Director Ryan Coogler
Genre Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
Cast Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Martin Freeman
Release Date February 16th, 2018
Directed and co-written by California native Ryan Coogler, Black Panther is the origin story for one of the most impactful characters from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Black Panther was introduced to audiences in epic fashion in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, setting the stage for the upcoming stand-alone film. Coogler partnered with Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker on his debut project, Fruitvale Station, which also starred Michael B. Jordan. All of Coogler’s films thus far have included Jordan in a starring role (he was also the lead in Creed), and so far it seems to be working out pretty well. The cast for Black Panther includes Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, and Martin Freeman.
Further cementing his rightful place as one of Hollywood’s most intriguing young talents, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is an exhilarating experience with a very powerful message. The hype train for this movie left the station weeks ago, and right out of the gate it was labeled as one of the biggest movie releases of 2018. Expectations this high can be a recipe for disaster, but you can rest easy because Black Panther delivers the goods. Complete with a riveting soundtrack thanks to breakout artist Kendrick Lamar, this is a film that NEEDS to be seen in an IMAX or RPX theater. The way the soundtrack and score is integrated into the transition between scenes is just awesome. The CGI is incredible as expected, yet it never feels overly relied on, which I really liked. This equates to some absolutely thrilling action scenes, one of my favorites being a variation of the scene most people will be familiar with from recent Lexus commercials. Black Panther hits a high note in pretty much every category that matters, and I am honestly hard pressed to find a weak spot. Some may argue that it is a little slow at times, but that is to be expected of a true origin story as it sets the table for what's to come next. And don't worry, it really doesn’t feel slow. A few jokes have been getting thrown around social media saying that the marketing for the film has made it seem like the fictional East African nation of Wakanda is actually a real place (which it's not of course), but I feel like that speaks to the amazing attention to detail that went into this film. Much like Black Panther's core values, Wakanda is representative of unity and hope, and for that reason people want it to be a real place. And to take it one step further, people want society as a whole to try and somehow adapt the beliefs and universal understanding shared by the people of Wakanda. At least this is the message that resonated with me.
I can't help but compare Black Panther to Captain American: Civil War, or even Thor: Ragnarok, for obvious reasons, and it holds up extremely well next to both. What I will say is that in my humble opinion, this movie isn't quite as enjoyable as the two aforementioned Marvel films, when it comes down to "brass tax" which is just how fun a movie is. Ragnarok had the advantage of New Zealand-inspired fun and goofy humor although, it doesn’t quite contain the message Black Panther is able to deliver, and Civil War had an unfair advantage considering the fact that not only did it give audiences a peek at Black Panther, it also includes pretty much every other Marvel superhero, complete with an epic battle scene. But make no mistake, all 3 films deserve to be considered some of the best superhero films to hit the big-screen because they are just that, and each one has its own unique feel which fans will appreciate. It really is amazing what Marvel has been able to do with their movies in the last few years, handing the proverbial keys to the castle over to relatively unknown directors. First, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo blew critics away with Captain American: The Winter Soldier, ensuring they would get the opportunity to blow everyone away with Captain America: Civil War, which they did with ease. Now, the Russo brothers are hard at work with the film of all films, Avengers: Infiniti War, and much of the same is expected.
Looking past the success of the Russo brothers, who prior to The Winter Soldier were best known for You, Me and Dupree, little known New Zealand native Taiki Waititi was offered a chance at Thor: Ragnarok, and he delivered one of the most successful films to date from the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Now, 31-year old African American director Ryan Coogler gets his shot, a shot that may have seemed unlikely in a time where movie studios are hesitant to throw money at anything less than a sure thing, but at the same time aren’t we in a time where anything with Marvel attached to it is pretty much a sure thing? Born in Oakland, CA, director Ryan Coogler has been on a mission since graduating from the University of Southern California’s school of Cinematic Arts. Prior to Black Panther, Coogler’s resume included Fruitvale Station and Creed, both of which he wrote and directed. I have become somewhat of a fanboy of Coogler after he blew me away with his directorial debut Fruitvale Station, which was an experience I will never forget thanks to the theater full of people left in a stunned silence after the film ended. It was really something special. Coogler followed that up with Creed, the Rocky Balboa vehicle co-starring Sylvester Stallone, and he crushed it yet again, further showcasing his raw and intimate directing style. This guy is unquestionably someone that will continue to rise in the Hollywood ranks, and for me it shows a bright future for the industry.
The acting in Black Panther is absolutely phenomenal thanks to a stacked cast. Chadwick Boseman is an actor many of us should be familiar with by now, and he was the perfect choice for Black Panther. Boseman is a very versatile actor, and his ability to display raw emotion backed by flawless body language is a huge reason why he plays this character so well. Now when it was first announced that Ryan Coogler would be directing Black Panther, I knew he would find a way to get Michael B. Jordan involved, and he found the perfect role for him. Jordan is amazing as Black Panther’s nemesis, and it doesn’t hurt that he seemingly bulked up quite a bit for this role. The big fight scene between T'Challa (Black Panther/Boseman) and Killmonger (Jordan) is absolutely fantastic. I was extremely pleased with the performance from Letitia Wright, who plays Black Panther’s sister. As a relatively unknown actress, Wright has an incredible on-screen presence, and she quickly became one of my favorite characters. Former Hobbit star Martin Freeman is back in the Marvel Universe yet again and he delivers one of his better performances as Everett K. Ross. Andy Serkis is fantastic as he provides the comic relief as notorious bad guy, Ulysses Klaue. Forest Whitaker is great even though he has a limited role, and it was fascinating to learn that Whitaker actually partnered with director Ryan Coogler to help him get Fruitvale Station made. I could go on and on- it’s just a fantastic cast from top to bottom.
Black Panther will be the topic of discussion for quite a long time for a variety of reasons, and most people will reference the fact that at its core, the movie simply "matters" more than most Hollywood blockbusters. This is a statement I can get behind 100% because it’s spot on. The depth of the Black Panther origin story has many layers, but beneath it all, the message you should take away from it is pretty simple- as human beings if we are doing well ourselves and have the ability to help others who may not be doing so well, we should help in any way we can. Now when I read the initial reviews I was slightly concerned that the movie may feel too political, therefore taking away its ability to entertain the audience. I mean, let's not forget that at the end of the day this is supposed to be entertainment and that is why we buy a ticket in the first place, or at least that’s why I do. But Black Panther doesn’t feel political at all, it is actually genuinely refreshing in the way they were able to convey such a message without trying to sway you one way or the other. Black Panther is a blast of a movie that will only get better with multiple viewings, and as I mentioned before, try and see it in a theater with premium sound if at all possible. Highly recommended.