Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira
Have I Seen it Before: Several times. Surprising given both the age of this film, and, for that matter, the age of this blog.
Did I Like It: If you don’t love this movie, you must have a reason. I’m beyond certain that reason is pretty dumb.
I could use this review to talk about everything everyone has already unpacked that makes this film great. The triumph of representation. The revolutionary depiction of people with agency with agency over their own lives who can still embrace their traditions and ancestors. The villain Erik Killmonger (Jordan) is lethal and ruthless, but kinda has a point (something some of the Marvel movies have struggled with).
I could talk about all of these things, but that would be falling short of the challenge Coogler has set for us by going three for three on making unlikely, astounding films that cannot be ignored. He has yet to fail to bring us something new, and I feel I must reach for something more.
Thus, I will dwell on the moment where the film threatens to collapse in on itself, but does not relent in being next level. I’m talking about the film’s first few minutes.
N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) tell his son, the future Killmonger about home. The movie opens with what amounts to a voice over narration. With characters—like Black Panther—that may have less cultural ubiquity, this may be a necessary evil. At the same time, it’s death on a cracker. Here, however, Coogler does what VO fails to do and embraces the visual medium he is beholden to. This sequence shows us so many things that N’Jobu doesn’t say about the world in which Black Panther exists. By the time the title of the film comes to find us, we are steeped in this world.
In lesser hands, this movie would have failed in the first few minutes. In Coogler’s hands, it never fails to compete for one of the Greatest Of All Time.
The point is this: Ryan Coogler is better than we deserve. If you’re not aware of this, you will be.