Black Panther

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ based on 2 reviews.

tl;dr: A beautiful and iconic introduction to one of the more interesting MCU characters, with epic action and a plot that adds some much-needed real-world impact to the MCU.


Marvel Cinematic Universe


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

It was touch and go whether we'd even get to see Black Panther – what with snow storms, missing buses, moving house and all, but I'm so glad we managed it (and in a small, art-house style cinema in east London no less!). The film absolutely stands up to the hype: it's absolutely beautiful, cleverly paced, with brilliant characters and a villain whose motives and actions are both clear and logical (from their perspective). Once again, the MCU ends up killing off an excellent character (two, in fact!) to resolve a story, but I think their hands were at least a little tied here.

Both Michael B Jordan and Chadwick Boseman are exceptional throughout, taking the MCU to a whole other level in terms of acting prowess, but their surrounding cast are far from just background noise. New characters like Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Shuri (Letitia Wright) slot in like they've always been around, with each having some brilliant moments (that car-chase spear throw!), whilst recurring characters like Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and Klaue (Andy Serkis) fit the narrative well and bring some additional nuance to the story. Serkis, in particular, is a brilliant inclusion, with an even more maniacal Klaue than we've seen before (now with arm cannon!) who is such a joy to watch I was genuinely mad when they killed him off (even if it led to a clever plot point).

Speaking of plot, this feels so much tighter than your average MCU film. The villain's actions actually make sense based on his history and training, it directly addresses a number of both real-world and in-universe sociopolitical issues, and pulls you along at breakneck pace without leaving the audience confused or distracted. It's great. That it manages all that whilst serving up some excellent, beautiful action and a bucket load of comic references (I did not expect both M'Baku and war rhinos to appear in this film) means that it should hit the mark for newcomers and old fans alike.

And then there is Wakanda itself: the city is gorgeous! The design work that has gone into this film is impressive and breathtaking in equal parts. The costumes, the organic feel to the city streets, the various tribal customs, the whole waterfall tribal gathering concept, it's all great. It feels African. That said, "African" is probably right. Black Panther gets a lot of elements of the continent right, but it still feels like it was created with an American sensibility of "Africa" as a single, homogenous mass. Hence we get Masai spears, Ethiopian lip discs, Lesotho shepherd huts, Saharan head dresses... it goes on and on. For a hidden and secretive nation that's supposedly square in the centre of the Rift Valley complex, they have pulled from every area of Africa in terms of cultural references, and it just feels a bit weird to me. What's more, those traditional elements are often just swapped in and out without any thought to actual, real world animosities or grievances. It's a colonial, tourist-like approach to "Africa the monolith" that I feel is a shame for a film of this importance (and messaging) to get so wrong.

World-building gripes aside, however, the movie does a fantastic job of ensuring that the action centres around Wakanda. This isn't a threat that relies on external help to defeat: the people of Wakanda are more than capable enough, thank you. Even with the presence of Ross, he is shown as an outsider unable to really wrap his head around what's going on, more of a foil for the audience to be able to get some questions answered that the other characters simply wouldn't need to ask.

Layer on top a brilliant soundtrack and a whole heap of additional awesomeness in terms of design elements (that purple kinetic flush on the suit is a particularly clever idea and effect), some beautiful camerawork during long-cut fight scenes in both Korea and Wakanda, and an ending that sets up the African nation to play a huge role in the MCU moving forward, and Black Panther is a stunning film that barely puts a foot wrong. Wakanda forever!


It's a bit depressing watching Black Panther again in the wake of Chadwick Boseman's death, though his performance here is still one of the richest in the MCU. Indeed, the acting in this film is beyond reproach and still holds up incredibly well, even with Boseman and Serkis stealing the show in my eyes (the latter just being joyfully mad yet still human, with Klaue possibly being the best villain the MCU has served up?).

In other ways, it has aged a little. I didn't remember the stilted attempts at Avengers-style humour (or straight up Dreamworks-style pop culture references: "WHAT ARE THOSE!?!") but they do feel a little odd. The occasional joke lands, but most feel forced, with the only notable exception being the "don't freeze" callbacks which help set up these characters complex relationships quickly.

The plot definitely feels a little duller on rewatch. Now I know where the twists will be, it actually felt like it took a while to get to the point. I'm also still not sure I understand the whole War Dogs concept? Wakanda and its leaders have gone to such extreme lengths to hide from the world and show no desire in playing at international politics, so why do they have sleeper cells scattered around the globe? They appear to be expressly forbidden from helping, even in a subtle way, whilst their technology includes cloaking devices and advanced aircraft, so simple reconnaissance would be much easier with tech rather than ground operatives?

And then there's the throne scene. The moment when T'Challa first meets his cousin, having just found out his entire life story. Rather than embrace him as a long-lost family member, and explain that his existence has been kept a secret whilst attempting to build a bridge between them, he instead simply chooses to abuse his power and position. It's out of character, it makes little sense, and you can't help but feel that the whole coup might have been averted had he just, y'know, filled in some blanks. Even if he wants to go with the "this person is a problem" route with the council, he should have made it clear that Killmonger was the one who stole Klaue out of their custody and attacked a CIA outpost. Hell, without his friend's support, Killmonger's grip on power is tenuous at best. Knowing that he worked with Klaue directly would be enough to have the whole council united again.

All that said, I found the final fight less distracting on a small screen. Has the CGI aged? Yes, but it's no longer quite as jarring. Plus, the ultimate message of the film still feels particularly powerful, especially for a superhero movie, and leaves Wakanda in a much stronger position moving forward. The action throughout is still incredibly tightly choreographed, the new characters are all brilliantly fun, and the world-building is great. I remain irritated by the way African cultures are just arbitrarily mashed up in the five tribes of Wakanda, but you can't deny that the set and costume design is stunning. It also irks me a little how much they speak English to one another throughout the film. In particular, the "Wakanda forever" motif definitely needs an equivalent in their native Wakandan dialect.

Is it quite the groundbreaking masterpiece I remember? No. Is it still a particularly strong origin story for a superhero? Absolutely.

Made By Me, But Made Possible By:


Build: Gatsby

Deployment: GitHub

Hosting: Netlify

Connect With Me:

Twitter Twitter

Instagram Instragram

500px 500px

GitHub GitHub

Keep Up To Date:

All Posts RSS feed.

Articles RSS feed.

Journal RSS feed.

Notes RSS feed.