The first Marvel feature of 2018 has landed and looks sure to be one of the biggest films of the year. Long-awaited and much-needed, Black Panther has undeniably struck a chord with audiences worldwide. Our Stephanie hailed it as “a refreshing and exciting movie that promises to take the superhero genre to new heights” and awarded it five stars.
Now the wider ORWAV team have gathered together to discuss the film and whether they thought it deserved the coveted 5/5 rating:
Carmen – 5/5
Black Panther is vibrant, immediate, and tremendous fun. Chadwick Boseman is given ample opportunity to develop the titular hero he made so compelling in his all-too-brief Civil War appearance, but the film belongs to its ladies: Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, and Danai Gurira command the screen as the elite fighters and scientists of Wakanda. The world building is impressive in its effortlessness and meticulousness – Ryan Coogler’s vision is more coherent and vibrant than the MCU’s typically vague sense of place. And finally, we have a truly great Marvel villain with understandable motivations outside wanting to rule the universe in darkness. Eat your heart out, Thanos.
Rhys – 4/5
The characters of Black Panther are its secret weapon – a cast of dynamic, complex, appealing players imbuing this superhero flick with heart, depth and grit. I could have watched two hours of the Afrofuturist, Shakespearean politicking at play and it would have been perfect. But when the Marvel box tickers arrive, Coogler drops the ball somewhat. Weightless CGI action eats into runtime that would be better served building on the mirrored arcs of T’Challa and Killmonger, which had even more allegorical potential to mine. Inordinately effective when given the space to breathe, Panther needed less bang and more buck.
Matt – 3/5
There’s no denying that Black Panther is Marvel’s most important film; a game-changer for representation in blockbusters, which is reason enough to buy a ticket. But I came out of this feeling similarly to Doctor Strange; the hero works well, but everything around them from pacing to spectacle is lacking. It’s teeming with plot but not a lot of character; the Wakandans in the movie are surely competent but their personalities are surface-deep. Letitia Wright’s Shuri comes off the best by far, with wit and enthusiasm that are impossible not to like.
It’s probably Marvel’s most disappointing film, not least because the trailers promised something truly fresh and new.
David – 4/5
Watch Black Panther in your nearest cinema. Now. Witness an audience finally receive their long-required, desired representation. This feels like a “moment to experience”, even greater than Get Out early last year. Luckily the hype is mostly deserved, thanks in large to how talented director Ryan Coogler is. At the age of just 31, he handles this monumental pressure to deliver a deft, exciting, and fresh blockbuster.
There’s weightless CGI and early pacing issues, but Black Panther delivers. Three cheers to Coogler, the endlessly charming Michael B. Jordan, and the wondrous Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o in particular.
Cathy – 4/5
Erik Killmonger is the biggest strength of the excellent Black Panther. Michael B. Jordan has provided the emotional core of every Ryan Coogler film to date, and that remains true here. Writers Coogler and Joe Robert Cole burden Killmonger with the weight of history and the pain that it entails. He is the greatest villain to ever grace a superhero film because, in truth, he may be the most heroic. As part of the Disney industrial complex, he is condemned to be a foe, but Jordan ends Killmonger’s story with the sublime beauty reserved for the heroes that last.
Kambole – 5/5
Black Panther, a film which has deep importance for both myself and black audiences around the world, has finally been released, and it really delivers. It’s exhilarating to behold, and stands apart from the rest of the MCU thanks to not just its stacked cast, thoughtful world-building, gorgeous costume and set design, and minimal references to the other movies, but also Ryan Coogler’s confident filmmaking. Mixing afrofuturist spectacle with quiet reflections on blackness, Coogler creates Marvel’s best villain yet with Killmonger; his clash with T’Challa has meaning unlike any other Marvel film. In short, all hail the king.
Rachel – 3/5
In a joyously refreshing turn of events for franchise filmmaking, Ryan Coogler brings his eye for directing character-driven drama, presenting small-scale dialogue-driven scenes that beat out all other Marvel films for their human realism. Black Panther is far more sophisticated than the glitzy style and banter-flinging of the Avengers, but it hints at something even better. Disappointingly the moral complexity of Wakanda’s place in the world is a potential left unfulfilled. Despite fabulous world-building and great roles for Jordan and Nyong’o, the final product ultimately suffers from oversimplification, a commonplace final-act showdown, and, let’s be honest, a bland protagonist.
Joni – 5/5
One of the most riveting things about Black Panther is how defiantly it shrugs off the typical restraints of the Marvel continuity. Infinity Stones? Don’t need them. Fellow Avengers already waiting patiently in Wakanda to be called up to duty? Relegate them to the post-credits. Black Panther doesn’t shun the MCU outright, but Ryan Coogler is far more interested in contextualising his film in the history and present-day struggles of people of colour – that’s what matters to Wakanda and its people right now, not whatever some purple-suited madman is cooking up in the far reaches of space.
Jack – 4/5
Black Panther marks a lot of strides forward for the MCU, from racial representation to better female characters and a genuinely sympathetic villain, but also hits the studio’s familiar beats with style. The action starts clunky, but soon steps its game up as Erik Killmonger reaches T’Challa’s vibrant Wakanda, and Marvel continues its hot streak of taking us to worlds we’ve never seen with this sort of budget and scale before. All of the performances are great, with Michael B. Jordan stealing the show with an overload of charisma – vital for a superhero film that places family and legacy ahead of world-saving.