Wow. Just wow! I saw Black Panther over the weekend and I was absolutely floored by how good of a movie it turned out be! Based on the traffic on the site over the weekend, it looks a fair number of people came to check and see what I though of it. Apologies for not posting this review sooner, but I always like to take a day or two to think about my responses–positive or negative to reflect before coming online to talk about them. I also watched several reviews (spoiler and non-spoiler) to get a feel for how other critics were talking about the movie (I only watch reviews after I’ve already seen something–too many “non-spoiler” reviews give away too much of the plot by focusing on the story. And this is one story that you don’t want spoiled! Sure, thanks to foreshadowing, you can see somethings coming in this movie, but still, it really, really works!
A Great Marvel Movie
One of the things that I want to stress is that this is an excellent Marvel movie. Don’t think this is some cheerless dirge -like epic. The filmmakers expertly crafted humor, drama, pathos, action, and suspense into the movie. If you liked other Marvel movies, then you’ll like this one. However, it also has a sprawling, epic feel to it. The setting–Wakanda specifically and Africa, in general–is almost a character in itself and is very much a visual spectacle. The colors really pop (esp. later in the movie) and I really like the way the filmmakers integrated the music into the narrative. Really impressive stuff.
A Great Story–Plot
This is also where the movie shines. Don’t worry, as this is a non-spoiler, I won’t talk about the specifics. However, I will say, from a plotting standpoint, this is “aspirational” for me. I would love for my stories to show this level of drama, suspense and action sequences. The filmmakers–for me, at least–got the mix pretty much perfect. I’ve seen a few reviewers ding it for not having enough action, but I think that, much like any other “origin story,” the filmmakers chose to focus on the introducing us to and developing the characters rather than on slam-bang action. There are definitely action sequences, but they aren’t there at the exclusion of everything else and they make sense in the context of the story, unlike other movies that I could name.
This is where the movie truly shines. The characters in this movie are awesome! There isn’t a character who did not land in terms of characterization, motivation, or development. I have to say that all the characters really exhibited a pathos that was interesting to watch on screen and really helped to engage me as an audience member. As a writer, I saw the true power of characters to literally “pull” the audience into the story and then propel them to want to finish the story (again, aspirational for my own writing). There are standouts of course, but I don’t want to highlight too many, for fear of spoiling things, but I will say that T’Challa has a sister and her banter with her brother is not to be missed. Her lines are some of the best in the movie (humor-wise) and reminded me of the banter that my uncle and I shared before his untimely passing.
I’ve talked a few times about Afrofuturism on this blog in relation to school, but I’ve never really defined it. Black Panther is probably the best representation of it that I’ve seen on-screen yet. Afrofuturism is about the African/African-American experience, but rather than focusing on the past, it instead looks to the future. Sure, there are references to the past, but rather than dehumanizing, the subject of Afrofuturism acknowledges that the past happened, but it looks to a brighter future with technology and with heart to note that a brighter path is open to all, if we only have the courage to embrace it. While I may be reading the movie with an Afrofuturistic lens, it does have elements sci-fi that help to make it a movie that isn’t just stuck in the past retreading the same old ground.
Overall Grade: A+ (Excellent)
Really, this movie is an Excellent movie and does all that it sets out to do exceptionally well. Is it perfect? Of course not. Again, some say it doesn’t have enough action. I noticed that the very first mission (few scenes) are very dark (although my suspicion is that this is on purpose to make the colors pop when you first enter Wakanda, but it does make it hard to see the very first action scene). However, I try to grade movies (or other media that I review) with the same grading scale colleges use and Excellent is used when there are either no blemishes or the blemishes are so minor that they don’t detract significantly from the overall experience. I can’t decide if this is my favorite Marvel movie yet (although I think it might be), but I can safely say that it is in my Top 3. I’m glad that the filmmakers and actors got a chance to make this movie and that I got a chance to see it! I don’t usually make recommendations–but in this case, I’ll just say, if you’re at all interested in Marvel movies, or are just curious as to what all the fuss is about, to me, this one didn’t disappoint.