Friday, February 16, 2018

Black Panther Review: A Noble Superhero Film

The superhero genre continues to grow. For years this subgenre of movies have been defined by heroes such as Batman, Spider-Man and The Avengers. However these days the concept has branched out and brought a number of new faces to the silver screen. A cased point is latest hero to leap onto the silver screen: Black Panther. The Marvel hero made his cinematic debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War but now the character has his own adventure to have with director Ryan Coogler helming the superhero film. Quality wise Marvel Studios have been staggering on top of the mountain with their Phase 3 lineup, but Black Panther looked to be a strong entry for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After watching the new superhero movie I can safely say that Black Panther did not disappoint.

The movie tells the story of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who fights for his country Wakanda as its guardian the Black Panther. After becoming king, T’Challa’s title and character are put to the test when Erik Killmonger (Michael B.Jordan) seeks to take the throne from T’Challa and bring a dark age to Wakanda. At first it was hard to get into the plot of Black Panther, but as it progressed  the story behind this superhero movie turned out to be quite engaging. The story’s structure, though effective, was a little too formulaic for its good. The narrative did work for the character of Black Panther, but it also created few surprises and several plot points were too predictable. However it was in the plot’s themes that made all the difference for the movie. At first the themes felt contrived , but as the film progressed the thematic elements flourished making this superhero tale a complex one that handled its ideas with care. Along with its strong themes was the story’s ability to create an interesting world within the boundaries of Wakanda. From its hierarchy to its spiritual side Wakanda was a realm filled with investing concepts that only enriched the plot in all the right ways. The plot lived up to the adventurous aspects that most superhero movies have, but it was through its keen presentation that aided this kingly story to stand out from the rest.

In Civil War Black Panther was one of two heroes to steal the show. With such a standout debut it was  interesting to see just how effective T’Challa would be as a lead character. The results of Black Panther taking center stage were satisfying to say the least. T’Challa’s development was interesting as him becoming king was a stepping stone in his progression oppose to being a goal. Yet how T’Challa handled this responsibility is what made the character a captivating hero, and Chadwick Boseman’s performance only elevated Black Panther’s presence to greater heights. However a protagonist is only as good as the characters that surrounds him, and the supporting cast to Black Panther was a good one-albeit a little flawed. Characters like Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) felt a bit generic while ones such as Okoye (Danai Gurira) stole the show; and the likes of Shuri (Letita Wright) was somewhere between those opposing forces. The likes of Angela Bassett, Martin Freeman, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis gave this cast the bearings it needed with their supporting performances. Then there was Michael B.Jordan as the villainous Killmonger. Killmonger shared traits similar to previous rogues in the MCU,but  a thorough execution and the wonderful performance by Michael B.Jordan made all the difference for this character. In the end what made this cast effective was the performers’ chemistry and having a good understanding in its characters, and utilizing these simplistic directions made this ensemble one worthy of any blockbuster.

When it came to technical elements Black Panther was defined by the likes of spectacle, action and music. The movie’s visual effects were subtle as well as efficient. The effects were dynamic, especially by superhero movie standards, and aided in making the world of Black Panther that more unique. The action threw some good punches but some of the hits ended up missing. The movie had good choreography (particularly in the Ritual Combat scenes) and featured big time moments (like the chase sequence). However what held the action back was its execution as it relied too much on techniques such as “shaky cam” which cheapened moments that could have been thrilling. The score by Ludwig Goransson was phenomenal to say the least. Not only did the music work with the movie’s concepts but its  lively delivery gave the score its own sense of character. Like most films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Black Panther had a sense of humor and it did work within the confines of the movie’s direction; although there a few jokes that came off as forced.

In many ways Black Panther is a breath of fresh air.  The movie has its share of issues such as its formulaic narrative and average action, but its strong delivery in both storytelling and performances gives this film a stellar presentation. Although it is not the most Earth shattering superhero movie, Black Panther is worthy of its genre as it a much needed entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a solid blockbuster for the year.

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