A Balancing Act: A Review of Black Panther
The Black Panther movie is here and it’s a critical and financial success. Everyone and their mother is aware of the hype and most people are wondering if it’s deserving of the praise, or should the hype monster be taken out back and shot like Ugandan Kunckles.
Here’s a spoiler free Black Panther review:
First, from the perspective of a regular superhero movie. Black Panther is a good superhero movie, period. For many people, it’s a GREAT superhero movie. In fact, it's easy to say that it’s more than just a superhero movie, it’s a well crafted cultural reflection of all of us in some way. The movie provides all the style and flair of a typical Marvel movie, just with more depth and more soul underneath. It provides social and political commentary without being too preachy. The characters reflect the thoughts and opinions of the American electorate, and in the end, it brings it all home while reminding the audience that there are no simple solutions when dealing with human life.
The film takes place in two distinct acts, with the shift in tone happening at just the right time. The second act shifts focus from introductions, over the top action, and fun to a more serious, more dramatic, and slower placed story that benefits the movie. Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger is ruthless but relatable. The film makes you feel sympathetic towards Killmonger while understanding that he’s a serious problem. There’s always criticism about the villains in Marvel movies, some valid, some not. Some Marvel villains are fun, like Loki and Hela, but Killmonger is a threat, pure and simple. He is, beyond a shadow of a doubt the BEST Marvel movie villain to date.
But it’s not just Killmonger who shines, it’s the entire supporting cast. The Dora Milaje, M’Baku, Shuri, and everyone else who shows up on screen succeeds in leaving a strong impression. Every major character serves a purpose and they help the story along in some way. No one is useless.
The story isn’t too complicated, but the political undertones provide extra complexity that will undoubtly spark discussions in colleges, barbershops, and online.
The only real criticism I have is that Chadwick, T’Challa himself, was overshadowed by other characters, especially in the second half of the movie. There was nothing wrong with him, it’s just that everyone else was fresh. But overall, this was a really good movie that stretches just over the finish line to be great.
Now for the more personal, comic fan perspective:
I’ve been a huge Black Panther fan for years. I’ve damn near read everything he’s appeared in going back to his first appearance in Fantastic Four in 1965. So as a hardcore Black Panther fan, this film was amazing. It changed certain aspects of the history, but every change made sense and was beneficial to the movie. It paid homage to every single Black Panther writer who contributed something of note to the character. There were moments and quotes pulled straight out of the comics, and as a fan it just increased my enjoyment of the film. I have one knock from a comic fan perspective and it has no bearing on the quality of a film. I won’t mention it because it’s slightly spoilerish. But if you are a fan of Black Panther comics then you will enjoy this movie.
Overall, whether comic fan or not, Black Panther delivers an enjoyable experience and leaves its mark on Marvel movie history. I was the first superhero movie that ever balanced displaying deep rooted culture, political commentary, superhero badassery, and successfully paying homage to his comic book roots. It’s worth going to see twice.