By Ellen Cicchitti
Marvel’s Black Panther was the most anticipated film of 2018, and it is clear to see why. Directed by Ryan Coogler and written by Joe Robert Cole, with assistance from Coogler, it has become one of the highest-grossing films of 2018, and even set the record for the biggest debut by an African-American director. For Coogler and Cole, Black Panther was their first collaboration together, as well as their first big blockbuster debut as director and writer–an impressive feat in an already established franchise.
The cast is excellent. Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa and the eponymous Black Panther is compelling and a joy to watch. T’Challa had a nice character arc in figuring out what he needs to do as the leader of Wakanda, Marvel’s fictional African country hidden in plain sight. From the glimpses of him in Captain America: Civil War, it was clear that Boseman was the most suitable choice for the role of the Black Panther, and this film definitely affirms the casting.
Michael B. Jordan was also surprisingly compelling as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, the central antagonist of the film, though some of his lines were a little cliché. Killmonger’s motivations to usurp the throne of Wakanda to free people with the country’s technology are realistic and pleasantly well-written, though his true goals seem to be bent on world domination.
Andy Serkis was insanely fantastic as Klaue, the other antagonist of the film. Letitia Wright played Shuri, T’Challa’s spunky younger sister who is the inventor of many of Wakanda’s impressive technologies, and who is easily one of my favorite characters from the film. Martin Freeman, playing CIA agent Everett Ross, was a fun side character, and Lupita Nyong’o played a strong and likeable character named Nakia, who was a powerful presence in the film and the driving factor of its ending.
One of the best parts about Black Panther is not just its talented cast, but its ability to flesh out so many characters in only a two-hour timeframe. The humor was well-balanced, unlike in previous Marvel movies, where snappy quips sometimes broke the flow of the story. In this, the humor was well-placed, and it seems that the writers are finally realizing that they can write serious movies, too. And it shows, with the movie’s themes encompassing slavery, royal corruption, the role of a leader, and isolationism. It wasn’t preachy about its themes, either–that aspect felt refreshing in a politically-charged world.
The story’s pacing was good–it managed to focus on and develop quite a few characters, but it could have been better. There was one character in particular that I felt didn’t get enough time with her motivations and desires. A few relationships, mostly between General Okoye and T’Challa’s friend W’Kabi, could have been more fleshed out, but with the short runtime, that is a gripe that doesn’t necessarily detriment the movie’s excellence.
Most of the action scenes were well-choreographed, though a few could have been better-lit. None of the fights felt too long, either, and no movement felt extraneous. The soundtrack was distinct, fresh and was actually noticeable this time compared to previous Marvel films. Parts of the film were predictable, yes, but it was still an enjoyable experience and a nice realization that the writing is slowly getting better for Marvel’s hero flicks. Without a doubt, Black Panther is one of the best films in the Marvel cinematic franchise.