REVIEW: Black Panther breaks records and barriers in stunning fashion

All the way back in 1997, the world was gifted a film called “Spawn”. While this may not be one of the best movies of all time, actually it’s one of the worst, it was one of the first times we saw an African-American actor in the lead role of a comic book film.

Then, just one year later, a truly magical film hit theatres, “Blade”. Starring Wesley Snipes, this film introduced audiences to the gritty world of a “less than family friendly” comic book character and quickly became a cult hit with an African-American actor at the helm.

The reason I bring up these two films is because since then all the way back in the late 90s, there hasn’t been a modern age comic book blockbuster starring an African-American actor. For the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s taken ten years and 18 films, but the wait was oh-so-worth it.

The latest installment in the MCU is “Black Panther”, directed by “Creed” visionary Ryan Coogler. Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan head the diverse cast with Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira playing some of the most powerful female characters since last years “Wonder Woman”.

We’re used to seeing Gurira with dreadlocks and a katana in “The Walking Dead”, but in this film, she plays a no-nonsense warrior sworn to protect her home of Wakanda. She really shows off her skills of acting and performing, especially when she has a weapon in her hand. She is truly one of the best parts, running in stride with the Black Panther himself.

We’re also introduced to Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. Shuri is T’Challa’s sister and the princess of Wakanda. This actress brings a light-hearted humor to the film that would have been sorely missed if she wasn’t there. She is the brains behind all of the advanced Wakandan technology and I’m very hopeful for a future meeting between her and Tony Stark. Her snarky attitude could play perfectly with the Robert Downey Jr. character.

This film is really driven by the performances of its actors and less on the action scenes that we’ve all become accustomed to. That is most prevalent with its villains. Andy Serkis reprises his role as Ulysses Klaue, a black-market dealer of Vibranium. Serkis brings a maniacal Joker-like presence to this role. He plays a wonderful counter to the smooth and cool demeanor of T’Challa. I couldn’t help but be completely fixated on Serkis’s character whenever he was on the screen.

The best part of the film is hands down Michael B. Jordan’s performance as Erik Killmonger. Without the audience even knowing until well into the film, his character is intertwined with the rise of T’Challa to king. And while T’Challa gains a kingdom and the title of Black Panther, Erik is left alone in America and hidden from Wakanda. Erik’s father is killed for reasons explained in the film and he rightfully feels betrayed by Wakanda. He uses his hardships of being fatherless at a young age and living in the gang-ridden streets of Oakland in the 90s to strengthen himself and expose the hypocrisy of Wakanda.

After my second viewing of the film in just 3 days, I found myself close to rooting for Jordan’s Erik Killmonger. The best villains in film have always been those who you could possibly see yourself rooting for but then their radical nature sways you to the good side. And this is exactly why Jordan’s performance is so good. His ideals are clear and precise and warranted. The writing for this character as well as the performance will go down with some of the best in the comic book film zeitgeist.

Along with the acting, the visuals in this film are breathtaking. But I want to separate the cinematography from the computer-generated fight scenes. The sweeping shots of the African plains are like no other. This film is so colorful, vibrant and refreshing. It reminded me a lot of another of Disney’s classics “The Lion King”, in both the visuals and the story.

But like I said, a separation needed to be made between the CGI and cinematography because the CGI is lacking consistency. There are scenes that are gorgeous, the overhead shots of the city of Wakanda for example, but there are also scenes that look like they were made in the early 2000s, the fight scenes between T’Challa and Killmonger.

The only other falter in the film is the consistency of the actor’s accents. Specifically, with Chadwick Boseman, his accent seems to sway harshly throughout the film.

In the future, this film is going to be different than many of the other MCU films. Looking back at it like we will look back at “Wonder Woman”, this film will inspire and change. It might not have the kind of cultural impact that an Oscar-winning film like “Moonlight” will have, but “Black Panther” will surely be close.

This is a film that every kind of fan needs to see. It has the comic book continuity and vibe that fans have come to love, but also has deeper messages about race and privilege that could bolster a generation of learning acceptance to help strengthen our future.