FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Black Panther (2018)
BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL!
Welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is Black Panther…
T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the isolated and technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King.
However, when an old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s fortitude as King and superhero Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk…
Kendall Richardson reviewing (2018):
Nothing gets me more hyped for the trip to the cinema than the prospect of the latest Marvel Studios production. I’m an avid fan and follower of all things Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), so when the time comes around to go and see their latest release for the first time, I am literally jumping up and down with excitement. As it was with Black Panther, the eighteenth film on the MCU’s roster, and the first release of its tenth anniversary year, needless to say, I had a blast.
Marvel has the superhero origin story film down to a fine art now, as they should, but it is with Black Panther that they have done one of the best things yet—show diversity. Whilst they are sadly lagging in the female lead superhero game, Marvel have proven to the public that they can tell a story with a cast that is 98% black and have it be beyond the success they dreamed of. (Earning over $200 million in it’s opening weekend, the film is the second highest debut of the MCU behind 2012’s The Avengers.) They have made a movie where the hero is a proud African warrior and king, who is supported by the strongest women—nay African women—I have ever seen on screen, and opposed by an incredible African-American villain that some are saying could give Loki a run for his money. It is just so beautiful to see these characters displayed before our eyes, and in roles young kids can look up to and admire, particularly those who share the colour of their skin with the Black Panther himself. And this film could really not have come at a better time. With the Black Lives Matter movement still prominent across the globe, race is still one of the biggest issues out there. Hopefully Black Panther can serve not only as a vehicle to entertain, but to inspire and teach as well.
As for the film itself, it is sad to say that it is a little slow to start, until the momentum of the plot and its action fully kick in, but that isn’t to say it’s not enjoyable, because it is. We get a beautiful rendition of the history of Wakanda and the Black Panther, as well as wonderful introductions to each of the characters that make up that beautiful nation. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home after the death of his father King T’Chaka (John Kani), which occurred in Captain America: Civil War (2016), to assume the throne, but it’s not that simple, and I love it. There is so much tradition alongside the beauty of the Wakandan people, as T’Challa must fight any man that challenges him for the throne and for the powers of the Black Panther. Meanwhile, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), whom we last saw losing an arm in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), is on the prowl for more vibranium, and with a new robotic arm to boot. Here is where we meet the real villain of the piece, Erik Killmonger, played with uncompromising intimidation by Michael B. Jordan. The two may have teamed up for this heist, but it soon becomes clear that Killmonger has an agenda all his own.
Boseman is definitely more than capable of leading this film; he is wonderful as T’Challa, and it was great to see what he could do outside of Civil War. Serkis takes the eccentric up a notch with this version of Klaue, and it is sinister and hysterical. Fellow Middle-Earthling Martin Freeman surprised me with his return as CIA agent Everett Ross, who was also last seen in Civil War, but this time around there is more for him to do. And whilst we don’t get too much of his character fleshed out, how his involvement becomes crucial to the film’s plot is awesome. I’m always here for more Freeman, even if he is putting on that American accent.
But my favourite thing about this film is the ladies! As a lady myself, I may be a tad biased but they really are the best thing here. First you have Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s sixteen-year-old technology and science genius sister, who is responsible for most (if not all) of Wakanda’s current tech, and the Black Panther’s suit and gadgets. Then there is Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). And while she may be T’Challa’s ex, for now, she is also an awesome fighter and spy. I hope her and Black Widow get to have spy training reminiscing/bonding time at some point. And thirdly, there is the badass general and leader of the Dora Milaje, Okoye (Danai Gurira). She loves her country more than anything and will smack a bitch down the second it is called for. She is the sass queen in this film and I love her. All three of these actors are so strong and incredible in their performances as great Wakandan women, I cannot wait to see more of them down the track.
Director/co-writer Ryan Coogler has given us a fantastic film, which beautifully shows off the fictional nation of Wakanda and its people. With the MCU tending to expand further into space, it is great to see that there is some wonderful unexplored territory for them to showcase at home. Wakanda forever! 4 / 5
Wayne Stellini reviewing (2020):
Applauded for its strong representation of and featuring a predominantly black cast, Ryan Coogler’s film may be aesthetically refreshing for a blockbuster, but Black Panther only works if it achieves what it sets out to do. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will be pleased to discover that this, the eighteenth entry into the franchise, doesn’t stray from the established formula.
Thus, Black Panther doesn’t offer anything new in presenting the detailed backstory to the titular hero, who had been introduced to the franchise in the superior Captain America: Civil War (2016). However, Coogler is a skilled storyteller and gives more depth to his principal characters than you might expect from a comic book movie.
Chadwick Boseman and particularly Michael B. Jordan shine as feuding cousins T’Challa and N’Jadaka, both of whom have claims to the throne that would not only see them rule the small African nation of Wakanda but also don the Black Panther suit. Letitia Wright is fun as T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri, beautifully capturing the nuances of technologically savvy teenagers; it is particularly lovely to see a young woman given so much screen time because of her brains and not just her looks. Shuri showing T’Challa his superhero clothing and gadgets is a gorgeous nod to Q doing the same with James Bond for over fifty years.
There’s also plenty of action and the climax is well done, but Black Panther suffers from inconsistent pacing, so the momentum isn’t always maintained. And whilst there is also a lot of information to convey when introducing a new world to your audience, the 134-minute runtime not only feels unnecessary but is sometimes exhausting. Most significantly for this genre, the computer generated effects are surprisingly weak; a major problem for a franchise whose main drawcard is its visual exuberance. So, while Marvel Studios should be applauded for diversifying its legion of superheroes, you can’t help but ask how much faith they actually had in the project to shortchange its budget.
It must be said, however, that Black Panther’s story and its central characters stand the test of time (even though the visuals won’t), and ultimately that’s what makes a successful comic book movie. Overall, this is an entertaining adventure. 4 / 5
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis.
Director: Ryan Coogler | Producer: Kevin Feige | Writers: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole (based on Black Panther by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) | Music: Ludwig Göransson | Cinematographer: Rachel Morrison | Editor: Michael P. Shawver, Claudia Castello
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Kendall Richardson’s review was first published on Thursday, 22 February 2018. It was updated to include Wayne Stellini’s review and the film’s online viewing availability on Thursday, 23 April 2020.