The Black Panther character was first introduced to the Cinematic Universe in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War”, with “42” and “Get On Up” actor Chadwick Boseman in the role of Marvel’s prominent African American superhero. This new solo movie, which picks-up just days after the events of “Civil War“, has a distinct feel and style which separates it from all of the studio’s previous releases. Is that good or bad?
Co-writer and director Ryan Coogler, of “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed”, has made an atypical Marvel superhero movie. When you walk out of “Black Panther”, you’ll realize that what you just saw wasn’t really a superhero film at all – but rather a deep, family and relationship drama with a few intense action sequences. The results are mostly successful.
Boseman’s Black Panther, whose real name is T’Challa, has returned to his home in the African nation of Wakanda. The world community thinks Wakanda is a poor country, filled with uneducated farmers. But that’s far from the truth. T’Challa’s father, the king of Wakanda, was killed in that explosion on American soil in “Civil War”, so now T’Challa is poised to take the throne.
But things quickly get complicated when several foes enter the picture, including Ulysses (played by Andy Serkis) and Erik (Michael B. Jordan, who has now starred in all 3 of Coogler’s films). The “Black Panther” ensemble also includes some of the finest actors of the day: Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Sterling K. Brown, “Get Out” Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya and Martin Freeman. Everyone is quite good.
But one of the main problems with “Black Panther” lies with the story, which is often too straightforward, slightly repetitive and elongated, with some of the dialogue scenes dragging on far longer than they needed to, resulting in a pacing that is slightly off-balance. Things do perk up late with a couple of twists. The action scenes are well-choreographed and executed, but there are no “wow” moments in any of them.
Plus, out of all the characters, Black Panther himself is the least interesting. T’Challa has no arc – he’s just kinda there, while all three of the male villains, and several of the female characters, have much more of an emotional presence.
Technically, “Black Panther” is impressive: from the costumes and sets to the incorporation of music. And the Stan Lee cameo this time around is actually pretty funny. But, overall, this is not a masterpiece. Coogler does, however, achieve his goal of creating an entry unlike any other in the most high-profile film genre of today. His messages of empowerment for the African American community and minorities in general, and his political pleas for togetherness and unity, come through loud and clear.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Black Panther” gets a B-.
Running Time: 134 min.