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Wayback Wednesday: Black Panther (2018)

Okoye snatching her own wig might be the best moment in MCU history.

Look. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a fan of comic books. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It doesn’t even matter if you’re not a fan of superhero movies in general. The undisputed truth of the matter is that Black Panther (2018) is an amazingly stunning movie through and through. Those are the facts! And that’s coming from someone who has a well documented exhaustion and lack of interest when it comes to all things related to the MCU! This incredible movie knocks it out of the park in every conceivable way. I’ve been a lover and admirer of Black Panther since I first saw it in theatres and with each new viewing I only grow to appreciate its artistry, its originality and its overall sense of mind-blowing joyful wonder. 

Credit: imdb.com / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Black Panther tells the story of T’Challa, the titular hero and the new king of Wakanda, a land that hides their technological advancements from the rest of the world. As T’Challa copes with the responsibility of ruling a nation, he must also handle the threat of Killmonger, a merciless foe who seeks the power Wakanda possess and challenges T’Challa for the throne.

Seeing Black Panther for the first time was one of the best experiences I’ve had watching a movie in theatres. This is one of the movies that after watching it for the first time I was reminded of how exhilarating, awesome and inspiring movies can be. I’ve seen a lot of movies that check one of those boxes but very few manage to be both emotionally moving and full of action and excitement. You guys, this is a lot of praise for a Marvel movie coming from me. And here’s my usual disclaimer when it comes to Marvel: the movies are always well made, they’re just very similar to me and I can’t be bothered to care about what’s happening in this convoluted franchise anymore. Like, I haven’t cared since that summer we all jammed out to the Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) soundtrack. 

But Black Panther stands head and shoulders above its predecessors thanks in large part to great performances and stunning production / costume design (which believe me we will TALK ABOUT). What is most refreshing about this superb superhero movie though is the refreshing way that it doesn’t need to rely on blatant connections to any other MCU movies to cultivate interest. As someone who hasn’t kept up with what’s been happening in the MCU since Loki invaded New York City, what I appreciated most about Black Panther the first time I saw it and every viewing since is that you don’t need to have a knowledge of any other aspect of the MCU to enjoy it. Not really. Ahhh, remember the good ol’ days of stand-alone superhero movies? I miss it! This is the closest the MCU has come to delivering such enjoyable simplicity. The story is smaller, self-contained and character-driven which helps flesh out the wonderful world of Wakanda and its fabulous characters. 

I remember seeing Black Panther and the Dora Milaje introduced in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and being like, “ummm yes please, I need an entire movie with these characters!” Boy, did writer / director Ryan Cooler deliver! There is no shortage of cool, badass, fun, awesome characters in this movie and the casting is top-tier. From the unbridled effervescence of Letitia Wright’s Shuri, to Lupita Nyong’o proving that she’s capable of handling any acting challenge that’s thrown at her, this is a cast of characters that are a delight to watch. Casting Angela Bassett as a queen is probably the smartest decision Marvel has ever made. Although her lack of screentime is a travesty. In everyone’s performance there is as much joy to be found as there is badassery. Look no further than Andy Serkis who is having so much fun and I love that for him. And don’t even talk to me about Danai Gurira as Okoye! How one actress can effortlessly balance one character’s fiery ferocity and deadpan humour is amazing to watch. I think she’s hands  down my favourite character in the entirety of the MCU. 

As Killmonger, Michael B. Jordan gives one of the best performances in the MCU. Certainly the most compelling any of the franchise’s villains have been. Probably because as one of the most sympathetic villains in recent memory, Jordan has so much juicy material to work with. Many times I was like, “you might be going about it the wrong way Killmonger but dang, you’re making a lot of good points.” Jordan took this role very seriously and the result is an unforgettable and powerful performance that proves he can play a villain just as well as he can play a hero. 

The moral antithesis of Killmonger but packing just as powerful an emotional punch as Jordan is Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa. This was the role Boseman was born to play. He carries himself with all the poise of a king and the righteousness of a true hero. His quiet strength and inherent charm only add to the wonder of watching him play this character, his pure magnetism going unmatched. Not many people who play superheroes go on to become heroes in real life but that’s what Boseman did with his empowering performance. It can’t be stressed enough how incredibly sad his death was but to know he’ll always be remembered for such an iconic and inspiring role is comforting to know. 

In every regard, Black Panther is a visual powerhouse. An extraordinary amount of research and creativity went into creating the world of this movie and it’s breathtaking to watch. THE WORD BUILDING. Of course there are decades of comics to look at but it doesn’t make this jaw-dropping world any less visually stunning. Everything from the history of Wakanda to its traditions and people are so well thought out and magically brought to life.

BITCH! THE MAKEUP, HAIRSTYLING AND COSTUMES!  

I need an entire coffee table book solely dedicated to the aesthetics of Black Panther because even the least important of extras is a walking piece of art. The costumes are an intriguing mix of futuristic and traditional designs, vibrant and versatile, unlike anything you’ll see in another movie. The best display of the beautiful creations is the waterfall challenge. For so many reasons, that’s one of my favourite scenes in Black Panther. Things move quickly in this movie, showing us as much Wakandan awesomeness as Coogler can. Again, it’s such a relief that this movie isn’t burdened by plotlines of other MCU movies so that the establishment of this world, its characters and its stories can be put in the spotlight. It helps that Black Panther features fully realized characters that drive the story rather than just banking on explosions and action. Even though there actually is a fantastic amount of action as well. Especially that thrilling finale where everyone once again gets to show how cool they are!

As I fully expected, Black Panther more than holds up. It’s a success in every way a movie possibly could be. The pride, empowerment and proof that anyone could be a hero that this movie gave to so many people is unbelievable. It’s no wonder why this critically and commercially acclaimed movie is so beloved by millions of movie lovers. Infinitely rewatchable and endlessly enjoyable, when it comes to Black Panther I can only leave you with two words: Wakanda Forever. 

Are you a fan of Black Panther? What are your favourite Marvel movies?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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