Black Panther ★★★★½

Half Shakesperean, half-James Bond, all afrofuturistic, BLACK PANTHER is the superhero whose supersuit has identity politics on its sleeve. It's delightful how the film does not shy away from tackling controversial issues of race, colonialism, family and nationalism.

The world-building in this film - as in all great sci-fi works - provides full immersion in the location and culture being depicted. You really BELIEVE in Wakanda, the same way the characters believe, and that is essential for the success of the story being told. Moreover, BLACK PANTHER grasps precisely the tension between the concepts of utopia and dystopia, especially when considering the opposing points of view of the main characters: King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman, restrainedly regal) and Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, extremely captivating).

One of the best things about BLACK PANTHER is the multiplicity of perspectives one can have regarding several of the characters and themes highlighted by the script: is Killmonger a real villain? How much of T'Challa's decisions are made due to a position of privilege? Is interventionism or isolationism the best approach? Is the CIA agent (Martin Freeman) a symbol of cooperation or manipulation? Is the "africanness" of the film truly empowering or simply tailor-made for globalized neoliberalism? Is Angela Bassett a goddess? Apart from the last question (whose answer is quite obvious), those are all points to be interpreted and discussed, and the film is clever in keeping them quite open.

The production design and costumes are jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and it's been a while since I last listened to such a memorable score in an action film. The ensemble cast is perfection (with Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira particularly brilliant), with everybody having a moment to shine - and there are lots of those moments.

All in all, it seems that superhero films from the Marvel factory, when politically laden (IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 and now this one) somehow manage to escape a formulaic approach. Of course that a good director helps (and Coogler here is nothing but terrifically ambitious and talented), but it seems that maybe this might be a way to overcome the spandex-and-cape fatigue: bring on the big ideas!

PerseuEvans liked these reviews