the story that have multiple layers and that I can understand and all while nailing Marvel staples like comedic timing and eye-candy action sequences.

“Black Panther” is a black film that takes pride in being a black film, and everything from its story to its atmosphere simply works, and it truly is one of the best movies that Marvel has ever made.

9.5

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