Black Panther has arrived. Years of anticipation have led to this, as Marvel Studios has finally brought the legendary comics character to the big screen. Of course Chadwick Boseman made his rousing debut in Captain America: Civil War, but Marvel Studios turned to Creed and Fruitvale Station filmmaker Ryan Coogler to give T’Challa his own movie. The end result is the most substantial film Marvel Studios has ever made. An ambitious, bold, unsettling, and deeply moving story about a lot of things—a nation at odds with itself, a son reconciling the actions of his father, blackness, masculinity, feminism. That Coogler is able to juggle all of these themes in a manner that’s not preachy or off-putting, but instead wildly thrilling as a piece of commercial entertainment is a testament to his talents as a filmmaker, and to Marvel Studios’ willingness to give him and co-writer Joe Robert Cole the creative freedom necessary to take these bold leaps.
On a purely cinematic level, Black Panther is one of Marvel’s best. Cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Mudbound) brings a depth and dynamism to the frame that’s lacking in a lot of MCU movies, and the costume and production design by Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler, respectively, is astounding. And composer Ludwig Göransson continues the recent MCU trend of crafting an ambitious, almost dangerous score that serves the film incredibly well.
But it’s in its story and themes that Black Panther makes its mark, and it leaves a lasting impression. The film wrestles with issues of racism across the globe, and if Wakanda is responsible for helping fellow people of color (thereby risking their way of life) or simply protecting their own. The movie also tackles fragile masculinity, and the way in which men are taught to suppress their emotions and “act like a man,” doing what is expected of them instead of what is right and just. This stands in stark contrast to the dimensional, complex, and sharp women of the film—particularly the characters of Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Shuri (Letitia Wright)—whose greatness comes from a strong sense of self-confidence and emotional intelligence.
Black Panther is also a story about working together as a community, and it’s here where it stands apart from other MCU origin films like Iron Man or Thor. While those films were about singular men, Black Panther is about the people of Wakanda coming together to forge their future, their path ahead. King T’Challa does not walk that path alone.
So yeah, you could say I was a fan of the film. I think it’s easily one of the best (if not the best) Marvel Cinematic Universe movies ever made, and it’s no coincidence then that it also feels like the boldest, most thematically ambitious film they’ve ever made. When you find yourself emotionally moved by the “villain” of the movie, as happened with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) before, you know you’re watching something special.
But enough of my rambling. We want to hear from the fans. What do you think? Did Black Panther live up to or exceed your expectations? Does it offer the promise of a different future for the MCU? We want to hear from you, readers. Sound off in the comments below.