Review: ‘Black Panther’ roars to life in nearly flawless film

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Courtesy of Marvel Studios

“Black Panther demonstrates something new to Marvel’s arsenal–the ability to make a movie mean more than just characters acting out a plot on screen.”

Anna Stockton, Staff Writer

In 2016, Marvel released its third installment in the Captain America franchise and introduced to the world a character who stole the show. From the moment he appeared on screen, the Black Panther captured the audience’s attention and left Marvel fans to excitedly anticipate a standalone movie. Picking up from the aftermath of Wakandan king T’Chaka’s death in “Civil War,” “Black Panther” focuses on the transition of power from the former ruler to his son, T’Challa. Themes of worthiness, the dangers of passivity, and the battle between tradition and progress come into play to create a more than memorable solo debut for the masked hero.

“Black Panther” demonstrates something new to Marvel’s arsenal–the ability to make a movie mean more than just characters acting out a plot on screen like we saw with “Thor: Dark World.” There is a point to the film and a message about the world’s responsibility to take action against injustice, yet the audience receives this without it feeling forced. I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot besides encouraging anyone and everyone to take some time out of their day to see it.

As opposed to what we often see in Marvel movies, there are no throwaway characters. Every individual is well-rounded and has a purpose–it feels feasible that they exist outside of the movie. The female characters are strong, diverse, and powerful in a way that doesn’t overshadow T’Challa. There is a solid understanding that this is his story, and the supporting characters only aid in building that narrative up and, subsequently, building up the conflict between the protagonist and antagonist.

There is something powerful about a villain whose motives aren’t based on reckless evil. The audience feels for the film’s antagonist, Erik Killmonger, because they understand why he’s doing what he’s doing and, to some extent, agree with it. The only issue is his execution. This is what makes his character so heartbreaking. When the villain has some truth to his fight, the dynamic between him and the hero becomes all the more interesting. We can’t hate Killmonger, but we can’t support him.

The movie would be incapable of being successful if not for the culture that exists behind the Wakandan nation, which is well-developed and believable. Taking traditions from many pre-existing African tribes, the kingdom of Wakanda is based on real cultures. This makes the rituals, celebrations, and even day-to-day life shown on screen feel very authentic. Notable scenes such as the coronation help pull the audience into that world in such a way that Wakanda doesn’t feel made up–it’s a fully-realized and rendered country, and a beautiful one at that.

The pacing throughout the film is strong and controlled. Coming in at around two-and-a-half hours long, “Black Panther” doesn’t drag on. There are no points that feel boring or slow. Instead, each scene is necessary and intentional. Each point in the plot builds up from the last with such a refreshing intensity that the entirety of the film feels like a crescendo up until the very end. When the credits roll, the audience gets to sit back and appreciate the ride they just went on. “Black Panther” truly is an experience.

Finding issues with this movie was difficult because there are no outstanding faults. If anything, there could have been more time spent on character development for Killmonger, just to add a stronger connection between him and T’Challa. Audiences are going to have to be picky if they’re trying to find faults within this film.

“Black Panther” is the strongest movie Marvel has ever put out. In a superhero canon that seemed to be stuck on action scenes and famous characters, Marvel appears to finally understand the power in exploring more about a character than their powers.

Rating: A+