“Black Panther”: a new chapter in the Marvel franchise that takes its time but never wastes it

Cameron Coyle

“Black Panther” offers a much needed breath of fresh air from Marvel Studios with its complex characters, stellar cast and distinct style.

After being crowned king of the fictional African country Wakanda, T’Challa, portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, assumes the role of the new Black Panther and must decide how to govern his people while also trying to defend his throne.

Boseman may have been cast as the titular superhero, but the audience is reminded throughout the film that T’Challa is a king and Boseman’s performance reflects that. The familiar bravado shown by the heroes in recent comic book movies is replaced here by a meditative and restrained mentality which allows T’Challa to show growth throughout the film.

Even though he is crowned the new king of Wakanda in the beginning of the movie, Boseman shows the audience his character recognizes how much he still has to learn. T’Challa shows wisdom beyond his years, making it inconceivable to not hail him as one of the best Marvel heroes to date.

Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright all also excel in their respective roles. The three of them are connected in their loyalty to T’Challa, but director Ryan Coogler also gives them each stories that presents them the opportunity to individually show how strong they are. The intrigue surrounding them has everything to do with the energy they create on screen, not the king they serve.

While nearly every actor in the film does an excellent job, it’s Michael B. Jordan who may have stolen the show with his tremendous performance as the aggressive and contentious assassin turned hopeful king, Erik Killmonger. This is Jordan’s third collaboration with Coogler (“Fruitvale Station” and “Creed”), solidifying them as one of the best actor-director combinations in Hollywood today.

Jordan delivers all of his lines with a combination of intimidation and charisma that makes him a magnet on screen. It also helps that the script, written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, doesn’t demonize Killmonger as a blood thirsty, power hungry tyrant. Like many other good comic book villains, Killmonger’s intentions are justified but negated because of the unacceptable methodology he wishes to use. The conflict in his desires not only make him a fascinating character, but also make T’Challa’s story even more riveting.

This type of thoughtfulness is shown throughout “Black Panther.” The attention to detail and care Coogler gives these characters are exemplified in the development he allows them. There isn’t a plethora of action in “Black Panther,” but the movie never feels slow thanks to the satisfactory scenes of powerful human interactions.

“Black Panther” is not void of action either. The film allows tension to build up over scenes and then release into remarkable action sequences. Coogler provides the audience with patient storytelling that makes the combat feel deserved. This is contrary to the cookie cutter story Marvel has occasionally produced over the years that causes the action to feel like a scheduled spectacle to keep the audience content.

It would be ignorant to not at least partially credit the refreshing quality of “Black Panther” to its diversity. The film took a culture that has been unfairly overlooked by Hollywood for years and finally capitalized on its potential.  

While the characters feel noteworthy because of great filmmaking, it is also true that something new and beautiful is experienced in the gorgeous, unexplored settings of Africa and the score filled with hybrid songs composed of traditional African instruments and contemporary hip-hop sounds.

However, “Black Panther” does slightly suffer from a problem that has plagued the majority of the Marvel movies before it. The film is funny, but some jokes scarcely fall out of place and kill the tension instead of creating comedic relief.

“Black Panther” is a timely movie that delivers a message about self-empowerment and helping those in need without ever being preachy. It’s an exciting new chapter in the Marvel franchise that takes its time but never wastes its time.

I give “Black Panther” an “A-.”