With the comic book film craze in full swing, it’s always exciting when you get a film that breaks the mold—or rather, does something a bit new within the mold. It’s a film that sits comfortably within what you expect from a Marvel production, but it has a flair and personality I’ve never seen before. Chadwick Boseman feels a little different from the rest of the Marvel heroes: he’s careful, he’s calculated, and he does a great job highlighting the difficulties of heroism. Michael B. Jordan delivers one of—if not the best—Marvel villain performances to date. Andy Serkis is a riot with his weird, rubbery laser arm. Lupita Nyong’o breaks away from some of the clichés of a female lead, and Letitia Wright caught me off guard with her charm and intelligence as Shuri. To add to the star-studded cast is Danai Gurira, and the rest of the Dora Milaje, who are visually stunning and a joy to watch. The story and writing is only somewhat game-changing, but the casting is spot-on, and individual character performances really shine. Most importantly, “Black Panther” gives us representation.
This film addresses issues of immigration, poverty, and foreign aid. You have the super-advanced nation of Wakanda, with the means to help other struggling and impoverished nations, but doing so opens up their country to threats and infl uence from the rest of the world. A core theme of the film is tradition vs. innovation, and seeing these issues tackled in a nuanced way is refreshing to see in this big-budget film.
On the flipside, the slower pace and focus on politics doesn’t make the film feel like a slog. It offers a variation of action sequences from slow and visceral one-on-one fights to big, shiny car chases. “Black Panther” sets itself apart from other Marvel films in its action scenes by opting for long shots of carefully choreographed fights, instead of leaning heavily on constant cuts. This leaves the action scenes feeling less jarring and shaky, and more fluid and impactful. While some of the big action scenes are low-stakes, there are moments where the viewer can feel T’Challa vulnerability, making those scenes tense and exciting. Major props to the stunt-coordinators and choreographers.
Overall, it’s good. Some of the special effects are not up to par, especially for a film with such a high budget, and there’re plenty of Marvel tropes present that we’ve seen before. But the art direction and world building is breathtaking, especially the costume design and architecture of Wakanda. The colour palette is also a bit more interesting than most of Marvel’s washed out visuals. Ryan Coogler and the rest of the cast have done an amazing job of taking a lesser-known part of the Marvel mythos and projecting it to the mainstream. Even taking some of the more problematic characters from the comics, like “Man-Ape,” and turning him into the hilarious and endearing “M’baku,” portrayed by Winston Duke.
“Black Panther” brings something to the table that few films, Marvel or otherwise, are only attempting to do: proper representation. It’s chock-a-block with well-written and well-acted Black and female characters, which is significant when it’s a genre of film where you want kids to identify with and find role models in the heroes. Even rarer than that, we get a beautiful interpretation and representation of African culture, which Hollywood is all but devoid of. If you’re a fan of Marvel films, this will certainly be up your alley, but I also think it’s self-contained enough that you can easily enjoy it without caring about Iron Man or Captain America. If you’re looking for a fun, action film with a refreshing look, an outstanding cast and above all, social change—I can guarantee you’ll find an enjoyable romp in “Black Panther.”