The title of this movie review may seem hyperbolic to some, but trust me when I say that Marvel has created a masterpiece with Black Panther. I plan to keep this review spoiler-free and leave out details, because I want you to go in with fresh eyes and experience this the same way I did when I saw the film during its Hollywood premiere at the Dolby Theater last week.
The Black Panther movie premiere, as most of you already know, was a star-studded event, and being in the same theater where they have hosted the Oscars over several decades had me completely starstruck and in awe. I was a deer in headlights as a myriad of stars walked past me, or casually approached with a drink in hand and chatting up their sycophants. Ava DuVernay, Donald Glover, Janelle Monae, Seth Rogen, James Gunn, and Don Cheadle were just a small sample of the celebrities present. I even had the pleasure of speaking with David Oyelowo, who was curious about the name “Black Girl Nerds.”
Seated in the row behind prolific author Tananarive Due and Entertainment Weekly columnist Anthony Brenzican, I was excited to share my thoughts about what we were about to experience. So let’s get down to the hotness that is Marvel’s Black Panther, shall we? Let’s start with the press release summary of the film:
T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.
The opening of the film sets the tone and a great deal of backstory for the plot of the entire movie. So pay close attention to the scenes before the title credits appear, because that nugget of information will play a key role in the film’s narrative.
The plot for Black Panther plays out in several different directions and there are a lot of moving parts. I liked how Coogler and the team seamlessly took various parts of T’Challa’s timeline and wove them all together in this feature film. It was risky because, in most cases, this can cause a film to become confusing and end up all over the place. However, Black Panther carefully places its puzzle pieces to fit nicely around each of the subplots and storylines.
The action scenes in Black Panther are definitely a step up from what I’ve seen in previous Marvel movies. I once thought Captain America: Winter Soldier ranked the highest for the best action scenes in a Marvel superhero flick, but I was wrong—Black Panther now takes this worthy mantle, as we see T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) fight for his own mantle in the film. The action scenes felt real, and the stunt actors move gingerly amongst each other so well that during their choreography you can see punches and kicks with perfect precision. Out of the fight scenes, my favorites were Dora Milaje general Okoye (Danai Gurira) taking on a 50+ crew of antagonists single-handedly, and the ultimate fight between Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and T’Challa. Both of the scenes are revealed in the trailer, so nothing is being spoiled here—they just happen to be the best fight scenes in the film.
If you want to know who the scene stealer is in Black Panther, that award goes to Shuri (Letitia Wright). She steals damn near every scene in the film, and I’m 110% confident that audiences will walk away talking about Shuri long after the film ends. I’m also confident that Wright would be able to hold a Shuri Black Panther solo movie on her own. Let’s remember that in comic book canon (during the Reginald Hudlin run), Shuri takes on the Black Panther mantle and becomes ruler of Wakanda. It would only make sense to bring in a Shuri movie at this point. I also would like to add that the focus on her being the smartest person in the universe is strong here, and many characters in the Marvel universe—including Tony Stark himself—have a lot to learn from Shuri’s technology and skills.
There may be a moment that will leave some comic book purists feeling confused or wondering what will happen to the fate of one of the characters in the story. If you look to my post called “BGN’s Black Panther Set Visit 20 Things I Learned That Will Blow Your Mind” under number 14, let’s just say that there were some creative liberties taken from comic book canon between those two characters. I’m also curious to know the fate of one of them, since they have yet to be announced in Avengers: Infinity War. Again, I’m trying to be as vague as I can because I want you to experience this film blindly like I did.
The final word: it’s afro-futuristic and Blackity-black as hell. It’s everything I’ve ever desired in a live-action version of this popular superhero and yet so much more. Quite frankly, the experience is indescribable. I left the theater wanting to see this movie at least 10 more times. I already know that Black Panther‘s weight in gold at the box office will be in repeat viewings, because we just won’t want this cinematic experience to end.
I plan to see it again opening weekend. And again after that. And again.
Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, with Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.
The film is directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Nate Moore, Jeffrey Chernov and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole wrote the screenplay.
Marvel Studios’ Black Panther opens in U.S. theaters on February 16, 2018. You can purchase tickets via Fandango here.
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Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online community for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She's the primary film critic for BGN and is a member of the Critics Choice Association.