Black Panther ★★★½

The non-spoilery version is that this was a very good movie, and I think probably one of the better stand-alone superhero films of the recent wave--after it ended, my biggest concern was that Marvel would do something like blow up Wakanda in Infinity War, or something equally tone deaf. As it stands, the chance to soak in the environment of Wakanda, to take in this world that T'Challa inhabits, is invaluable in getting a sense of what he's fighting for and what he WANTS to protect. Likewise, Michael B Jordan is a great villain (I've seen reviews saying he's the best of the Marvel villains--I don't know if I'd go better than Loki, but he's really good), partly because his character is compelling--doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, so to speak, but also partly because he doesn't ACT like a villain in a movie like this is really supposed to act. It's refreshing--I don't know how to describe it, really, other than to suggest that he acts like a character in a superhero movie that's watched superhero movies before. In a less carefully-cast film, he'd definitely overshadow the hero, but luckily, Chadwick Boseman brings a sensitivity and an equal sense of self-awareness to his portrayal of T'Challa. Its his eyes, I think, and his scenes with the women in his life, especial Letitia Wright---he's just as entranced with the world around him as the audience, more so even, and that zeal for life and joy carries over into his performance. The plot is Marvel-Movie-Straightforward in the way it hits certain common notes--probably the weakest link, really, but thematically it's deeply compelling, and there's a lot to chew over tonight. The music is great. Look of the film is great. There are cybernetic rhinos. The 3D in the screening I saw was serviceable--some scenes, such as the opening truck rescue, were a bit underlit and frustratingly hard to make out, but the action scenes taking place in brighter-lit environs were a joy to watch, and Coogler made good use of the screen's depth-he has that shot where the camera follows a character from the back walking through an environment towards somebody, and he uses it four or five times, but you always care about where the character's going, and it's always a source of drama as to what they're going to do when they get there.

Also, did I mention there are cybernetic rhinos?

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