The king of Wakanda himself finally takes the screen as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after having appeared briefly in Captain America: Civil War. Directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman as the titular king, the most pleasing thing to report about Black Panther is that they had indeed given royalty the proper cinematic welcome for audiences of all sorts. It feels relieving to see a Marvel Cinematic Universe that I can comfortably say that I liked, without any “buts” to get in the way – for after this and Taika Waititi’s entry with Thor: Ragnarok, it would be easier to hope for more superhero films that give their own directors enough room to express themselves properly without much interference getting in the way.
It’s hard enough for me to believe that this is only Ryan Coogler’s third feature film as a director – because the world building that he presents as we explore the civilization of Wakanda is beyond impressive, already setting up the film’s own identity apart from other MCU films akin to James Gunn’s efforts for the first Guardians of the Galaxy film. But at the same time, it’s shocking to me how this doesn’t feel so much like a Marvel Cinematic Universe film as a whole despite having many similar structural elements that make another franchise entry just exactly that. It’s shocking because you would only expect that a Marvel Cinematic Universe entry would keep to a specific routine that only gets tiring and what Ryan Coogler does with Black Panther is what the Russo brothers have done for Captain America: The Winter Soldier for he used the outline of Black Panther’s origin as a form of political movement because of his own world.
Chadwick Boseman’s presence as the titular prince is nothing less than enthralling – always finding a way to slip himself seamlessly into the scene making you feel there within the moment. But as a whole, his character arc is very well-rounded – after having only been given a glimpse within Civil War, yet he’s not quite the best aspect of the film. As a matter of fact, T’Challa’s own rise to the throne isn’t quite as engaging of a backstory as it should be as it plays out like the usual Marvel Cinematic Universe origin story for as expected from Ryan Coogler the best comes right out from Michael B. Jordan as the villain, Erik Killmonger. Killmonger never felt exactly like a typical MCU villain in the sense that you recognize him immediately as “bad,” as his own motivations together with his backstory present a character with reason for himself to be exactly as he is. The whole supporting cast is what keeps Black Panther strong, namely Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, and Daniel Kaluuya.
What I did wish more from though, was the way in which the climax unfolded. I wished for more here because it was cluttered – and it doesn’t quite go beyond being a long fight sequence. Granted, Coogler’s eye for action as shown from Creed is fantastic, but here, it doesn’t feel nearly like what we had known Coogler for as it just becomes overloaded with occasionally shoddy CGI. At the film’s worst, this is where it just becomes another typical MCU film, defined by the large-scale destruction. It feels like there are too many things happening at the very moment that only create a greater sense of disconnect from how Ryan Coogler had already been telling the story from the first two acts, based on how this moment compares to an impressive chase scene at the beginning set to Opps. From here, it loses the steam that carried it perfectly well, thankfully not enough to tarnish all the best qualities that it already carries.
In part I do wish that we had gotten to see more of Wakanda rather than have it put on as a background, but as an introduction to Black Panther’s story as a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it does its job well. At the film’s worst you have what already makes a Marvel Cinematic Universe film exactly that as this isn’t free of the awkward comedic timing, but at its best, what you have is a film that stretches itself beyond the constrictions that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would place over the stories that they are telling for this film doesn’t limit itself merely to being Black Panther’s rise to power, it’s a superhero film that creates its own identity with such ease because it doesn’t let other Avengers come in the way to telling the Black Panther’s story. It just feels relieving to find another MCU film that I can comfortably say I liked without any reservations.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Directed by Ryan Coogler
Screenplay by Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole, from the comics by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Produced by Kevin Feige
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis
Release Year: 2018