Easily one of the most critically acclaimed films of the past year, Black Panther was considered a genre-defining and boundary-breaking spectacle of a comic book film. Tags as the “greatest comic book film ever made” were spoken constantly, mostly given by its stupendous 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and an “A+” from CinemaScore. And just recently, it snagged the biggest, or second biggest, honor in the industry. Black Panther became the first and only comic book film to ever be nominated for best picture. And is it really worthy of so much acclaim?
Flatly, the answer is no. No film could ever live up to the insurmountable hype that director Ryan Coogler and star Chadwick Boseman faced from the public and the media. In addition, even without the ludicrous expectations, this Marvel adventure is far from perfect, as it is tainted with plot holes and an increasingly stale third act. But what Coogler and company get right…they certainly get right. The film is truly a “marvel” in every sense of the word, blending political themes against a stunning backdrop of Oscar-nominated production designs, costumes, and music. And while its political themes are the key reason into why certain plot holes are so obvious and loosely vague, Black Panther is a daunting, stylish ride that offers a fresh view into a packed atmosphere, with only brief hiccups to slow the ride down.
Kicking off after the explosive events after Captain America: Civil War, Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is handed the mantle of king of his home country, Wakanda, a beautiful, futuristic environment built on the most valuable metal on the planet. But soon, an unknown enemy with the name of Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) rises up and threatens to topple the very structure of Wakanda.
Firstly, what Coogler and his screenwriters did with the first two acts of this film is truly astounding. Paced well and featuring minimal errors, characters are fleshed out and have believable motivations, outside of Daniel Kaluuya’s ridiculous character confrontation halfway through. But most importantly, the film immediately establishes the diplomatic and political themes. A particular confrontation between Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger and Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa during the second act was easily the best moment of the entire film and no one threw a single punch during the four tense minutes.
It’s a fascinating approach on Coogler’s part, however it makes the pedestrian and stale nature of the final act even more disappointing. When setting up a story enriched by its world, Black Panther dumps it all in favor of a CGI-bloated collage, where all sense of realism is tossed out the window. And while there only is so much realism that can be integrated into a comic book story, especially one involving war rhinos, Coogler did such a fantastic job establishing that rare believability factor and political collection of themes, so for him to simply destroy all of its potential in favor of a commonplace final act was devastating to me as a viewer.
In fact, the approach of the first two acts juxtaposed against the third act is anything but harmonious. For a film that clearly wants you to think about its messages and themes, it’s almost amusing that when you think more about the film, the more logical fallacies and flaws that appear.
But the issues that do arise can be easily forgiven thanks to a dazzling production. Each location feels distinctive and wholly unique, blending its futuristic elements and African roots stunningly. The creative and bombastic costuming is a brilliant display of craft that is certainly deserving of its Academy Award nomination. From Shuri’s (Letita Wright) extensive and seemingly never-ending wardrobe of blue, red, black, etc. to T’Challa’s patterned clothing, the outfits that the characters wear are unquestionably dazzling, emphasizing the strange realm that Coogler’s film exists in—between its historical African foundation and its high-ended futuristic ideas. Quite simply, it’s easily the most innovative film out of the entire MCU in terms of its looks.
As a whole, Black Panther is certainly without its faults. It has a flamboyant amount of plot holes and decisively unbelievable character motivations. Coogler creates a stale and CGI-bloated third act that nearly topples over the rest of the film. But fortunately, these mistakes can be glossed over simply due to the soul and passion the production crew seemed to have placed. And Coogler’s ideas as a director are a fresh concept for a formula that has quickly degraded.
Score: 8.4 out of 10