I just came from a sold out upscale theater showing of Ryan Coogler’s BLACK PANTHER for Marvel Studios.
I’m going to try to be brief. As someone who went into this having avoided all trailers, and spoilers, and special feature exposes (that in my experience is like pre-chewing your food before sitting down to eat, making it impossible for fan or reviewer to truly be surprised by a film) I was… blown away.
In terms of look, performance, direction, pathos, and humor, and rock solid action, it is without argument one of the best of the EIGHTEEN Marvel Studio Films released to date. I saw it in 3D and it is worth seeing in 3D. You don’t get the things flying into the audience effect, but the sense of looking down, and into chasms and waterfalls, plays up to 3Ds strengths. So I recommend seeing it at least once in 3D. I say once because like the original AVENGERS film, this is a film that deserves to be seen more than once.
I plan to see it in 2D when I go back next time.
This BLACK PANTHER film, released during Black History month, in my humble opinion is in a three way tie for the #1 Marvel Movie of all time; tied with the original AVENGERS by Josh Whedon and CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER by the Russo Brothers. Those three movies share one shining exquisite truth; they are not just great comic-book movies, they are great films… FULL STOP.
Okay that should be all you need, go see the film now.
Okay still here, the following contains minor spoilers.
BLACK PANTHER is a great film from first frame to last. It is masterfully done; weaving effortlessly between drama, pomp, circumstance, humor, horror, tragedy, and heroism and hope. Chadwick Boseman is astonishing as the titular character, playing him with understated grace and elegance, that carries effortlessly the weight of the film. He is the rock upon which our tale is moored.
Writer/Director Ryan Coogler in three films has catapulted himself as one of the defining directors of our age, and BLACK PANTHER is that talent writ large. This is the tale of the death of kings, of fathers and sons, and things lost in the fire, this is about nothing less than the fate of the world, and about nothing more than the grief of boys for their fathers, a beautifully developed thread in all of Coogler’s films, but never done so well as here.
Coogler takes the admonishment of Hamlet ‘The common theme of life, is death of fathers’ and uses it like a lover and a lance, to both caress and break your heart. And he takes King Henry’s complaint in THE LION OF WINTER ‘I could have conquered Europe all of it, but I had women in my life.’ and here makes of it the saving grace of the protagonist, the film, and the world.
It is the women in this film who save the world, who save the men from their self extinguishing thirst for conquest and vengeance. And taking that line from LION OF WINTER, to also mean parental and familial influence, the difference between T’Challa and Killmonger then ultimately is in their relations to their fathers, even to the structure of their afterlives, one is defined by the inspiration of his father, and one by the lack of his father, and both of them have become completely extraordinary men in staggeringly different ways because of these relations.
It makes for a film of unexpected emotional intensity and depth. Coogler as a filmmaker has my number, as tears unbidden came to my eyes in places in this film. But I would argue he has everyone’s number, if you have the heart to feel, be you Irish or Korean or Ethiopian or American, Coogler will find those places that bind us all,… and squeeze. And then he’ll hit you with the action, then the humor, and sometime when you are laughing, he will squeeze again, and the tears will rise and you will know this is a filmmaker.
And it is wonderful when a director finds his muse, and an actor finds the director that gets him, brings out his best. Coogler and Michael B. Jordan are that combination.
They join legendary director/star pairings such as:
- Ford and Wayne
- Hawks and Wayne
- Kurosawa and Mifune
- Hitchcock and Grant
- Lee and Washington
- Scorsese and Dinero
- Scott and Washington
- Woo and Yun-Fat
- Ayer and Smith
- Fuqua and Washington (It is not lost on me that Denzel Washington’s name appears with three different directors. It just shows the kind of fantastic actor he is, the longevity of his career, and that he can embody for many directors, the perfect actor).
Those pairings when they happen are the source of cinematic gold. And it happens in BLACK PANTHER with Coogler and Jordan, two of the respective best of their generation.
Simply a masterful film, with a stunning cast, and great performances. And Kudos to Kevin Feige who with 18 films under his belt, is not just producing films that transcend the source material, he has proved himself the most successful and influential film producer, in the history of the medium.Supplanting such names as Zanuck or Lewton.
It is a success richly earned.
That said, a lot of fans and reviewers care about the numbers, how much a movie makes. I do not. I could not care less if BLACK PANTHER made $1 or 1 Billion Dollars. In this day where studios own the films and the theaters; that is money that is being taken out of local economies. It is good the movie is successful in that we get more such movies from that director, that producer, those actors, but as far as making Disney richer, that does not concern me.
Now should we go back to the days of local and community owned theaters, then that matters, that we should support, because those dollars are staying in the community.
So I’m happy for the movie not because it does this much business, or that much business, I’m happy for the movie, because such visions raise us all, and the success allows such visionaries to keep telling stories.
Grade: An unqualified A+.
If you like this movie I recommend the following:
The following movies are too good, to trust in the ‘cloud’ or ‘streaming’ to always have them available, or always have them available in unchanged, unedited, or unaltered versions. The below movies deserve to be owned in physical form, in the age of digital.