It seems like we have reached a point where we get a new Marvel film ever season. This past November we saw the latest Thor film. In May we will see the Avengers assemble once again for “Infinity War”. Following that Ant-Man, will return for “Ant-Man and the Wasp” in July. If that wasn’t enough, this week we get the first “Black Panther” solo film. That is four Marvel films within nine months. No wonder Disney owns the box office. They even have that little “Star Wars” franchise to pick up a few bucks between the superhero adventures. The reason I bring this up is because with all the Marvel films that have been released recently and will be released soon, it is hard to keep things fresh. Although “Black Panther” follows the same formula as the rest of the Marvel films and suffers from predictability, it does manage to feel fresh and new. This is thanks in no small part to director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (“Creed”).
“Black Panther” opens in 1992 Oakland, where Prince N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown of TV’s “This is Us”) is reluctantly killed by his brother King T’Chaka after learning of his betrayal to the African nation of Wakanda. To make matters worse, N’Jobu’s young son Erik was left behind to prevent the people of Wakanda from learning the truth about the family deception. Cut to present day, Erik (Michael B. Jordan) is now grown up and has become a deadly military trained man with the nickname, Killmonger. His intension is to take the crown from T’Challa as well as the power of the Black Panther.
When Erik shows up to Wakanda with a gift in hand to grant him access, it doesn’t take him long to challenge his cousin and win the crown. Erik doesn’t just want to rule the nation however, he wants to distribute the advanced Wakanda technology and weapons to Wakandan operatives around the world. This was his father’s original plan before he was killed. T’Challa is not alone. With the help of his love interest, Nakia (Lupite Nyong’o), his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), his mother Romonda (Angela Bassett), and an out of his element, Agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), they plan on stopping Erik and taking back the throne.
One of my biggest issues with “Black Panther” is that it feels too long. Running 134 minutes, things don’t always move along smoothly. There is a ton of action, but not all of it is thrilling. The first time we see Black Panther fighting in the jungle, it is so dark that I found it difficult to make out what was going on. That isn’t always the case however. We get a fantastic tracking shot action sequence that takes place in a casino and is easily one of the film’s best sequences. That leads into a fun car chase in which Shuri is taking part via remote control.
One of the strongest elements in “Black Panther” is the villain. Jordan is wonderfully charismatic as Erik and could be the best we have gotten since Loki. Although Andy Serkis has appeared two other times as Klaue, he is finally given something of interest to do and he seems to be having a great deal of fun. We don’t often get to see Serkis in non-motion-capture mode, so its great to see the actor get some actual screen time. Danai Gurira (of TV’s “The Walking Dead”) is also great here doing what she does best, kicking ass. The cast in “Black Panther” it top notch.
“Black Panther” is an absolutely-beautiful looking film and it’s easy to see how Marvel was able to spend a great deal of money creating this world. Although the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” film is still my favorite visual spectacle in the Marvel cinematic universe, “Black Panther” comes in a very close second.
I really wanted to love “Black Panther”, especially knowing how important the film is leading into the next phase of Marvel films. It’s clear that the character is going to play an important part in the future of the series and with good reason. “Black Panther” is an important movie for many reasons, the first being a cultural one. 2018 is going to see some big changes in the movie industry. Despite all the important elements in “Black Panther” it is honestly not much more than another comic book movie and will probably be enjoyed more by those who aren’t expecting something completely different and totally new going in.
By: Marc Ferman