Home Reviews Black Panther Review: All Hail King Killmonger!

Black Panther Review: All Hail King Killmonger!

written by Damian Gordon February 16, 2018
Black Panther prepares to take on army

Black Panther has built hype leading up to the release. Now, the moment is here to find out if the revolution has finally been televised or if this an intermission.

Black Panther revolves around T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) becoming king and protector of Wakanda after his father’s murder. Unwilling to share their knowledge wealth, the advanced nation remains hidden away from the rest of the world. An outside threat is coming that will change Wakanda forever.

The film does an excellent job at world-building as a lot of time is spent exploring the lore. The audience understands the stakes for Wakanda, the people involved and the planet. I actually cared about what was going to happen, unlike in Justice League where I hoped the villain would win, so I didn’t have to sit through a sequel.

Black Panther in pursuit of enemy in South Korea

Story

The story is well-told with the structure and pacing keeping you engaged throughout. Every scene serves a purpose and leaves you wanting to see how things play out.

Shortcomings in the narrative come from the fact we’ve seen the whole prince learning to be king. There are other tropes from Lion King to James Bond. I’m kinda surprised Martin Freeman’s CIA character didn’t say he was two days away from retirement.

However, it’s not about if the road has been traveled but how you get there. That’s where this movie does great with engrossing writing that makes up for the familiar beats.

T'Challa with Wakandans onan on an undercover mission in South Korea

The movie has great pacing, which comes to such a sudden stop at a third of the way through, I caught a case of whiplash. It picks up momentum again, but the final fight wastes the build up a bit.

Vibranium reaches dues ex-levels by answering any question was always with its name, then moving on with nothing more. It’s more of a universal solution than Robitussin. It doesn’t hinder Black Panther as the quick exposition gives more time for the most vital part, the characters.

Characters Carry Black Panther

Killmonger and T'Challa meet face-to-face for the first time

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)..Photo: Matt Kennedy..¬©Marvel Studios 2018

Characters are this films backbone and why so much of it works. Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is probably the coolest villain to ever cross MCU soil. Every time he came on screen, the temperature in theater dropped and I could see my breath.

Killmonger is smart, calculated, and ever so confident as his rebellious spirit makes him the center of any room he’s in. No word is wasted as Jordan

He is built as something that should be feared and as someone who can take an entire nation down. His nail-biting meeting with T’Challa has the king puffing up his chest. All I could think of was how T’Challa is messing with a bad, bad man with nothing to lose.

Killmonger is the type of guy to walk into your home and ask what’s for dinner. Hatred has driven this man for years, he is the definition of “by any means necessary” and the definition of an awesome antagonist.

Shuri shooting at Killmonger in Black Panther

Shuri (Letitia Wright) is smarter than Tony Stark and when it comes to verbal bouts she has a free smoke. Beyond creating tech for the Black Panther, her brother, she also steals any scene she’s in.

They all feel like real people with relationships built long before the opening credits started. T’Challa and Shuri’s sibling relationship is strongest of any other, I could watch them banter all day.

T’Challa ends up with a good arc that shows him as more than a stoic king, but a king willing for change. He is someone who now has to question his whole way of life after uncovering Wakanda’s dirty laundry

Music

The music here is a character in its own right. It is lively, the ultimate hype man as it enhances great moments to epic ones.The score is a big part, the mix of African inspired rhythms and rap create a powerful resonance I couldn’t help but move to. 808 drums, heavy synths come together to make beautiful music baby.

The soundtrack is actually pretty great as it ties into the film with more than just shouting Wakanda randomly. The lyrics tie in well like Kendrick Lamar’s “King’s Dead”¬†verse that serves as the theme to Killmonger.

T'Challa and Killmonger fight at waterfall

Action

This film builds up the tension as good as any Tarantino film. Every actor is firing on all cylinders and so is the action…when you can tell what’s going on.

The best fights are the one-on-one tribal fight being visceral as they are majestic. Water splashes around as the fighters engage hundreds of feet above the ground on the side of a waterfall. Every time a fighter gets downed, guards with spears push both fighters toward the edge til someone yields or dies.

Then there’s the other side of the spectrum with the night fights, which can be hard to follow or numbingly average. All I could think during jungle fight was “wow this would be great if I could see it.”

Director Ryan Coogler has great shots that stick in my mind days later. Killmonger brooding in a burning temple, T’Challa testing his flight or standing on top the panther mountain. Coogler has a great direction in this movie that is hindered by the bad CGI.

This CGI is something I would have expected out of my high school morning announcement or The Room. Its heavy use in the final fight took me out the fight as it looked like I was watching a cartoon.

final fight in wakanda during Black Panther

Overall

Black Panther works better when it does less because the more intimate moments had me on edge more than the set pieces. It is also no coincidence that a lot of these moments have Killmonger in them.

Sketchy battles, a slow section, and mediocre CGI are the only hindrances in an entertaining tale. On the first outing, this project hit most the check boxes of a great film that has me excited to see what Coogler can do on a second go-around.


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