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Film Review: “Black Panther”

Marvel’s latest superhero film is “Black Panther,” directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman in the title role. Boseman’s character, whose non-superhero identity is Prince T’Challa, was introduced in “Captain America: Civil War” in 2016. Most of “Black Panther” takes place in the fictional African country of Wakanda, the secret home of the world’s supply of vibranium; the material serves as both a conflict and a solution in the movie.

Black Panther
Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

The story follows T’Challa as he fights to walk in his late father’s footsteps and take the titles of Black Panther and King of Wakanda. There are five tribes within the country, four of which fall under his rule, but the Jabari tribe chooses to be independent from all of the others. Establishing these groups early is important, as the idea of loyalty later becomes integral to the plot in a number of ways.

Within the first 15 minutes of the movie, audiences are re-introduced to T’Challa and meet the women who support and protect him: Okoye (Danai Gurira), who is the leader of his bodyguards, the Dora Milaje; Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), an ex-girlfriend and current romantic interest; Shuri (Letitia Wright), his sister and the brains behind almost all of the film’s technology; and Ramonda (Angela Bassett), the Queen Mother of Wakanda. The female characters in “Black Panther” are rarely, if ever, sidelined. They are equal parts intelligent, tough and empathetic, and each of these actresses is a joy to watch in her role. Wright especially stands out as a brilliant, witty young woman in all her interactions with others.

“Black Panther” finds its main villain in Erik Killmonger (frequent Ryan Coogler collaborator Michael B. Jordan), an outsider who wants control of Wakanda. His backstory is complicated, and his narrative throughout the movie has its own twists and turns as well. It’s not hard to see why the single-minded Killmonger is a bad guy, but he isn’t characterized as simply as that; he has nuance and some of his visions have merit to them. Many superhero films have a hard time creating sympathetic or interesting villains, but that’s not the case for this movie.

Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger | Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

While we do see some other familiar faces from the Marvel Cinematic Universe – namely, smuggler Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and CIA operative Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) – much of the movie contains stories and characters that will be new to audiences who are unfamiliar with the comics. It’s a refreshing take on the superhero film and a big part of that is its inseparability from existing African cultures, including language and attire. While much of the technology created and used in Wakanda isn’t real, a lot of the traditions are taken from different African countries to piece together a fully-realized nation and population.

No matter how many comic book movies you’ve seen, “Black Panther” will impress you. The costumes are incredible, as are the CGI and technological aspects of the film. Every action scene or fight scene is well-choreographed as well as fun to watch. The acting is impeccable across the board – every person in this movie emotes in a way that will touch you, even those in smaller parts, like Winston Duke as M’Baku, Forest Whitaker as Zuri or Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi. Even the movie’s soundtrack, curated by Kendrick Lamar, stands out more than the soundtracks of most films in any genre. “Black Panther” is a tour-de-force and it’s no wonder that the reviews have been so positive from critics and audiences alike.

You can watch (or re-watch) the official trailer for “Black Panther” below.

What did you think of “Black Panther?” Tell us your favorite part from the film in the comments below!

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