Black Panther met and exceeded expectations at the box office. That’s because it isn’t just a run of the mill Marvel movie.
In case you haven’t heard, Black Panther is the new king at the movies. It isn’t just because Marvel has been doling out premium content since 2008. Black Panther goes in a direction no other comic book movie has gone in terms of creating a fantastic, awe inspiring technological dream and carefully tethering it to our reality.
Pretty much every ingredient needed to make a classic movie is present in Black Panther. Beautiful visuals, tightly woven and detailed compelling plot, an impeccable blend of veteran and upcoming actors, and music that fits perfectly with every theme to tie it all together. Black Panther really will rocket into your top 5 comic book movies before you can chant ‘T’challa goooo!’.
There are many reasons why the new superhero film has been successful, so let’s break down why it’s been such a captivating movie. Fair warning, there may be a few mild spoilers ahead. So stop reading now if you want to go into the theatre with an unbiased view of Black Panther. Otherwise, tread lightly friends.
5) Director Ryan Coogler never takes his foot off the gas.
As soon as Black Panther started, it hurled you straight into the story and never let up. Ryang Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) was somehow able to create a truly immersive world without getting bogged up in trivial typical origin story quicksand. He managed to do this by interweaving Wakanda’s history throughout the film as a backstory, which comes to the forefront by its end.
The opening is a short history of the advanced nation, which worked super efficiently – similarly to Wonder Woman – and cut out the fat that usually happens with traditional superhero films. It’s a well received trend in movies and a catalyst that should be used going forward. Origin stories should be saved for prequels or TV shows to be watched in a Netflix minute.
Coogler also transitions beautifully from traditionally tribal Africa to modern day UK, South Korea and even the afterlife. Balancing out those dynamics aren’t so simple and he does so brilliantly. One minute we’re celebrating victory in Wakandan cliff-sides, the next we’re battling foes in a modern day South Korea. Just when that seems to be the pinnacle, we’re transported to the astral plane talking to deceased relatives. Simply mesmerising.
This is also exemplified by Wakanda itself, who have been able to hold onto their roots while incorporating Vibranium’s amazing technological advances at the same time.
Not too shabby for a kid who was in film school when Iron Man came out nearly 10 years ago.
4) Nearly flawless plot.
I’m using the word nearly here only because, as of the time of writing, this article is based on a first time viewing. Planning the second soon. That said, this was a flawless victory for comic-book movie-making in terms of the plot. Yup, Black Panther Johnny Cage’d the Goro that is the comic-book film industry.
Joe Robert Cole (American Crime Story both the OJ and Versace seasons) and Coogler fit in a tremendous amount of story in only 2 hours and 15 minutes. They manage to layer ancestry, familial issues, internal cultural clashes, external societal problems AND tell a coherent superhero story all at once. It’s really something to behold.
It felt like watching a Black Panther edition of This Is Us. To maintain the level of depth attached to a crime-fighting king dressed as a predatory jungle cat is straight up mind boggling. Being that in tune requires out of this world precision even the New York Philharmonic would be in awe of. Nothing short of pure genius.
Dealing with family secrets coming to light? Check. Conserving religious traditions of your progenitors while being at odds with their global diplomacy? Double Check. Highlighting centuries of oppression in the West? Chubby Checkers. It really nails all of the above and even more. Even better, not a plot hole in sight. Infinity War is going to have to contend with this juggernaut of a story. Best of luck with that, Russo brothers.
Oh, there’s also humour. Yes! On top of all those heavy themes, they even remembered to have a couple of laughs. Integrating some of the internet’s most viral videos and memes into the dialogue was done so naturally. A forced joke would’ve been cringe worthy, especially into this movie in particular, and they pulled it off so well. So get ready and buy some stylish kicks because the ‘WHAT ARE THOSE?!’ jokes are about to make a huge come back.
3) Stellar Cast.
Take a good long look at that photo. Take your time with it and pace yourselves. Come back when you’re ready to discuss. Ready? Okay. Let’s do this.
Even before Black Panther hit theatres, the casting list was too staggering to even contemplate. What’s more is that they took that phenomenal story and brought it to life, again… what’s the word of the day kids? Flawlessly.
The cast simply took the weight of the screenplay and bench pressed it effortlessly like the Hulk smashes missiles. Chadwick Boseman combines his former portrayal of Jackie Robinson with a Nelson Mandela-like leadership, embodying what it means to be King and protector of Wakanda perfectly.
Every great hero needs a great villain and Michael B. Jordan puts on a show that makes him one of, if not THE, most insidious Marvel bad guys to date. To the writers’ credit and Mr. Jordan himself, there is a grey area developed within the character that reflects much of the conflict we face across the globe right now. So as evil as his actions were, there was still an undeniable humanity to him.
The supporting cast have each held up starring roles of their own and even include Oscar winners, who were just as integral to the story as main characters. Not one performance was wasted in Black Panther. Not one. Making a sequel to this film is not an envious task because adding to that roster of riches is going to be tough to beat.
Breaking down the cast and what they bring to the table is no easy feat. So here’s a list that breaks down their incredible work. I think the entire film academy is in Black Panther. And it never suffered from over saturation. Marvel-ous. I’ll show myself out.
2) Soundtrack Album.
Welp. Seems like a certain soundtrack list needs to be updated. Kendrick Lamar matches the Black Panther movie tone and message on this album. That’s what makes this record more than a soundtrack. It’s an album that just so happens to also have music inspired by the movie.
Even before the soundtrack dropped there was much hype surrounding it because Lamar was in charge of making it come together. Seems like a trend Marvel is now willing to go with after the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, which James Gunn had to fight for at first. Lamar collaborates with the best of the best: Weeknd, SZA, Future, Khalid, Travis Scott, James Blake and more. It’s almost as if they were competing with the cast for bragging rights.
The movie really uses the music superbly and timely. At one point it’s specifically asked for during a shootout on the streets of South Korea and it worked. Bravo. Even the tribal music is highly influential on the soundtrack itself. That’s a warm welcoming change and answer to some repetitive mewling kittens and the radio right now.
Additionally, there was plenty of dancing in the seats at my showing of Black Panther, myself included. I still can’t get out the simple T’Challa gooooo! Out of my head. Can’t wait to use that when I’m cheering for Deutschland in the World Cup.
Must listen tracks: Black Panther, All the Stars, King’s Dead, Redemption, Big Shot.
‘Pray For Me’ is the one that hits home and leads to the #1 reason Black Panther is doing so well…
1) Timely Social Commentary
The lyrics for Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Pray For Me’ are as follows:
I’m tryna fight back tears, flood on my doorsteps
Life a livin’ hell, puddles of blood in the streets
Shooters on top of the building, government aiding relief
Earthquake, the body drop, the ground breaks
The poor one with smoke lungs and Scarface
Who need a hero? (hero)
You need a hero, look in the mirror, there go your hero
Who on the front lines at Ground Zero? (hero)
My heart don’t skip a beat, even when hard times bumps the needle
Mass destruction and mass corruption
The souls are sufferin’ men
Clutchin’ on deaf ears again, rapture is comin’
It’s all prophecy and if I gotta be sacrificed for the greater good, then that’s what it gotta be.
The Truest of Heroes
As the movie drew to its conclusion, tears flooded my eyes. When T’Challa says he’s going to buy the abandoned buildings in the impoverished streets of Oakland, I lost it. Why? Because in that moment he became the hero I always wanted to be growing up. It’s an ideal I still strive for to this day. I was one of those kids on the basketball court in that scene. And I imagine that there will be kids going to the theatres who feel exactly the same way.
Writer Joe Robert Cole confirmed this for me in a recent interview. “This is the movie I wish I had to look up to”. I uttered the same exact words to my nephew by the end of the film. The head on attitude this movie takes on is more than I can ever clearly state. Here’s an incredible article by our own Patrick Newberry that better exemplifies what I can’t bring justice to here.
Black Panther attacks the topics of social injustices that minorities face in their everyday lives on a daily basis. It harks back to centuries of oppression and reminds us that we do have heroes that are looking out for us. It’s given another voice of resistance to a new generation that hopefully will be influenced enough to become that hero in reality.
A true hero raises themselves up out of the ashes and does the best that they can to provide for those who can’t. They place a stronger foundation for a better opportunity for those who will come after them. Black Panther embodies the spirit of a true hero. Wakanda Forever!