Well, here it goes … some summary thoughts on Black Panther. Be assured, there are no spoilers here.
Simply stated, Black Panther is a visual feast for the eyes*. It is produced on a scale I have rarely (if ever) seen projected on the big screen. In a word, the world of Wakanda is MAGNIFICENT and must be seen at the cinema to be fully appreciated (IMAX > 3D in my opinion).
As it relates to the story itself – after a somewhat deliberate start, once the action of the story kicks off (and boy does it), I found myself fully immersed and engaged in this world and its players. So focused was my attention, I did not feel the passage of time.
The construction of Black Panther makes it a solid standalone movie, independent of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In other words, never did I feel like any foreknowledge of any previous Marvel film was required to understand or enjoy this film – it stands on its own. That said, director Ryan Coogler was able to weave tidbits from prior films in a way that served both novice and MCU devotees well.
The acting (top to bottom) was superb. I could be here all day going through the list of each character and what I loved about them. There simply is not enough space or enough words. Just know that for everyone involved ….
One standout performance for me was Emmy Award winner Sterling K. Brown, who in one scene during the latter part of the film, tapped into a wonderful subtext of the story – the African diaspora and its impact on the continent and around the world. Michael B. Jordan as the chief villain Eric Killmonger, was one of the best villains I have seen in the movies. Maybe because the aforementioned subtext resonated with me, I was able to look at the Killmonger character with a degree of sympathy/empathy. I have always contended that the best villains do not just simply live in the dark and while their actions can be determined in terms of absolute evil, the person behind the actions is often a little more complex than that.
A wonderful treat packed in with the performances was the balance of the more solemn moments with moments of levity. In fact, the more chuckle-worthy movements of the film were well placed and well earned.
Black Panther is also an example of what can happen when the studio heads give the filmmakers the freedom to flesh out and really tell the story they want to. In the past, questions concerning “appropriate” levels of creative control has been a source of contention within the MCU, but it really looks like for the most recent Marvel installments (this and Thor: Ragnarok) the directors have been given great liberty and license to craft the story in a way that their creative mark is indelibly on display. Here’s hoping the trend continues.
In summary, Black Panther is a beautiful piece of filmmaking that marveled and entertained. If you saw and enjoyed this film as much as I did, have no fear – King T’Challa (and Okoye, Shuri, The Queen Mother and M’Baku) will grace our screens again in a few months (May 4th to be exact) when they appear in Avengers: Infinity War.
*Shoutout to the DP Rachel Morrison, who has been nominated for an Academy Award for her work on Dee Rees’ feature Mudbound and previously worked with Coogler on his feature film debut Fruitvale Station.