‘Black Panther’ takes Marvel to a whole new level (review)

Black Panther TV Spot - "Rise"

“What happens now determines what happens to the rest of the world.”

In the span of over 10 years, Marvel has done what many have come to try, and eventually fail: create a sustainable and consistent cinematic world that is only gaining popularity. Yes, it’s true that even the Comic Book Powerhouse has been at the mercy of some of those flops, including the early 2000’s Spider-Man franchise, the latter half of the ’90s Batman franchise, and yes, even the 1998 one-off, Nick Fury: Agent Of Shield, starring David Hasselhoff. Yes, we’ve seen some dark days.

But in the blink of an eye, Marvel went and created a franchise that grew to become the epitome of film franchises. Seriously, after the success of their films, everyone wanted to create their own! But one thing that always set Marvel’s films apart from the rest was one simple thing: great storytelling. From the first lines of 2007’s Iron Man to the last words of 2018’s Thor: Ragnarok, the thread that runs through every film is seamless, and displays a beautiful tapestry of storytelling. But where does Marvel go next, you may ask? Black Panther. That’s where they go.

“Only YOU can decide what kind of king you want to be.”

The film, directed by Ryan Coogler, follows the story of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who, after the death of his father, returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king – and as Black Panther – gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

Director Ryan Coogler has always had a keen eye when it comes to filmmaking. In his two previous films, 2013’s Fruitvale Station and 2015’s Creed, Ryan makes good use of every inch of space seen through the lens. Every second of film is an opportunity to tell a story, and Ryan truly tells his share. With Black Panther, the amount of information flooding into your eyes at every given moment is overwhelming, as you are suddenly exposed to the world within the world of your comic book imagination. His ability to express Wakanda as a thriving and technologically advanced nation that holds strong to its traditions and roots is impeccable. From their wardrobe (which looked incredible) to their weapons, every small minor detail held importance to Ryan. Many would have taken the opportunity to create gaudy or unconventional weapons or architecture to represent Wakanda, but not Ryan; the man makes a masterpiece out of a location.

“Yay, another white boy to fix!”

The story that unfolds before your eyes during the film is also of some importance (insert sarcastic scoff here). T’Challa makes his way directly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, which have us plopped right back into Feels-ville, as he begins to mourn the death of his father. It isn’t the familiarity of the character that engages us, but the way the characters are written and translated on screen that pull us in. The story is the arena as to which the characters put on full display their ability to connect. And connect, they do. From the stellar cast, we are given treat after treat with incredible performances! And from all roles, including Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Sterling K. Brown, and Danai Gurira. One of my favorite performances comes from the talented Letitia Wright, who plays Shuri, T’Challa’s little sister and head scientist. She has several one-liner zingers that just made the whole theater roar in laughter.

Another great aspect of the film is the subtext. Yes, that is different than just the dialogue. Black Panther is a film that goes beyond the meager hints at what is happening in our world today, and fully says how it feels. It goes from subtle mentions of slavery to stating the nature of what is “normal” in cities like Oakland, California. The film, in total, sends a very clear message that those that have access to power don’t necessarily have the power. The film even has a final meta moment in a statement that T’Challa gives, without giving too much away.

“This ends today!”

All in all, the film is powerful. I don’t just use that word in jest, either. This film is going to change the world when it debuts. Black Panther will become a clear and concise statement that we aren’t doing enough, as the United States, and that we should do more. That we are a powerful nation, but hold our arms away from others. That we help cultivate killer natures in our people, as long as it benefits our own interests (i.e., military, police, etc). But I think the best and most clear message that Black Panther tells us is probably the most prolific: no matter what color your skin is, you can be more than just a stat or a stereotype; you can be a hero.

Rating: 5/5 Atoms

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