So, I just got back after watching the latest MARVEL Film, Black Panther and let me just say that it did not disappoint. This was not a typical MARVEL movie, I felt. This was more than just the superhero ruckus we normally see, or at least it definitely felt like it. That is to say, it does not feel like you typical, formulaic MARVEL cinematic experience. More often than not, I leave MARVEL premieres with a sense of excitement and nerdy passion! “The good guys beat the baddies and the universe was expanded, yay!” I shout to myself and other nerds who have gathered around the theatre. And that’s what it has been, to me, since the original Avengers. But watching this left me feeling a bit different. Probably because it was built differently and the performance of the actors left a great impact. The soundtrack and musical direction was much better than prior MARVEL flicks and I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of MARVEL-ness that tends to bleed into their projects. Of course, that comedy that we’ve all come to know and tolerate is there but it’s not overwhelming. The characters were lovable and charming and the villain has been the best since Loki. Combine every part of that with a very true adaptation of the Black Panther character, and you’ve got a very fresh, distinct MARVEL film.
Black Panther is set after the events of Captain America Civil War with a broken-hearted T’Challa, beautifully portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, going back home to Wakanda, a significantly advanced civilization hidden somewhere in the depths of African forests, to claim his spot as the new King, after his father’s death. T’Challa, welcomed home by family and tribe, accepts his new role with relative ease only to learn that his title as King is fraught with ancestral transgressions. Leading to conflict not only with our antagonist but also with our heroes, which I think is a great story-telling aspect. I don’t want to delve too deep into spoiler turf, since I feel like this deserves to be seen, but the plot of the movie revolves around T’Challa’s struggle with upkeeping the tradition of his people and keeping true to himself.
And the traditions of the Wakandan people are not simply just implied or stated, but felt throughout the entire story. The way that Wakanda is fleshed out makes for some of the most beautiful and exciting parts. The tribal ancestry of Wakanda and its people, their civilization and traditions explained quickly enough such that is does not flood the experience, but developed enough to where the audience knows what’s happening. The development of the world Black Panther sets is partially what creates that feeling that this wasn’t just a typical superhero romp. Sure, there are those typical action sequences – fights, car chases, explosions, etc — and the blatantly MARVEL parts do stand out making for a familiar pace, but it’s certainly not new enough for me to consider as exciting or fresh as the non-obvious MARVEL bits: i.e. the tribal, technologically advanced, cavillation of Wakanda.
It seems as though that the team for Black Panther also knew how to use its soundtrack to also drive in its main aspects of traditions, and characters. MARVEL has typically not been the type to use music properly in their movies. That is to say that, their soundtrack hardly ever helps to build the tension, liven up the characters cheerful attitudes, or elevate their emotions of despair. Yet, Black Panther’s sound direction was some of the best that the MCU has to offer. There are certain emotional moments that were amplified due to the soundtrack and musical direction. Save for the more recent Dr. Strange I can’t think of a more recognizable soundtrack than the new one for this film. Nor can I think of scenes, in the MCU, that were heightened to the power and intensity of key moments as the soundtrack in Black Panther does. As I beat my keyboard, I listen to the soundtrack even now.
The cast chosen to display this nation was phenomenal. As I mentioned before Chadwick Boseman played a great king and warrior, but Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Killmonger was charismatic, intimidating, and understandable. I love it in a story when the villain isn’t technically wrong. When the villain is right it’s much easier to understand them, hell, even side with them, making their moments shine even more. And Killmonger’s moments in the movie, whenever he actually did show up, were undeniably some of the best parts! I’d be remiss, though, not to mention Black Panther’s go-against, tech-savvy sister and his army of warriors. Their emotions and portrayals of these characters really makes the audience care for them and made me want to learn more about them. Blended together, the cast helps drive home that earlier mentioned sense of tradition-versus-modern movement of the film.
I’ve mentioned a lot that this is a MARVEL film, but the great thing about this is that it could probably stand on its own without the rest of the MCU backing it. Other MCU staples such as Dr. Strange or Thor Ragnarok probably have a sense of needing to see the prior installments first. Arguably seeing Captain America Civil War first is a good thing, but I would hardy say it’s needed material to understand and care about what’s going on. It speaks to how well that this movie was made.
Black Panther isn’t perfect, nothing hardly is. I can think of a few things right off the bat: A few sketchy edits and over usage of CG, the drastic underuse of the great Killmonger character, or the awkward usage of characters in prior MCU projects that just feel forced and unnecessary. However, I can still say that I enjoyed Black Panther, probably more than any in the MCU before, (other than personal, favorites for no good reason), despite its minor flaws. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen it only once and I tend to have after-movie excitement that doesn’t let me see the whole picture immediately, perhaps it’s because I hadn’t seen a single trailer for Black Panther and had no idea what to expect so it all felt fresh to me, or maybe it’s just because it was a damn good watch… In any case, I can say that, upon first review I loved it.
I left this movie with a feeling of an understanding of the characters, their motivations, and their culture. Which is a delightful change of pace to my aforementioned leaving of a movie with just a sense of excitement. It’s worth going to see and I plan on seeing it again soon. Perhaps after a while, I might give this a full, in-depth spoiler review because I think that it deserves to be spoken about in much more detail (but honestly probs not gonna happen because I am lazy AF sometimes). Black Panther stands vibrantly above its predecessors and has become one of my favorite installments in the franchise.
85 of Pennies out of a full $!.00