Hollywood’s Next Big Trendsetter: Black Panther Review

 

Black Panther is a good movie. At this point, it has already seen the largest grossing three-day debut for a February release in history, as well as the fifth largest three-day debut of all time. That, along with a solid 97% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing, should be enough evidence of the film’s quality. But is it possible that this success is just a product of the hype around the film? Will we see it sustain for the long-term? Is this a flavour of the week, or a sign of things to come?

I should say off the top that I am white. While I am part of this film’s target demographic in so far as I am a comic book fan (and a fan of Black Panther comics, specifically), I am not one of the people who this film is really for. This is the first major blockbuster film to come from Hollywood that not only has a black lead actor, but also a predominantly black cast. This film is for a marginalized group of people who seldom—if ever—see themselves portrayed in media on this level, and any criticism of the film coming from a white person really does need to keep this in mind. Media does not exist in a vacuum. It is produced by artists and industry, and it reflects the world in a feedback loop that informs the way we relate to it and to each other. Actual quality aside for a moment, Black Panther is an important film. And with TV series like Luke Cage and Black Lightning alongside it, this hopefully will be a sign of things to come.

 

 

Because Black Panther does live up to the hype. The bare bones of the plot are fairly generic, with the titular hero T’Challa coronated king of Wakanda in the wake of his father’s death, and eventually being forced to come to terms with the fact that his father was not as perfect as he thought. It is a coming of age story in which he must rise to the occasion and carve his own path as king to his country, or else have someone else do it for him.

What sets Black Panther apart from similar films is the execution. There is a depth and texture to both the supporting cast and to Wakanda itself. While Chadwick Boseman turns in a strong performance as T’Challa, he is far from being the best actor on screen here. Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, and Winston Duke all steal the show at one point or another, and Michael B. Jordan plays one of the best villains in any action movie, let alone comic book movie. In fact, it’s really not hard to imagine him as the protagonist. A villain who is arguably more compelling than the hero is the mark of a great antagonist, easily on the level of Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Vulture and Daredevil’s Kingpin.

There are moments where the film can be heavy-handed in the delivery of a line, but I think that’s a good thing: it’s unapologetic about what it’s saying. And that is a large part of why this is such a landmark movie; there’s no studio hedging their bets, not wanting to offend a demographic by saying anything too radical. The fact that it does that and has the quality to back it up means that we are almost certainly looking at Hollywood’s next big trendsetter. This is a film that is worth your time, one that immerses you into a visually unique world apart from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that will leave you ready for more.

 

Sources: 1/2