Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, with Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.
Written by: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole (screenplay), Stan Lee, Jack Kirby (characters)
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Studio: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney
Run Time: 2hr, 14 min
I knew that the Black Panther would make a lot of money. Did I ever think it would make a billion dollars? No. I thought for sure that would be Avengers: Infinity War’s singular honor of the three Marvel Studios films being released in 2018. Alas, Ant-Man and the Wasp has a lot to live up to this July.
This was my second time around with T’Challa, aka the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and the film holds up about 90% of the time. I know, scandalous, but what film does hold up 100%, after repeat viewings? Let us get into the 90% that is solid first.
Screenwriters Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole craft a solid story that is one part James Bond and one part Iron Man. The casting of Boseman, as the title character, was a brilliant stroke. Boseman found a way to portray this superhero/ king with vulnerability and strength while navigating the trappings of the throne. However, the performances of Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright steal the show. Not only do these three women serve their king in a variety of capacities, but they do everything without the benefit of the Black Panther spirit/ power juice. The car chase in South Korea is even better the second time as you watch the ladies, Nakia (Nyong’o) and Okoye (Gurira), take off after Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), and one asks, “What about T’Challa?”, while the other replies, “He’ll catch up”. All heroes have their sidekicks, but to call these women sidekicks would be an insult, as at times, it is more their movie than the Black Panther’s.
The ladies more than make up for the villain as now we shall get into that rough rewatching 10% drop off. Nothing against Michael B. Jordan, he is a fine actor. Where the line between understanding the villain’s motives and performance gets blurred is in Jordan’s portrayal of Erik Killmonger. He plays an arrogant kid, who despite how much we learn about the character from Agent Ross (Martin Freeman), doesn’t seem like he would get very far at MIT or with the US Government's Black Ops. He is too street punk with a monster chip on his shoulder. What tips the balance in his performance is his reasoning for usurping the throne and his sunset scene with T’Challa. Jordan also suffers from first movie villain syndrome. There is always somebody bigger and badder in the wings (in this case, Thanos) and we also know that sequels are in order and Marvel Studios has plans for further Black Panther adventures.
With that being said, that makes up only 5 percent of my issues with my second turn at Black Panther. The final 5 percent comes from film’s finale and the slaughter of the Wakanda soldiers. After Killmonger takes the throne from T’Challa, Nakia (Nyong’o) asks Okoye (Gurira) to help her take back the throne and save her country. Okoye refuses as she states that she serves the throne and the country, no matter who is control. She eventually sees the light of day and comes to the rescue when she needs to, however, what about the rest of the Wakandans that are also blindly serving their country and throne? The ones that are piloting the Vibranium to their splinter cells that are in allegiance with Killmonger (which also happened pretty quickly)? Or the same ones that are following W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya)? This seems to be glossed over in a big epic Wakanda revolution, but it resided with me after the film was over.
Despite the issues I have with the film’s ending and villain, I feel as if this is a much stronger first film than Marvel’s Thor, Doctor Strange, and Captain America. They felt like first installments (origins) with bigger more relevant stories begging to be told. Here, much like that of Spider-man: Homecoming, we get a strong sense of the character and a tale that bears repeat viewings. It only took 10 years for Marvel to make a Black Panther movie from when they launched Iron Man into his first big feature, which is impressive. Imagine what the next 10 years will bring and how many more Black Panther adventures we will get to see. Wakanda Forever!
BONUS MATERIAL (may vary by retailer):
- Director’s Intro
- From Page to Screen: A Roundtable Discussion - Delve into the film’s making
- Crowning of a New King – Explore the world of “Black Panther” in all its color and complexity
- The Warriors Within – Get to know Wakanda’s women and the actors who portray them
- The Hidden Kingdom Revealed – Wakanda’s diverse people
- Wakanda Revealed: Exploring the Technology
- Deleted Scenes
- U.N. Meet and Greet
- Okoye And W’Kabi Discuss the Future of Wakanda
- T’Challa Remembers His Father
- Voices from the Past
- Gag Reel
- Exclusive Sneak Peek at “Ant-Man and The Wasp”
- Marvel Studios the First Ten Years: Connecting the Universe
- Director’s Commentary