By Jase Brandt Sterling, KS — Feb 18, 2018, 12:25 P.M.
Release Date: Feb. 16, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture
Runtime: Two hours, 14 minutes
Genre: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
Black History Month continues with the release of Black Panther. Possibly being Marvel Studio’s 18th and boldest film yet in their universe, Black Panther continues to make bank at the box office and holds its Certified Fresh status on Rotten Tomatoes. It not only lives up to the series’ positive reputation, but may also exceed it in some ways. But how?
The film follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War as he struggles to take up the throne of his African home country of Wakanda, a seemingly poor country that hides its invaluable riches to not interfere with the wars of the rest of the world. T’Challa must prove his ability to rule the country to not only his royal subjects, but to himself. He doesn’t want to ruin his father’s legacy, but he also has the responsibility to fix the mistakes that have been created from it.
The story is very similar to many of the other Marvel Studios films, especially the Thor and Iron Man series, with the protagonist inheriting his father’s role as the main leader of his kingdom/company and the antagonist having a beef with both of them and trying to overthrow our hero and claim his title. Given its unoriginal core storyline, Black Panther makes up for it by introducing issues we have not yet seen in a superhero film, notably seclusion from world trade and immigration. T’Challa’s reasoning for this decision is based on fact that, in order to accept people from other countries, he must also accept the problems that come with them and doing so would endanger his country’s prosperity. T’Challa’s main enemy, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), seeks to use Wakanda’s resources to aid his fellow blacks in their revolution against the whites of America, saying that they are less privileged than them due to their unfair lack of firepower. This creates an interesting dynamic that not only affects T’Challa and Killmonger personally, but the black community as a whole.
The film is well made. Director Ryan Coogler leaves his signature of Steadicam usage throughout the film and its action sequences. While there are several night scenes involving a lot of black, there is also a lot of color elsewhere in the film, whether it comes from colored lighting or the traditional clothing of the Wakandans.
The cast is very strong. Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan lead the mostly black cast with their strong and, at times, emotional portrayals of their characters. Andy Serkis is one of my favorite actors. Of course I find his performance to be strong and enjoyable, especially since this is one of his few non-motion-capture performances. This is also Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan’s third collaboration, the first two being Fruitvale Station (2013) and Creed (2015).
Ludwig Göransson is credited for creating the film’s score and fulfills that responsibility. He doesn’t create anything substantially memorable, but he gets the job done. As for the soundtrack, Kendrick Lamar is credited for producing and being a prominent performer on it. I have not listened to it, but it currently holds critical reception that is above average.
Not only is Marvel getting bolder with its story and message choices, but they are also allowing violent content than they are previously known for. The violence is typical for a Marvel film, however, it isn’t as bloodless as its predecessors. Several characters are shown getting cut or stabbed with several of them creating gashes and sometimes small blood squirts. The sexual content is light. It doesn’t go beyond shirtless males, females wearing traditional skirts and tube tops, and a non-explicit suggestive joke or two. Along those lines, the language is lighter than most PG-13-rated films, with the worst being a small handful of s-words. You may or may not have noticed that the film’s rating includes “a brief rude gesture.” It comes as no surprise that it is the middle finger. However, it should be noted that it is a teen girl who gives it to her older brother for laughs. Other negative content includes a scene at a casino featuring gambling and drinking. Also, there is a considerable amount of rituals, dances, chants and ancestor worship. It can also be inferred that T’Challa receives his heightened abilities from a drug that is native to Wakanda. He is given the Power of the Black Panther from the Panther God by drinking a liquid made by crushing the seed of a native Wakandan flower.
Black Panther stands out in Marvel Studio’s synonymous but extremely successful franchise by exploring lots of things that haven’t been done in a Marvel movie before. The strong cast, visuals, and messages will certainly keep this film in the news for a while. I had the opportunity to see the film twice, the first time with friends who weren’t entirely caught up with the rest of the series and the second time with friends who were. Both groups yielded positive reactions and, while there are a couple flashback scenes to review select plot points, I highly recommend you catch up with Captain America: Civil War before Black Panther. I’m ready for Avengers: Infinity War!