By Zach Landau | Editor-in-Chief
Welcome to the most pointless review in the world. I’m your host, an entitled white man who values his opinion too much, and I am here to tell you that Black Panther is good. Really good. As gaudy as the phrase is, “believe the hype” perfectly encapsulates my feelings for this movie. One-part stellar superhero flick, one-part black film par excellence, Black Panther knows exactly what it wants to be and executes its vision flawlessly.
Part of that vision includes the fantastic aesthetic of the film. Black Panther is stylish, full stop. Everything from the sets to the costumes to the cinematography pushes the line between mainstream cinema and indie arthouse. The costumes were especially fantastic, and if Black Panther doesn’t at least get an Oscar nod for the beautiful wardrobes, that will be the crime of the century. I legitimately missed who was in a scene the first time I watched the film because I was so preoccupied with the outfits and makeup.
And that feels embarrassing to say, but it is true. Mainstream cinema is so starved of African and Black styles that it was easy to fall in love with a world most people have not seen. Hopefully, with the massive success of Black Panther, studio heads will finally be convinced that black filmmakers are not “risks” or niche projects and more Wakandas will appear on screen soon.
Speaking of, if there was one major criticism I could levy against the film, it would be that the scenes in the fictitious country don’t offer much in the way of a casual, pedestrian look at the empire. Sure, the throne room, Shuri’s lab, the mine and so on are all fantastically realized. But there are only two brief scenes on the streets of the capital, both of which look rather generic compared to the rest of the movie.
However, this is a minor criticism, as are my problems with pacing and narrative. There is a frankly bizarre exposition dump explaining the origins of Wakanda that opens the film, and its inclusion feels unnecessary even after two viewings. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) also feels pushed to the side a bit when she absolutely should not be. Undoubtedly the heart and soul of the movie, Nakia’s ambition and motivation forms the thesis of Black Panther, but the narrative and cinematography does not offer her many chances to occupy the moviegoer’s mind as much as she should. The biggest indicator of this mishap is the fact that most commentators and reviewers I’ve read compare the philosophies of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and not T’Challa and Nakia. Black Panther, despite its name, is Nakia’s film, but most will leave the film believing otherwise.
Again, those are small complaints. All told, the reception Black Panther has received speaks better than any review of its quality. Definitely don’t miss this one, as I have a feeling we’ll be talking about Wakanda for years to come.