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Picking up shortly after the events of Civil War, Black Panther is about T’Challa becoming king of the nation of Wakanda. This place has technology that’s far advanced than the rest of the world thanks to their private supply of Vibranium. However, excommunicated Erik Killmonger has returned, and is ready to take the throne for himself.
There are some movies that you know are going to be good just by who’s directing it, who’s starring in it, and who’s writing it. In the case of this movie, we have Creed director Ryan Coogler behind the camera, and writing the script, not to mention a fantastic all-star cast of Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya, Andy Serkis, and Martin Freeman.
The first thing I noticed is that Marvel has really stepped up their villain game over the past couple years. Ever since Zemo came along in Civil War, every villain since has been well written, and made to impress. Up until Phase Three, most villains were dime-a-dozen flavour of the week cutouts with shallow motives or 2D personalities. The performances of Michael B. Jordan and Andy Serkis as Killmonger and Ulyess Klaue, respectively, made for some of the best moments of the movie and they join the gallery of the franchise’s best villains. Speaking of Serkis, the CGI doesn’t just go on his face anymore; he now has a robotic arm that turns into a deadly weapon.
Killmonger is trying to reclaim what he believes is rightfully his, and he thinks Wakanda should use what they have to put themselves on top of the world. The way they build up Wakanda is impressive; a lot of effort has been put in to make it feel as real as possible and it clearly shows. The characters were well written; they each had their own arcs that naturally progressed throughout the film. T’Challa has the strongest character arc. He's inheriting the throne much sooner than he thought. He figured he would have a few more years, maybe another decade, before the title would be passed down to him. Now he’s the ruler of an isolated nation and has this big responsibility on his shoulders, as if running around protecting the country’s borders wasn’t enough. He’s conflicted as to what kind of king he wants to be, whether it’s more like his ancestors, or to break the mold and open the country to the world.
There were plenty of dramatic moments, but they never tried to undercut it with humor. One of my personal gripes with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and Thor: Ragnarok was that they often threw in humor where none was needed. Here, they allow the comedy and drama weave in and out of each other without forcing either one, allowing for a balanced tone and impactful moments. Now, action sequences are a strong point in the MCUs’ history, but this movie takes the cake. Ryan Coogler brings that brutality you saw in Creed and applies it here. We see people get thrown around, stabbed, slashed — it doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination. It's nice to see that there’s a Marvel movie with its own distinct style without being rated R.
While I don’t disagree that Killmonger is a fantastic villain, he’s absent for half the movie. He really delivers after the first hour, but up until then, the focus is on Klaue, who, admittedly, hammed it up a bit in his performance. There were one, maybe two action scenes that are so blurry and dark, it’s hard to make out what’s going on. Look at the fight in the jungle, it looks cool in the trailer, but when all you see is close-ups of bullet sprays, and the camera trying to follow the action, it makes it a bit hard not to get a headache.
After a 2017 that could have gone better for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they start the year off strong with a superhero movie that has heart, style, and spectacle. Of course, its box office success shouldn’t come as a surprise. Considering that each Valentine's Day weekend since 2015 has had an action movie, it only makes sense that Marvel released one of their own in that time slot. Here’s hoping they deliver with the next two movies.
Rating: Total IncrediBlast!