Black Panther (2018)

Culturally-authentic, powerfully anchored by Chadwick Boseman’s royalty presence, fluid in action sequences, afrofuturistic, & one of the most compelling villains of the MCU by MBJ’s Kilmonger, Black Panther’s a strong CBM & groundbreaking representation milestone. 8.5/10

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 status as hero — gets challenged 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 the Black Panther.

*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, who dreamed of having their own version of the 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 across the world – becoming the most famous (and perhaps: greatest) black superhero to-date, even 50+ years later. Ever since 2016’s Civil War first debuted Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of the character to magnanimous praise and 2017’s release of Wonder Woman broke the record-books for gender representation in cinema, the eyes of the world were on T’Challa in his own film – though I was apprehensive with MCU movies after the comedic slew of 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. Culturally-authentic, powerfully anchored by Chadwick Boseman’s royalty presence, fluid in action sequences, afrofuturistic, & featuring one of the most compelling villains of the MCU by MBJ’s Killmonger, Black Panther is a strong CBM & groundbreaking milestone for cinematic representation.

The Visuals & Afrofuturism

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

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios

Black Panther is a sight to behold, with afrofuturistic vibes and sharp attention to detail & cinematography above that I’ve noticed in past [comparatively-basic] Marvel movies. The film is laced with African fabrics, tribal patterns, and tons of iconography that flamboyantly translate its native homeland and cultural history to-screen. The CGI is great (except for the final scene) – with top-notch world building of the empire of Wakanda [Boseman said was one of the first Marvel movies given free-reign and unlimited budget to create its backdrop], epic fluidity of action scenes from its first African jungle one on the outskirts of Wakanda at-night, and a beautiful suit for Black Panther that’s Man Of Steel-reminiscent in argyled textural work, dark tones with purple detailing, and wiskable fabric for one of the best of the MCU. The fight scenes are ambitious and film a diverse cinematographical product boasting everything from purple-skied spiritual dream sequences at the Tree Of Life to idyllic mountain ranges out of a photorealist painting to waterfall ritual sites to hyperfuturistic neon-lighted Korean streets: an artistic product that is exceptionally easy on the eyes and deserves praise for its settings & set pieces.

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 culturally-rich experience of African culture it paints, brought to the forefront of the biggest stage of movies in the world right now: comic book films. The character of T’Challa was built on civil rights principles more than 50+ years ago, and any film bearing his name had to match that same groundbreaking representation spirit today: and we’re glad to say it shines through. Black Panther wears its African heritage and traditions proudly on its sleeve – and it’s extremely refreshing to witness the purity of celebration it brings of its beautiful culture. The costumes, decorative ensembles, location settings, dialects, and even subtle nuances in the background / periphery of each frame are authentic to the civilizational promise the filmmakers made from the beginning, and it warms our hearts thinking about how far cinema has come so that people of color can see and enjoy the feeling of total authoritarian representation on-screen white people have for decades. As a POC myself, I can only dream of having my culture represented and celebrated on the big screen like Black Panther does one day – 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 – packing the power to change entire marketplaces and blockbuster moviemaking for 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 one of the most unique and incredible soundtracks I’ve heard in a blockbuster 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 Mbaqanga/Afrobeat to booming modern 808’s and hi-hat clad 4/4 beats for a wildly-imaginative and impressive soundtrack that feels both old and new simultaneously. Marvel and Coogler tried something out-of-the-box here foregoing a normal orchestral cinematic score, but it fits brilliantly and furthers the achievement of its mission to showcase black artistic talent and culture across eras with a complete sonic portraiture of its musicianship. The film might even challenge the status-quo of big ticket moviemaking that there has to be an orchestral-dominated score to feel cinematic – and we’re all for films including more music from diverse and non-pop playlists if they can make it work like BP does.

The Performances

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

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios

The performances of Black Panther are strong. Chadwick Boseman stole the show back in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War – when his jaw-dropping introduction to the MCU via Winter Solider fight-scene, impeccable Ta-Nehisi-inspired freeform suit, and Babalawo-crafted dialect promised great things for the character on-screen. Boseman certainly does not disappoint in his live-action solo film debut: he brings such a royalty of presence, autocratism, and polished refinement to the 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; the definitive Black Panther for generations to come. The rest of the performances are good too and a collection of some of black cinema’s hottest actors/actresses : Letitia Wright’s S.T.E.M.-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 had only black actors/actresses for one film since they were so close and it would’ve showed Hollywood what it feels like to be a POC, but nonetheless. Across all of the performances of Black Panther, though, 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 [and – only] compelling villains the MCU has 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 the injustice he sees in the world. Motivations are typically cookie-cutter or even nonchalant for most comic book films and especially MCU movies, but Michael B. Jordan’s Malcolm X and The Dark Knight Joker-inspired strategic anarchism and war-to-the-streets Killmonger is fascinating and empathizable given the centuries of oppression and slavery his people have endured. Wakanda keeping their advanced weaponry and wealth to themselves and hidden is a betrayal of their people, and KM’s calling-out of the hypocrisy forcing correction by film’s end makes him a next-level villain. The black-and-gold reversal costume of T’Challa’s and menacing 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 expertly-handled, & Mursi/Surma tribal dots on his chest intimidatingly-representative of kill-count. The power, rage, pain, and tenacity MBJ brings to the role in this sledgehammer performance elevates Black Panther into the top-tier of MCU films – the best Marvel movie-villain since Loki as far as CLC’s concerned.

Flaws

Klaue, Finale CGI, & Wright’s Shuri

Photograph Courtesy Of: Marvel Studios

The film does have flaws; the biggest: Serkis’ 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?” evoke juvenile-pandering cringes that near-eviscerate the plausibility of taking the film 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 train-set finale battle with Killmonger looks unfinished and a bit PS2-ish, a plot hole present in how T’Challa survived a 50+ meter waterfall drop untouched when gravity is.. well, gravity, and Letitia Wright’s Shuri is slightly-vexatious in parts with smart-alecky lines like ‘Uh, another white boy to fix‘ and responses like “Is this Wakanda?” “No, it’s Kansas!” – pointless reaction-evocation and condescension (and I’m not even white).

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 – packed with strong action scenes, an unforgettable villain, a majesty paean to black cultural artistry, and career performance by its T’Challa protagonist. Culturally-authentic, powerfully anchored by Chadwick Boseman’s royalty presence, fluid in action sequences, afrofuturistic, & featuring one of the most compelling villains of the MCU by MBJ’s Killmonger, Black Panther is a strong CBM & groundbreaking milestone for cinematic representation. Wakanda Forever.

Official CLC Score: 8.5/10