Black Panther ★★★★

Like Get Out last February, Black Panther has been the recipient of huge amounts of attention and accolade this February. I've been looking forward to Ryan Coogler's return to directing after fantastic work in both Fruitvale Station and Creed. That his favorite film is Un Prophet, one of my favorite films of all time, only adds to my love for his work.

Here, Coogler (and his best bro Michael B Jordan, who really stands out among an otherwise stellar cast) creates a new mythology and adds a commendable new hero to the Marvel Comic Universe. Bringing his socially conscious, deeply written, and thoughtful auterist approach to this character, not unlike what Taika Waititi was able to do with humor and Maori folklore in Thor: Ragnorak, Coogler's Black Panther is a film wholly concerned with the inner dynamics of its characters and the world of Wakanda.

For me, these were some of the most fascinating themes in the movie, the tensions between isolationism and global engagement. The differences between T'Challa's leadership style and T'Chaka's leadership. The allure of building an internally vibrant and strong culture in a community but the inevitability of having to open up your community because none of us can truly live in isolation. As the world contends with nationalism, refugee crises, and a political fight between being more open or more closed, it was fascinating to see these themes show up on screen in an MCU film.

This final point may be more of a personal preference, and I clearly see the arguments against it, but I really do prefer when auters like Coogler get to work on their own terms, rather than under the direct, workshopped, guidance of a major studio like Marvel. No matter how many of Coogler's personal touches I could see throughout the film, it was clear that the film had passed through the Marvel filters before final release. Maybe for every one movie he makes like this, which makes ungodly amounts of money, he'll get to make one or two films like Creed or Fruitvale Station.