Genre: Superhero Action
Running Time: 134 mins.
Premise: In the wake of his father's death, Prince T'Challa a/k/a Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) assumes the throne and must quickly fend off a series of threats to his kingdom and the people of Wakanda.
Behind-the-Scenes: The Black Panther comic was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1966, two months before the founding of the Black Panther Party. The movie version of Black Panther was first introduced to audiences in Captain America: Civil War. Ava DuVernay (Selma) flirted with directing, but the gig ultimately went to Creed's Ryan Coogler. As with all of Coogler's films, Michael B. Jordan appears, this time as the villainous Erik Killmonger. The first woman to be Oscar-nominated for cinematography (Rachel Morrison, Mudbound) is the director of photography here. The movie is already crushing the box office, with a domestic weekend take of over $200 million.
The Good: Marvel continues its hot streak. The studio was wise to give Coogler what appears to be a tremendous amount of creative freedom. Black Panther is less jokey and more political than other Marvel films, and it boasts a distinctly unique look and tone. The world-building of Wakanda is second-to-none, steeped in a rich sense of pan-African culture, and featuring impeccable, eye-catching costumes by Ruth Carter. The script by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole delivers the goods - it's smart, savvy and thematically rich, focusing on internal struggle and palace intrigue, rather than world-ending stakes. The performances across the board are all great. Boseman is perfect, and MBJ's Killmonger is one of the best Marvel villains yet. He is alternately intimidating and sympathetic, with a legitimate point of view and rationale for his villainy. His final line is a stunner, and exceedingly deep for a blockbuster. The ladies steal the show though. The Walking Dead's Danai Gurira is a total badass as Wakandan General Okoye, and Letitia Wright is a hoot as T'Challa's younger, tech-savvy sister. Bring on the spin-offs! The percussion-heavy score by Ludwig Goransson soars, and the companion soundtrack album curated by Kendrick Lamar is also fantastic. Coogler proves that he's the real deal as director, capably building off of the success of Fruitvale Station and Creed to deliver his biggest, boldest vision yet.
The Bad: While there are certainly some highlights, the action sequences are probably the weakest part - either due to being under lit or overly reliant on CGI, which renders the characters weightless, especially during the climactic fight between Black Panther and Killmonger.
Should You See It?: Yes. It's a Marvel-ous mix of James Bond and The Lion King.
Star Rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars
Better Than: Ant-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange
Worse Than: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers
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