“Black Panther,” the new black Marvel superhero movie, won rave reviews with critics praising both its adventure and its portrayal of a majestic Africa. It is about damn time.
Directed by Ryan Coogler and featuring a predominantly black cast including Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong‘o and Angela Bassett, “Black Panther” was hailed by the Daily Beast as “a love letter to every black person” and “a correction for years of diversity neglect” by Rolling Stone.
The $200 million dollar Disney movie, opens worldwide and tells the story of T‘Challa, the newly crowned king of the fictional, technologically advanced African nation Wakanda, who is challenged from factions within his own country.
The movie arrives after years of criticism about the under representation of actors and filmmakers of color in Hollywood, including the #OscarsSoWhite campaign that prompted the Academy of Motion Pictures to increase diversity in its predominantly while, male membership.
It got a rare 100 percent rating from review aggregator RottenTomatoes.com and analysts expect it to bring in some $150 million at the North American box office on its opening weekend.
The New York Times said the film “creates wonder with great flair and feeling” while having a story that “has far more going for it than branding.”
Entertainment Weekly said the movie’s “nuanced celebration of pride and identity and personal responsibility” was the movie’s “own true superpower.”
IndieWire called it “the best Marvel movie so far, by far.”
USA Today said that along with the fantastical elements of the film and its James Bond-style spycraft, “Black Panther” was extremely grounded “dealing with the consequences of age-old colonialism and exploring isolation at a time when actual countries are building borders rather than breaking them down.”
Business Insider said that “Black Panther” arrived at a perfect time. “Like ‘Wonder Woman’ last year, ‘Black Panther’ is a project that fans have been waiting decades to see. And just like ‘Wonder Woman,’ it was worth the wait.”
“A jolt of a movie”
“Black Panther” creates wonder with great flair and feeling partly through something Hollywood rarely dreams of anymore: myth.
Most big studio fantasies take you out for a joy ride only to hit the same exhausted story and franchise-expanding beats. Not this one.
Its axis point is the fantastical nation of Wakanda, an African Eden where verdant-green landscapes meet blue-sky science fiction. There, spaceships with undercarriages resembling tribal masks soar over majestic waterfalls, touching down in a story.
Wakanda is home to Black Panther, a.k.a. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the latest Marvel hero to leap off the comic-book page and into his own movie. Created in 1966 by Stan Lee (script) and Jack Kirby (art), the original Black Panther — a hepcat in a slinky suit with claws and ears — debuted alongside the Fantastic Four in an adventure in Wakanda, which is powered by a mystery metal, vibranium. It was a splashy, timely entrance (the revolutionary group that shares his name officially formed that same year), and by the end of his first escapade, the Four had assured T’Challa “there’s no reason for the Black Panther’s career to come to an end!”
In the decades since, Black Panther has undergone a variety of costume alterations and adventures in the comics, some under the direction of the filmmaker Reginald Hudlin and, more recently, the author Ta-Nehisi Coates. To direct the first Panther movie, Marvel tapped Ryan Coogler, who with his last outing, “Creed,” shook the dust off the Rocky series by giving it an African-American champion played by Michael B. Jordan. For “Black Panther,” Mr. Coogler brought back both Mr. Jordan and some former crew members — including Rachel Morrison, the director of photography on his first feature “Fruitvale Station” — continuity that may help account for this movie’s intimacy and fluidity.
As with all Marvel screen ventures, the story has a lot of moving parts, but in general the results don’t register as the same-old superhero busywork, the kind that makes for forgettable stories and strenuously overinflated running times. Written by Mr. Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, “Black Panther” brings T’Challa’s story up to the present, sketches in his past and looks to his future, all while clearing room for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its other unitard-wearing warriors. (Black Panther was first wedged into the forgettable “Captain America: Civil War.”) The movie also rather too breezily establishes Wakanda as a militaristic monarchy that is nevertheless fair and democratic.