RTF Film Review: “BLACK PANTHER“
By Tony Artiga
Black Panther is here and it is beautiful. In the decade that Marvel Studios has been in the game, they have never put out with a film as important as this one. It’s the rare blockbuster that effortlessly rises above the popcorn fare of its subject matter, and gives us a film with something to say.
Director Ryan Coogler gives us a stirring tale that follows T’Challa on his way to being crowned King and the responsibility that comes not just with rule, but with Wakanda’s potential to change the world. T’Challa’s journey is fascinating here, navigating not just the struggle whether or not to share Wakanda’s knowledge with a world that is unstable at best, but how to make amends for mistakes of his previous generation. Characters have different points of view on these matters, and the script is careful to not depict any one position as solely black or white.
This cast playing out this drama is phenomenal, and one the most solid ensemble casts of any Marvel film. There are too many standouts to count, but the most notable for me is Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister Shuri. She adds a ferocity and a spirited personality to the tinkerer character that so often pops up on these movies. Danai Gurira brings great dignity and strength to Okoye, the general of the Wakandan army. Chadwick Boseman continues the great work he started in Captain America: Civil War and he continues to unveil more layers to his performance. The real scene-stealer is Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger. He is by far the best Marvel villain since Loki, being equal-parts intimidating and heartbreaking. He is a character is very timely, and the most terrifying thing about him is that any audience member can absolutely see where he is coming from in his ideology. Out of respect for our fans who have yet to see the film, I won’t reveal too much, but his character arc is a wonder to behold.
Out of Marvel Studios’ entire filmography, Black Panther is by and large it’s most visually stunning. The word “Afrofuturism” has been used frequently on the press circuit, and it brings a truly unique and fresh voice to sci-fi design. It especially refreshing where increasingly films in the sci-fi realm tend to look like Blade-Runner Lite. And that’s to say nothing of the costume design, which is nothing short of spectacular. I could wax philosophical about it, but in true fanboy fashion, EVERYONE LOOKS SO COOL!!
I would be also remiss to not acknowledge the importance of a movie like this. It is a film that is poised to break box office records, that stars a predominantly black cast and is directed by a black director. There is a certain joy in seeing a shining example of why representation is so important in our entertainment. But I believe this film takes it one step further, by not just demonstrating the importance of representation, but also the opportunity that comes with representation. Representation opens up a whole new universe of storytelling, of design that keep our legends current and our myths exhilarating.
We have promising roster of blockbusters ahead of us in the years to come, and I hope that they all learn the right lessons from this film. I hope they all learn to have the heart and the thoughtfulness of this picture.