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2/28/18

BLACK PANTHER - REVIEW


Marvel's latest spin-off movie, Black Panther, sees Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa finally assume the Wakandan throne following his father's untimely death in Captain America: Civil War. He soon, however, faces a powerful new threat in the form of Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).

The character of Black Panther was one of the best aspects of Civil War and that, coupled with the promise of an excellent African-American cast, meant that there was a lot of hype surrounding this movie prior to its release. Indeed, there was a genuine attempt here to introduce one of Marvel's classic heroes in a unique and progressive way, at least compared to what we've seen so far from the MCU. Mostly set in Africa, Black Panther embraces its setting fully and the culture that's on display, from the traditional customs of Wakanda's fictional yet familiar utopia to its advanced technology, is refreshingly different and appealing. This is a gorgeous-looking movie with some thrilling action sequences throughout, inventive sci-fi tech and very cool production design. As soon as the Panther appears, you know you're in for a fun ride. Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira are both excellent as super-spy love interest Nakia and warrior bodyguard Okoye respectively, while Letitia Wright offers some welcome comic-relief as T'Challa's tech genius younger sister Shuri.

The solid and charming cast is definitely one of the main reasons why Black Panther is as enjoyable as it is: everyone from Forest Whitaker to Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman delivers and this includes Boseman and B. Jordan, of course. Much like Thor, this movie does its main character justice while delivering a visual spectacle, some laughs and an altogether satisfying experience. Also like Thor, it manages to be both good and slightly underwhelming due to some, at times, unambitious screenwriting. The story, on paper, is interesting and sets everything up well but, in practice, it stagnates a lot more than it should. T'Challa's coronation takes a while and, by the time the villain achieves his big goal, it's almost time for the third act and the final fight, which feels a tad rushed. Killmonger being such a potentially fascinating character, it would have been good to see him take full advantage of his significant victory. The film also nearly falls into Disney's by-numbers trap a few times as it follows similar broad strokes to a variety of other films including Thor: Ragnarok and The Lion King. As for its politics, Black Panther certainly means well and it has an overall positive message but it gets there by skipping over often important and sadly unexplored questions.

That said, this is another undeniably entertaining and likeable Marvel movie with a lot of charm, a lot of action and a cool superhero at its heart. It's more of a wrap up to Civil War and Avengers: Age Of Ultron than it is a set up for Infinity War but it's mostly very much its own thing and that makes it well worth it for any Marvel fan.

Good times.

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