I’d like to think I’m a big Marvel Studios fan. Nearly every movie (with the exception of “Iron Man 3” that the Disney-owned studio has released since the first “Iron Man” (2008) has been spot on when it comes to telling an epic, superhero story. I don’t believe in the “superhero fatigue” that people keep talking about either since Marvel was the ignition point for a new generation of superhero films.
But a decade after “Iron Man,” I came to a point where I wanted to see something new. I wanted to still have super heroes with super powers take on evil, but I also wanted to see what so many people who do believe in “superhero fatigue” always cite – a different story.
I believe that newness has finally come in “Black Panther.” It’s another origin film that was uniquely positioned since we already knew a little bit of who Black Panther was from “Captain America: Civil War,” where the last scene shows T’Challa aiding Captain America with healing Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier after their tense fight with Iron Man.
But instead of continuing that storyline, “Black Panther” begins with a story that sets up who T’Challa is and how he came to side with Captain America in the now divided Avengers team and storyline. In short, director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (“Creed”) did something that made me and the Superhero Fatigue people really happy – he made something new.
With Marvel’s other superhero films, the basics usually remain the same – problem, outlandish solution, conflict multiplied, a twist (?), and then a resolution that will probably lead to another problem that will carry over into another film.
“Black Panther,” however, really doesn’t follow that structure. Instead, it quickly sets up the origin story in the first half and then creates a conflict deeply rooted in its surroundings. No need for Thor to come and make a cameo to save the day. No need to create a conflict because of a super villain. It’s a self-contained story in a self-contained world within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (world).
Disney asked us not to spoil or share any specific plot points for our reviews, but I hope you can imagine what I’m describing. The story is not shallow because the first half perfectly leads to the purpose and fighting that the second half contains. There aren’t any Avengers to save the day because the world that T’Challa rules over is a secret kingdom called Wakanda who’s conflicted that they, too, must keep to themselves or else their kingdom will fall into disarray.
In many ways, Wakanda and everyone in it from T’Challa to villain Erik Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan) are a reflection of why this movie feels so different. The strength of “Black Panther” is that it wants to keep to itself. And it can!
In addition to the storytelling, there were stellar performances from those in the cast including Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Andy Serkis, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Sterling K. Brown. They all added value to the story which had multiple layers and gave us strong emotions.
Tack on the signature Marvel comedy that makes these movies lighter and brighter and you have something very special. It’s something that we really haven’t seen in 10 years. It does have it’s flaws in things we have seen in past years, however. The story parallels to Disney’s “The Lion King” are strong. The ideas that seem to flood all African-set movies like tribal life, royalty, and bloodline conflict are all in this movie. The story quickly became predictable, but those weak points quickly fade away to the beauty of Wakanda and its citizens.
While many people will be paying their money to support the “historic” nature of the film with its all-black leading cast and a big brand name powering it all, I hope people would also recognize this is a very good film because it has everything a good, origin Marvel film has.
But “Avengers: Infinity War” though…[br]
- Runtime: 134 minutes
- Rating: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture
All reviews are personal opinions and may not reflect the attitudes of other writers for DisneyExaminer.com unless stated otherwise.
These films have been screened prior to the release date for review purposes and therefore are viewed without charge courtesy of The Walt Disney Studios.