2018 has been one of those years where the movie experience has changed forever…
In case you have been living under a rock and completely tuned out anything going on at the movies during the first half of this calendar year; Black Panther from Marvel Studios has been a complete force of nature. While this film certainly does break some new ground from a cultural level, this entertaining action flick also feels a little too big for itself at other times because as well done as the narrative and storytelling aspects of this film are executed, occasionally the action sequences don’t quite have the ‘umph’ that other entries in the Marvel canon have had.
When tragedy strikes the nation of Wakanda, Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is forced to step up to the throne of his nation and he is faced with the ultimate test. Putting the fate of his own country and the entire planet at risk he finds himself pitted against members of his own family. The new king must rally his allies and release the full power of the Black Panther to defeat his foes and embrace his future as an Avenger.
Admittedly; the hyperbole on Black Panther has been overwhelming these past few months and while it is more than deservedly so from a narrative and cultural level where it willingly breaks with norms that we have seen in filmmaking for far too long there’s another shoe ready to drop. While nothing in the film is bad, the set piece action sequences are seemingly a little beyond the skill set of a director working on such a large scale for the very first time.
Ryan Coogler was certainly an inspired choice to take on this project as he is a filmmaker who isn’t afraid to cross boundaries and shine a light on cultures and characters that previously may not have gotten their due. That really is the Black Panther character in a nut shell and as he leads this cast that is predominantly filled with people of colour, it never once feels like a gimmick or something that is trying to make a statement. It’s a large, sweeping film filled with action and drama that just happens to be a mostly black cast, and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that. Coogler makes a statement by ensuring that the narrative of the film and the flow of it all actually never feel like it is out of place from anything else that it should be.
Characters are well developed and we are invested in seeing what happens to these people. Coogler is a quality storyteller from top to bottom and his only real weakness could be that some of the action sequences felt a little too frenetic and CGI filled, playing up the action for the sake of the grandeur or largess of the moment. The balance between story and spectacle is always a delicate one for any director, and while he certain does a solid job with it all there are moments where you can feel him straying out of his comfort zone, never having done large scale action before. He’ll get there it will just take time.
Chadwick Boseman is the right man for the job as our lead and title character taking the next step into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and adding the right balance of diversity but pathos and genuine emotion in his performance as the headstrong Prince who now has to evolve into a true kind for the sake of his people. Michael B Jordan chews the scenery opposite him as Killmonger while supporting turns from Lupita N’Yong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya & Letitia Wright add the right amount of balance and weight to the proceedings. Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis round it all out as the token ‘white men’ of the ensemble but smartly never playing into any tacky or awkward joke behind it all.
The picture and sound on the 4K Blu-Ray is simply top notch and the special features on the Blu-Ray include a feature length audio commentary track, four behind the scenes featurettes going into all the different aspects behind the making of the film, an exclusive look at the upcoming Ant Man & The Wasp, Deleted Scenes, a Gag Reel, an extensive page to screen look in a roundtable discussion and a Marvel Studios featurette connecting the first ten years of the MCU.
Ultimately, Black Panther is the social and entertainment value curve that has existed in Marvel comics for years now catching up and getting translated in the now Marvel Cinematic Universe. We can’t honestly say that Black Panther is the best Marvel movie in the canon because quite frankly, it just isn’t. However, the things that this film does and the places it takes easily makes it one of the more exciting ones ever made, because in this universe we’re all going to the same places together…like we should quite frankly be doing in real life.