Black Panther (2018)

Culturally-authentic, powerfully anchored by Chadwick Boseman’s royalty of presence, fluid in action sequences, afrofuturistic, & one of the most compelling villains in the villain-problematic MCU by Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, Black Panther is one of the best MCU movies – and a groundbreaking milestone for representation. 8.7/10.

Plot Synopsis: King T’Challa returns home after the death of his father 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.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Official CLC Review

The Black Superhero Is Here

From Silver-Age 1960’s Stan Lee x Jack Kirby Creation To Cinematic Debut in Civil War, A Verve Icon Of Black Power

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios

Fantastic Four #52 – July 30th, 1966: Writer-editor Stan Lee and comic book legend Jack Kirby release the first-ever comic of a black superhero in mainstream American pop culture. The king and protector of a fictional African nation of Wakanda, Marvel’s hero reimagined the role of superheroicism for a new audience – black children and the young-at-heart who dreamed of having their own version of symbol/ideological figure that Superman was to the vast majority of America. Predating the political coinage of the term by the radicalized socialist Marxist group The Black Panther Party later that very year, the hero managed to personify the culture and proud African heritage of black people across the world – and became the most famous (and perhaps: best) black superhero to-date 50+ years later. Ever since 2016’s Civil War first debuted Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of the character to magnanimous applause and praise and 2017’s release of Wonder Woman breaking down gender barriers in cinema, I could not wait to see T’Challa get his own film – though I was apprehensive with MCU movies after the comedic slew that was Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of The Galaxy, Sp(Iron)-Man: Homecoming, etc. wondering if they still could make a serious movie that respected a character of this importance. I’m happy to say they succeeded. Culturally-authentic, powerfully anchored by Chadwick Boseman’s royalty of presence, fluid in action sequences, & one of the most compelling villains in the villain-problematic MCU by Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, Black Panther is one of the best MCU movies – and a groundbreaking milestone for representation.

The Visuals & Afrofuturism

From Wakanda To Korea, One Of The Most Cineamatographically-Diverse & Georgraphically-Astonishing MCU Ones

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios

The film is a sight to behold, with afrofuturistic vibe and sharp attention to detail & cinematographyabove that I’ve noticed in past Marvel movies. The film is laced with African fabrics, tribal patterns, and tons of iconography that screams our native homeland from which all terrestrial life first emerged. The CGI is great (except for in the last final scene), with Black Panther’s suit beautifully Man Of Steel-reminiscent in argyled textural work, dark tones with purple detailing, and wiskable fabric for a fantastic suit amongst the best in the MCU, top-notch world-building of the empire of Wakanda Chadwick Boseman said was one of the first Marvel movies to be given free-reign and unlimited budget on creating from embers, and a fantastic fluidity of action sequences from its first African jungle one on the outskirts of Wakanda in the night. The fight scenes are ambitious and the film tonally a diverse cinematographical product boasting everything from purple-skied spiritual dream sequences at the Tree Of Life to present-day Wakanda having painting-like mountain ranges and waterfall ritual sites to futuristic-looking neon-lighted Korean streets that make for an artistic product that is exceptionally easy on the eyes.

The Cultural Importance

A Groundbreaking Blockbuster Proud Of Its Heritage That, Like Wonder Woman In 2017, Paves A New Era Of Globalism

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios

Easily the biggest achievement of the film though is the breathtaking experience and appreciation it paints of African culture, brought to the forefront of the biggest stage of movies in the world right now: comic book films. The character of Black Panther was built on civil rights principles more than 50+ years ago, and any film bearing his name had to match that same groundbreaking representative spirit today: and we’re glad to say it shines through. The film wears its African heritage and traditions proudly on its sleeve and it is extremely refreshing how much of a pure celebration of this beautiful culture it is. The costumes, decorative ensembles, location settings, dialects, and everything else is authentic to the cultural promise the film and filmmakers made from the beginning – and it warms our hearts thinking about how young people of color, both black and brown, will start to see films like this and enjoy the power of representation that white people have felt for centuries in moviemaking. As a POC myself, I can only dream of having my culture be represented on the big screen like Black Panther – and this is a magnificent first step towards that idealized vision. Together with Wonder Woman’s release back in 2017, the power-duo might be the most diversity-groundbreaking two blockbusters to ever come out of Hollywood – and they have the power to change entire marketplaces and blockbuster moviemaking from the very foundation; a new era of cinematic globalism.

The Soundtrack

A Wildly Out-Of-The-Box Blockbuster Score Of Everything From Tribal Drums & 808’s; Sonicism; Kendrick Lamar/SZA

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios

The soundtrack of Black Panther is equally a tenet of importance; it is one of the most unique and incredible soundtracks I’ve heard in a film of this magnitude in years. Boasting a credits-list of superstars across the Hip-Hop/R&B spectrum – from The Weeknd to Kendrick Lamar to SZA to Schoolboy Q to Future to Travis Scott to Swae Lee to Khalid, the film meshes everything from tribal drum sequences and traditional African music to booming modern 808’s and hi-hat clad beats for a wildly-imaginative and impressive soundtrack that feels both old and new. Marvel and Coogler tried something out-of-the-box here foregoing a normal orchestral cinematic score, but it fits brilliantly and furthers the mission of showcase of black culture and talent across its spectrum sonically with the evolution of its music throughout decades and centuries for a complete picture its painting in all sensory aspects. The film might even challenge the status quo that there always has to be an orchestral-dominated score – and we’re all for films including more music from popular playlists if they can make it work like it does here.

The Performances

A Powerfully-Anchored Collection Of Performances Led By Chadwick Boseman’s Royal, Czarlike, Polished King

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios

The performances are strong as well. Chadwick Boseman stole the show back in 2016’s Captain America: Civil Wa – when his jaw-dropping introduction to the MCU via fight-scene, impeccable Ta-Nehisi-inspired freeform suit, and Babalawo-crafted dialect promised great things to come. Boseman certainly does not disappoint in his live-action solo film debut: he brings such a royalty of presence, an autocratic and polished/refined protagonist of King T’Challa that it elevates the class and pedigree feel of the film around him. Since his days of 42, he’s come a long way and the talent glimpses back then are on full-display here in this career-making role he knocks out of the park – a grand slam. The rest of the performances are good and a collection of much of the highest talent black cinema has to offer in actors/actresses right now: Letitia Wright’s STEM-focused Shuri, Danai Gurira’s vicious Okoye, Lupita N’yongo’s layered romance-interest Nakia, Daniel Kaluuya’s regal W’Kabi, Angela Bassett, Sterling K. Brown, Winston Duke, Trevor Noah, John Kani, Denzel Whitaker, etc. Then there’s the two white cameos (haha) of Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman.. which I wish they would’ve just went full groundbreaking-mode and achieved only on its black actors/actresses because it can and would show up the Hollywood scene with a famous double-standard and refusal to give POC the same opportunities and representation as white people for over a century. Across all the performances of the film, none is on the level of Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger: one of the best villains the MCU has ever seen!

The Villain

Finally: A Great Villain In The Villain-Problematic MCU – And One Of The Best Of Any Comic Book Film By M.B.J.

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios

Killmonger is one of the most compelling villains Marvel films have ever produced. A Black Ops soldier tired of seeing his people needlessly killed by police brutality and racism – as well as their culture besmirched by whitewashing and gentrification, he is the lost prodigal son who wants to take back the throne for himself by combat to correct this injustice he sees in the world. Motivations are typically cookie-cutter or even nonchalant for most comic book films and especially MCU movies, but Killmonger’s Malcolm X war-to-the-streets and The Dark Knight Joker strategic/anarchic ones MBJ took inspiration from are extremely believable and empathizable given the centuries of oppression and slavery their people have endured worldwide while Wakanda keeps their advanced weaponry and wealth hidden to themselves (Killmonger’s even arguably: correct, which makes him such a level-above villain). His black-and-gold reversal costume of T’Challa’s and overall design looks incredible – taking cues from DC that the best villains are oftentimes exact reverses of the hero (from Reverse Flash to Sinestro to Legion Of Doom), combat style and choreography next-level, Mursi and Surma tribbal dots representative of kill-count intimidating, and it’s all brought to life by Michael B. Jordan’s sledgehammer performance. The power, rage, pain, and tenacity MBJ brings to the role elevates Black Panther into the top tier of MCU films – the best villain since Loki as far as we’re concerned.

Flaws

Klaue, Finale CGI, & Wright’s Shuri

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios

The film’s biggest flaw: Ulysses Klaue is absolutely AWFUL. Goofy, not intimidating in the slightest, and spewing classic-Disney/Marvel quippy one-liners like “check out my mixtape” and singing “What is Love?” evokes cringes that near-eviscerate the plausibility of taking this seriously as an art piece. At least his shenanigans are sequestered in the first act as the only lame comedy in the entire film and just an appetizer to the main course of Jordan’s purely evil and intimidating reverse-Black Panther, so it’s still a passable gripe. The CGI in the finale Killmonger drop is unfinished and a bit PS2-ish, how did T’Challa survive a 50+ meter waterfall drop untouched when gravity is.. well, gravity, and Letitia Wright’s Shuri is a bit ~annoying in parts with smart-alecky, condescending lines like ‘Uh, another white boy to fix‘ (um.. what?) and responses like “Is this Wakanda?” with “No, it’s Kansas!” – a pointless reaction-evocation for no reason (and I’m not even white). Plus, Killmonger’s motivations do draw Wakanda’s ethics into question making great points or even being arguably-correct, perhaps not the best look for your hero.

Conclusion

A Milestone In MCU & Blockbusters

A Triumph Of African Heritage Celebration & Superheroicism With Power To Revolutionize Hollywood

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios

Overall, Black Panther is an absolute triumph and deserves its praise and all the social-fueled hype surrounding its release. This film, like DC’s Wonder Woman did back in 2017 for women, has the power to revolutionize the movie industry and bring representation and the power of filmic storytelling to a whole new group and color of people. The film feels simultaneously old and new-school, a talented prospect by director Ryan Coogler. Culturally-authentic, powerfully anchored by Chadwick Boseman’s royalty of presence, fluid in action sequences, & one of the most compelling villains in the villain-problematic MCU by Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, Black Panther is one of the best MCU movies – and a groundbreaking milestone for representation. Wakanda Forever.

Official CLC Score: 8.7/10