[This review is spoiler-free. You’re safe here!!!]
Out of all of the MCU movies, few have had as much hype surrounding them as Black Panther, and rightfully so; the trailers for the movie looked stellar and it was clear that it would be great for representation. Having finally seen it, I really enjoyed Black Panther despite its occasional issues; it is a swaggering and fresh new take for the MCU.
From the very beginning, I knew that this cast would be something special, and it is; everyone in the movie gives great performances. I also enjoyed most of these characters, especially T’Challa (Black Panther) and Killmonger, who is the main villain of the movie. Killmonger is an especially interesting character, as his motivations are extremely clear and rise from his damaged past. He is significantly more interesting than the majority of Marvel villains, most of whom are cookie-cutter characters. In fact, he may be the best MCU villain yet. Michael B. Jordan gives a phenomenal performance as the character, and he deserves all of the praise that he’s getting. Chadwick Boseman is also really, really good as T’Challa. I think the character is a ton of fun and is even more layered in this movie than he was in Civil War. In regards to the side characters, I really liked Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, who is a loyal and fun counterpart to T’Challa. I also loved T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. She is a snarky, funny, and very intelligent character, and I loved how she lovingly pokes fun of her brother throughout the movie. However, some of the side characters aren’t really necessary, particularly Lupita Nyong’o’s character, Nakia, who is a love interest that doesn’t really feel like a love interest. I think Shuri could have replaced Nakia in all of her scenes.
Ryan Coolger helms the movie well, and it has undoubtedly gorgeous visuals. There is a very emotional scene at the end of the movie which has imagery that adds a ton of gravitas. However, some of the CGI isn’t great, with some shots having extremely obvious green screen. The action is also a bit disappointing, and I would have liked to have seen more real hand-to-hand combat rather than computer generated characters jumping around. There aren’t really a ton of standout action moments, and the climactic battle that happens towards the end of the movie felt underwhelming and disappointingly small-scale. A lot of the action scenes in Black Panther are also somewhat poorly lit, and it is often hard to see exactly what is happening. However, the story and characters are so good that the lack of great action doesn’t ruin the experience. In fact, Black Panther is a much more intellectual and morally grey movie than the vast majority of Marvel movies, with less focus on the explosions and more focus on the political issues of Wakanda.
Wakanda is also a really well-realized location, having tons of distinct culture and intriguing technological advancements. I loved seeing a brand new setting in the MCU, as many previous ones are bland American cities. Despite having outlandish and fantastical technology, Wakanda feels like a living and breathing community, and the characters clearly have great pride and love for their city.
Although the first act of the movie introduces the city of Wakanda well, it was a bit choppy, with several scenes feeling unnecessary and inconsequential. There are also several exposition dumps, particularly in that first act, which could have been handled more smoothly. It feels like the core of the story only gets going about midway through the movie, but once it does, the film feels more smooth and consistent.
Overall, I really enjoyed Black Panther; it tells an extremely compelling and smart story while also being great for representation. It may not be perfect, but it feels completely new and different compared to the rest of the MCU, and I look forward to seeing what happens next with these fantastic characters.