Director Ryan Coogler finally brings the legendary Black Panther hero to the big screen, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first solo film with an African-American lead. Placing heavy emphasis on the contrast between the African tribal culture of Wakanda and this nation’s futuristic technological advancements ensures a rich, thematic narrative that does not shy away from sensitive concepts of society, politics, and humanity.
Speaking of the fictional African region of Wakanda, it is utterly remarkable how the filmmakers breathed life into this mythical land of beauty, grandeur, and magnificence. Every team involved, from the art directors, to the Oscar-winning production design crew (headed by Hannah Beachler and Greg Berry), to the set decorators managed by Jay Hart, to the visual effects artists, all came together to produce an exceptional cinematic achievement in the realm of physical artistic masterpieces alone. Additionally, the costume design department (led by Ruth Carter, Oscar-winner) and the hair/makeup workers formulated extraordinarily authentic and realistic attire, from the traditional, tribal dress of the Wakandan natives (stretching across a wide array of styles and cultural inspirations), to the superhero costumes that appeared inseparable from their comic book origins.
Director of Photography Rachel Morrison captured insanely gorgeous, dazzling, thrilling, and awe-inspiring shots, from the riveting action sequences, to the sweeping scene-setting angles, to the intimate, emotional scenes that gave more depth to the well-written, deeply-developed characters. The cinematography was further supported by the stellar editing enacted by Debbie Berman and Michael Shawver.
Looking to the Oscar-winning score from Ludwig Göransson, there is no surprise that it has garnered much attention. The music is gripping, stimulating, and compelling, with the sound design crew bringing their A-game to create the most palpable impact (Oscar nominees for Best Sound Editing, Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker), and Best Sound Mixing, (Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor and Peter Devlin).
Turning attention to the acting, the ensemble cast including Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, and Florence Kasumba, “BREATHE,” all bring forth commanding performances, highlighted by the screenwriting abilities of Coogler and Joe Robert Cole (as well as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the original creators of these comic book characters). There is so much elaborate detail placed on these characters’ motivations, mentalities, and resulting actions, elements that have been missing from many superhero films in the past.
As the first film from the superhero genre to ever receive an Academy Award Best Picture nomination, “Black Panther” has made a permanent mark on film history. While I do think we definitely have had better comic book adapted films in the past ( i.e. The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Avengers, Logan), I do not think that should take anything away from the astounding achievements of the Black Panther. As a critic, I would place it on the lower end of my Oscar 2019 Best Picture nominations, mostly due to a handful of screenwriting missteps that cannot be ignored, although they were were ultimately overruled by the rest of the story’s success. Yet, I am thankful to live in a time where the Academy finally recognizes the significance of superheroes, comic books, and their cultural impact.