Black Panther Review

4 Stars

Review by Owen Herman

Whether you love or hate the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s no denying that its eighteenth entry, Black Panther, is a huge moment in blockbuster film history. Director Ryan Coogler (only thirty-one and already hugely successful) has created a landmark comic book film that embraces full representation for people of colour and boasts tremendous female heroes. Much has been made of its cultural significance and its undeniable importance to the children who will get to experience it, but even without all of this, Black Panther is simply a great superhero movie.

Chadwick Boseman reprises his role as T’Challa, the king of the fictional African country of Wakanda, who first appeared in Captain America: Civil War back in 2016. T’Challa finds his rule threatened when supposed outsider Killmonger (Coogler regular Michael B. Jordan) teams up with returning villain Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis giving a brilliantly over the top performance as the slimy smuggler). Marvel’s villain problem is pleasingly absent in this entry, with Michael B. Jordan providing a baddie whose motivations are unnervingly sympathetic. Think Ian Mckellen’s Magneto but with a gym membership. The plot gets off to a slightly shaky start with an exposition dump, but it soon becomes completely engaging and surprisingly complex.

The story is driven by Wakanda and its people. Marvel and Coogler have created a world that feels lived in and full of terrific characters. It is hard to pick out one, but Danai Gurira as fearsome warrior Okoye was a favourite. It is also worth noting relative newcomers Letita Wright (playing T’Challa’s sixteen-year-old sister) and Winston Duke (as powerful tribal leader M’Baku) are both scene stealing. This is very impressive, particularly when you consider the fact that they star alongside much bigger names such as Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, and recent BAFTA winner Daniel Kaluuya.

Marvel’s best films are those that effortlessly blend the superhero genre with other popular genres; the Bourne style thriller Captain America: The Winter Soldier, high school teen drama Spider-Man: Homecoming, and bonkers sci-fi comedies Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok. With Black Panther however, Marvel are exploring a genre that has rarely been seen in films: Afrofuturism. Sci-fi mixed heavily with African culture and traditions is really refreshing to see on screen.

Despite some iffy CGI at times, the film looks stunning. Cinematographer Rachel Morrison (with the help of some great costume design) has created a look that stands out against other blockbusters. The film also differentiates itself with its music, which includes a score inspired by local musicians in Senegal and South Africa.

Overall Black Panther feels new and relevant. It is a superhero story for today that tackles social issues whilst still being thoroughly entertaining. It’s not a perfect film, but it is certainly one that will be talked about for years to come.

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