Review: Black Panther successes outweigh issues

Jack Gross, Movie Critic

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Rating: 8/10             Worth It?: Yes

There are two Marvel movies I want to discuss. Marvel Movie A follows a hero dealing with the loss of his father as he is challenged for the throne by an outsider (who is a relative our hero never knew he had). Marvel Movie B follows a hero, who is adapting to his new position in power after his father died. He then has to face an outsider (also a relative he didn’t know about) for the throne. Very similar right? Marvel Movie A brought in $122,744,989 opening weekend, whereas Marvel Movie B made $202,003,951 opening weekend. Both films have incredibly similar plots and both had very impressive opening weekends. However, Marvel Movie B is currently ranked the #1 movie of all time according to Rotten Tomatoes, beating the likes of The Godfather, Citizen Kane, and Gone With the Wind. Marvel Movie A has no such acclaim. Now obviously I don’t believe Marvel Movie B, or Black Panther, is the best movie of all time, but there are reasons for the good reviews and extreme levels of hype.

Director Ryan Coogler tries to do things differently than Marvel’s predecessors. Movies from Thor: Ragnarok (a.k.a Marvel Movie A) and Captain America Civil War to older Marvel films like Iron Man 2 and The Avengers all have had relatively the same complaints. Coogler not only addresses theses issues in his film, he outright fixes them. These three problems are stale villains, forgettable music, and bland colors. Black Panther introduces an enticing and multi-dimensional villain (the likes of which we have not seen since Heath ledger’s Joker), a steller soundtrack led by Kendrick Lamar, and provides vibrant colors and beautiful set design. Other than just being a solid movie compared to all movies, not just movies within the  MCU. The aspects of Black Panther I would like to talk about are identity, acting, and story structure.



As shown by Marvel’s recent string of films, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2, Spider-Man Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok, fans expected a film riddled with comedic moments. What they didn’t expect was a Marvel movie that was politically-conscious and social-aware, and had more to say than other Marvel films. Rather than just preaching “Heroes have to overcome evil”, Black Panther asks a much more pressing question: “Do you have a responsibility to help the world if you have the resources required even if it hurts you?” This philosophical question is very refreshing in a series that usually doesn’t stray from genre theme cliches.

Unfortunately, this was still a Marvel movie, so it did have to occasionally rely on humor. I felt this forced humor ruined some moments and negatively impacted the flow of the film. Black Panther knew what type of film it wanted to be, and stuck to it.


Right away I felt Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challa was dull; he was missing a swagger I wished he had. Black Panther felt like a character that had no real personality, and it became hard to empathize with him, or root for him. He seemed like a generic hero that rather than making choices, simply reacted to things that were happening around him.

Killmonger however, was totally opposite. Michael B. Jordan was phenomenal, and and when you pair that with sensational writing, you have an iconic villain. Marvel movies have had a streak of one-dimensional bad guys that simply want to destroy, rule, or destroy and rule the world. Finally we have a villain with a purpose, with a reason for everything. If you look past Killmonger’s tendency to act in a fit of violence, he really makes logical sense. Why not help the oppressed? Especially when you have the resources needed. When you have a villian that has reasonable points, it makes the audience more enthralled in the story, and more excited to see how the film will end.

Also, the women in this film (particularly Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Danai Gurira as Okoye, and Letitia Wright as Shuri) played great supporting roles. Coogler made each of their characters change in some way or form. Their individual character arcs helped move the film along, and develop them as characters rather than sidekicks. Coogler’s devotion to the supporting characters is incredibly impressive, and rare in movies today. However, Everett Ross (played by Martin Freeman) felt like a character that was forced into the film so the audience could relate with an outsider during the scenes in Wakanda. His humor felt derivative, and his contribution to the story was nonexistent. Without Ross, the film’s flow and tone would have been much more defined.



I felt Black Panther’s story structure was the one aspect Director Ryan Coogler did not fix. Marvel’s three act structure system has become redundant, yet they refuse to try alternate storytelling techniques. Who can blame them though when they are still making so much money? In this movie, like all other Marvel films, you have Act One, where you set up the circumstances, characters, and problem. Act Two is where the protagonist struggles with the problem, and often fails. Finally in Act Three, after being defeated once, our hero once more tries to achieve their goal, and ultimately prevails. This style does works and is used by many other films, Marvel however, uses it so frequently that it can become predictable, and often frustrating. If Marvel wants to fix this, they need to find ways to better engineer their stories.


Black Panther is a superb film, with (mostly) well developed characters, lively dynamic colors, a revolutionary soundtrack. It’s a film that takes genre breaking risks that in the end pay off. With Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, it will be fun to see how Wakanda is utilized as a battleground for good and evil. Hopefully in the future, Marvel has more movies like Black Panther that aren’t afraid to challenge Hollywood blockbuster norms.

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