Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Review by Aaron Haughton
Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) is swinging 3 for 3 right now. The amount of craft, consideration and care that he pumps into his films has always been apparent, but this latest effort takes his storytelling verve to a whole new level. Black Panther is near-Shakespearean, with notes of James Bond and The Lion King, and it's easily the best Marvel film since James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1. We all knew the film was going to be dope, but the layers Coogler and co-screenwriter Joe Robert Cole add to the story completely shatter expectations, making Black Panther the most thought-provoking piece in the whole Marvel cinematic universe.
We always get the same formulaic meal whenever we choose to dine at one of Marvel's restaurants, but Coogler, like Marvel's other top chefs James Gunn and Taika Waititi, adds his own flavors, which make the film feel more like his own and less of a studio film pushing its own agenda. It's absolutely refreshing to not only see a film that's so black, but also so African, considering how the continent never really pierces the Western media. Coogler had never been to Africa prior to working on Black Panther, but took a trip in preparation for the film. His time and experience there really shine through the film and help to make the world of Wakanda that much more real.
The political angle the story takes on is also a breath of fresh air in the world of comic book blockbusters, and give Black Panther some relevant intellectual depth. Likewise, the political elements help form and shape Michael B. Jordan's Erik Kilmonger, A.K.A. the greatest Marvel villain to date. Kilmonger's political views make him sympathetic to an extent, in that the technology and resources that Wakanda possesses should be shared with the world, just not in the form of world takeover or domination. He's more than just a CG monstrosity, he's a villain with a vision, and his logic makes some actual sense. Michael B. Jordan kills as Kilmonger, bringing his A-game and injecting a heavy dose of pathos to his villainy.
This is a film that very much celebrates women as much as it does black culture, and it does so in important ways. The women of Wakanda are strong and smart; the most tech-savvy person in Wakanda (and the whole MCU) is a 16-year-old girl, and the special forces of Wakanda consists entirely of female warriors. Interestingly enough, the Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman) almost has a backseat in his own film because the women that surround him (Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, and Angela Bassett) are so strong and so interesting that they nearly eclipse him entirely.
Visually, the film is thrilling and was gorgeously shot by Rachel Morrison, who nearly missed the Oscar with last year's Mudbound and will no doubt receive another nomination (and hopefully a win). The film pops with color in ever sense of the word, and Coogler's direction is fluid, energetic and near-virtuosic. The performances are sparkling all around, but a special shoutout is in order for Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan and Andy Serkis for being the true showstoppers.
A few minor qualms: some of the CG effects looked a bit wonky and outdated, particularly the showdown fight between Black Panther and Kilmonger, which seemed a little too Spider-Man 3. The film also builds to yet-another gigantic CG fight, which may feel epic to some but is so commonplace as to be cliché. I also think the runtime could've been shaved down a bit, but the film doesn't drag too much and doesn't overstay its welcome.
I'd tell you to go see it, but who am I kidding, we all already have.
Rating: 4 strong female warriors outta 5.
What did you think? Did you love Black Panther? Is it one of the greatest superhero films of all time? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always remember to viddy well!