Marvel Studios track record since the start of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe has had very few low points.
Critics did not exactly fall in love with one of the movies (The Incredible Hulk starring Ed Norton), and since most of the MCU is now under the control of the Walt Disney empire, there seems to be a level of quality that the MCU has to meet with each of its movies, and every time that a new MCU movie comes out, there are high expectations for it both commercially and critically.
This means that “Black Panther”, the first MCU movie to feature an African-American superhero lead (Sorry, but Falcon to me was more of a sidekick to Captain America and Luke Cage is a TV series) had a lot of hype before dealing with what messages the movie would present and how this origin story would play out. To me, “Black Panther” lived up to what an MCU origin movie should be, but I also felt disappointed that we didn’t have more.
The film takes us to the fictional African nation of Wakanda, which itself is much like a superhero. They show themselves as a poor third-world country, when in fact four of the five tribes thrive off of the indestructible metal Vibranium, which came to Earth as a large meteorite. The five tribes fought over the meteorite, but a warrior ingested a “heart-shaped herb” to become the first Black Panther, and united four of the five tribes. After the death of current king T’Chacka, prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to assume the throne. In England, the supervillain Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and Eric “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) steal a Wakandian artifact, and T’Challa goes out as the Black Panther to bring Klaue back dead or alive, while keeping Wakanda’s truth a secret from the outside world. To go further would spoil the roller coaster ride of the rest of the story, but it is safe to say that there is a twist in the plot that would make Alfred Hitchcock or R.L. Stine proud.
The film is chock full of African culture that is accurate to the continent, including the use of real African languages in the film. And the visual effects used in the driving and battle sequences are up to the standards of what the MCU is known for. What I found interesting from a visual standpoint is Black Panther’s suit, which itself is laced with Vibranium, and it’s use radiates the color purple, which could be a nod to a certain film with a predominantly African-American cast, but not a color normally associated with a masculine superhero in the MCU. (Sorry, but The Phantom is independent.) It’s use not only as part of the suit, but in the first main action sequence in Korea is beautiful. Also the use of noted African-American actors and actresses in nobility roles (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett) is a nod to those people who have paved the way for a film like this to be made.
While the film lives up to the hype of a positive African-American role model superhero, and is a great story, I felt wanting more from the film itself. Normally, a film like this would leave you wanting the story to continue, but I felt I wanted more of the story itself. What exactly is the “heart-shaped herb” that is used to give the Black Panther his abilities? Why keep Wakanda’s true identity a secret? Also, the films effects, while impressive, were not the “blow-your-mind” level that we have seen in The Avengers films or in the Guardians of the Galaxy series. Is Marvel saving up their visual effects for Avengers: Infinity Wars? Maybe, and if that’s the strategy, I am ok with “Black Panther” being the visual palette cleanser before our over-indulgent main course.
The performances of Boseman and Jordan as hero and villain are incredible, as is Andy Serkis, but Serkis is used to being the heel. It’s also good to see his face, instead of his motion-capture performance.
Overall, another great ride from Marvel Studios. It’s not as high as The Avengers, but not as low as The Incredible Hulk.
But I have fair warning to Marvel Studios and Disney: I expect to be blown out of the water when Avengers: Infinity War comes to theaters!
Author Bio: Josh Widdowson lives in Western Pennsylvania, and loves movies, his girlfriend, Pittsburgh Sports, Superheroes and Movies, but not necessarily in that order. He is a frequent guest contributor to “The Inscriber”.