Ascend to the Throne: A Review of Black Panther

Elias Evans

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The name Ryan Coogler is one that has slowly been gaining weight in Hollywood over the past five years. The young director proved he had dramatic chops with his debut, Fruitvale Station, and continued to show promise with his sophomore effort, Creed, which proved he could not only direct drama, but action as well. So when it was announced that Coogler would be helming a solo Black Panther movie, it seemed like the perfect choice, and luckily after finally seeing the film, I can finally confirm that it was.

The Marvel Universe is one that, while consistently entertaining, tends to stifle originality and creativity. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is how the company practically pushed famed director Edgar Wright out of his Ant-Man project for not complying with all of their demands, despite the fact that he had been working on the project for over ten years. Much of this can easily be chalked up to the fact that the company is just that, a company; the goal is to entertain as much as possible to make as much money as possible, and that usually means no divisive topics, nothing even mildly offensive, and above all, no politics. Black Panther changes that.

Taking place very soon after the events of Captain America: Civil War, the film begins as T’Challa (Black Panther) returns home to Wakanda, the futuristic fictional African country which most of the movie revoles around. Wakanda may be the most advanced nation in the Marvel Universe, with the ability to sway the course of humanity at any moment, but interestingly, the nation adheres to an extreme isolation from the rest of the world. This, along with T’Challa’s struggles as he takes over the mantle of king of Wakanda serve as the main conflict of the film.

Black Panther may be somewhat of an oddity in the Marvel Universe. This may be the first film in Marvel’s extended play book that feels like it has some of a director’s vision in it, rather than simply a fun comic book movie. That’s not to say this isn’t a studio super hero movie; it very much is, but it’s clear that Coogler got liberties not often allowed when making a movie of this sort.

Perhaps the most entertaining element of Black Panther are its characters. While he might’ve already proven himself in Civil War, Chadwick Boseman continues to deliver as the titular hero. Other standouts include Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira as Nakia and Okoye, two deadly Wakandan warriors. However, perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire film is its villain, Erik Killmonger, played excellently by Michael B. Jordan (making his third consecutive appearance in a Ryan Coogler film). Jordan’s Killmonger stands out as one of the most interesting characters, not only in the film, but in the MCU, and proves that Marvel still has the potential to deliver great Villains.

Though the film might boast a fantastic villain and some of the most interesting exposition in a Marvel movie, it doesn’t save the film from falling into some very troubling pacing issues that often hold back moments that should be very emotional from reaching their full potential. Not to mention some sequence and bits of dialogue that feel forced or out of place–I’m looking at you “What are those?!” joke. Coogler consistently delivers in the visual department, even if it may seem toned down at moments.

Nevertheless, Black Panther remains one of the strongest entries into the Marvel cannon, and continues Marvel’s hot streak of delivering some of its most entertaining films yet, as well as continuing to prove why director Ryan Coogler is a talent to watch.

 Final Review:  8/10