Black Panther – Good, Bad & Ugly Review

T’Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. – (Source)

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 98% (Critics) / 76% (Audience)
MetaScore: 88 – Universal acclaim
Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Written By: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya and Martin Freeman
Studio: Marvel Studios

The Good:
Ryan Coogler did a good job helming this film. The finished product was a visually appealing and (for the most part) energetic experience that showed no technical flaws. I think my favorite aspect of the film aside from the deep dive into the culture of Wakanda is the way a significant portion of the first half of the movie felt like an African James Bond movie culminating in the awesome casino scene that transitioned into dual high speed chases.

The cast was wonderful from top to bottom especially the women in Black Panther’s life who really took center stage and owned this movie. Lupito Lupita Nyong’o was not just a romantic interest but a kickass hero herself. Letitia Wright’s Shuri, the kid sister to the Black Panther, was a wise-cracking delight while also being a younger, hipper version of the Q character in the Bond franchise. And Danai Gurira was so awesome as General Okoye, the leader of the elite all women Wakandan security force The Dora Milaje. Gurira’s Okoye dominated every scene she was in both when in action and just standing there glaring.

That isn’t to say the fellas didn’t show up too. Chadwick Boseman continued his solid interpretation of T’Challa and he was gifted with 3 adversaries who all rose to the occasion. Michael B. Jordan was all malevolent charisma as black sheep Erik Killmonger, Andy Serkis looked to be havign the time of his life playing the despicable Ulysses Klaue, and Winston Duke was a towering presence as the multi-layered rival ruler M’Baka. I could stand to see a solo M’Baku movie because there is so much abotu the mountain folk and M’Baku as a character that could stand to be fleshed out. Heck I would greenlight a movie featuring Shuri, Nakia and Okoye zooming around the globe having exciting adventures ASAP if I were Kevin Fiege.

And I would be remiss to not mention the beautiful set designs and costuming for Wakanda and it’s citizens. The Wakandan skyline was beautiful, the intricate nature of the throne room and Shuri’s lab. The way all of the colors on the clothes just popped and how each tribe had a distinct look to them from their clothes to hair to jewelry or other accoutrements. This was just a gorgeous movie.

The Bad:
At 135 minutes there was a point midway through where the film dragged a bit.I also got distracted at times by just how blatantly CGI the fight scenes looked especially in big action set pieces that happened in daylight.

As much as I was sucked in by Jordan’s overwhelming charisma as Killmonger I really didn’t buy into his master plan all that much. His motivations of abandonment and jealousy-fueled/griefstricken rage were totally convincing, his whole bit about arming the black and brown folk of the world to do a flipped colonization though didn’t work for me at all and at times his dialog was just so groan inducing.

I was also a bit confused about Daniel Kaluuya’s W’Kabi who was presented as close like a brother to T’Challa yet who turned on his “brother” so easily and fully. It seemed like a chunk of his character’s motivations were left on the cutting room floor.

And considering how bad a record Marvel has when creating cool villains I don’t quite understand the need to bump them off so casually. Also my fanboy feelings are hurt that we didn’t get any kind of nod to the way Ulysses Klaue looks as a full blown villain in the comics. Granted, pink and red bodysuits are not something that would pop well on a movie screen, it would have been nice to call back to his goofy comic book look in some way.

The Ugly:
I like Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick Boseman is a damn fine actor. I am a huge fan of the character of T’Challa in the comics and was really looking forward to seeing Boseman spread his wings in a solo BLACK PANTHER movie and Boseman did a perfectly fine job in the role. But sadly Boseman got overshadowed by pretty much everyone in the cast especially the women in his life (notably Shuri, Okoye and Nakia) and his adversaries in Killmonger and M’Baku. I get the understated regal grace that Boseman was going for but it made his T’Challa seem small when surrounded by so many bigger personalities and acting performances. That needs to change in future movies before Black Panther faces the same obstacle as Batman and ends up being the least interesting character in his own movies.

Final Verdict: A cultural achievement that also works as a really enjoyable action movie and lands near the top of the Marvel Studios catalog of films. Go see BLACK PANTHER, you will not be disappointed at all.

Grade: B+

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