Black Panther ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I feel a little bad about giving this one a 4/5 rather than a full-starred rating I feel it deserves, emotionally. I'll state up front that my qualms are mostly technical: I felt too much of a disconnect during some action setpieces heavily reliant on CGI. Sometimes I'm perfectly fine with that, but it didn't completely gel with the otherwise very warm, vibrant, human aura of the rest of the film.

Still, it's the best MCU film so far, with the best characters, best music... pretty much the best everything. One of the most thrilling, enjoyable, and moving superhero movies I've seen among the new wave. It's also the most thoughtful, presenting a cast of empowered characters with far greater presence and personality than anyone in Wonder Woman (its women in particular). It is fluid with its perspectives, most vitally, giving us Andy Serkis as a blunt proxy villain right up front (looking more savage and thuggish than I ever imagined he could) before introducing a stunning Michael B. Jordan as by far, in my opinion, the MCU's most sympathetic and interesting villain. Calling him a villain is giving him somewhat short shrift, too, as he embodies one important black perspective in a film largely about black perspectives. I've said it elsewhere, but I'll repeat it here: I've even seen folks saying "Killmonger did nothing wrong" presumably in jest — this would be a fair/funny thing to say if it weren't in reference to a favorite aphorism of nazis. That makes me twitch. In truth, though, he was not plainly a villain in the wrong despite some noble motivations. It goes beyond that. It even casts in relief the hypocrisy and failures of an isolated, monarchist society which essentially wishes to remain so even as it approaches global, liberal diplomacy by the end of the film. There's much that is beautiful about Wakanda, but as a nation it faces a responsibility to do so much that it may find its political foundations shaken. Aided by CIA colonizers in the face of an uprising, it is not so much nobler than Killmonger himself.

None of the above is necessarily what I would call a failure of the film or its script. What it feels like to me is the story of T'Challa facing a reckoning: while he feels it's his duty as the new king to protect and preserve Wakanda, he also treats Killmonger with love and understanding. He wrestles with the failures of his forefathers and seeks a new path. Maybe it's just the beginning.

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