Black Panther, the newest film set in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, starts strong. It opens with an artistic narration by Sterling K. Brown over a diorama representing the history of Wakanda. The introduction feels fast, it gives you enough context to enjoy the film without dragging things out with exposition.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t keep that speed. Black Panther’s greatest shortcoming is its pacing. It is two hours and fourteen minutes long, and it feels like it.
Imagine if you were watching The Empire Strikes Back for the first time, and right before his climactic battle with Darth Vader Luke and Obi-Wan spent 10 minutes talking about how Vader was actually Luke’s dad. It would spoil a huge twist to first-time viewers, it would slow down the movie, and ultimately, it would steal the impact from Vader’s iconic line.
Black Panther has this issue. Characters discuss twists before the audience sees them and it robs the viewers from what could be some really impactful moments. Had more ended up on the cutting room floor, Black Panther would have been a far better movie.
Luckily, there is still a lot to like about the movie. For one, it’s villains, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger and Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue, are some of the best in the Marvel universe. Both the script, and Jordan’s acting, carve an intimidating and complex figure in Killmonger. And, in true Serkis tradition, watching Ulysses Klaue is just fun. It’s entertaining to watch his manic mannerisms on screen and see how much joy the character takes in just being a villain. He also injects some much needed humor into Black Panther, which is one of the more dramatic Marvel movies so far.
The heroes were also enjoyable to watch. Chadwick Boseman does a great job as the Black Panther, although it would have been nice to have seen him in action more during the movie. Danai Gurira does a wonderful job as Okoye, She’s likable, and when she delivers a joke it always lands. Martin Freeman. returning as Agent Ross, is also a highlight, and he gets a much bigger role in this movie than he did in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
The music is another highlight. Ludwig Göransson, who composed the score for Creed, and worked with Donald Glover on his Childish Gambino albums, did a fantastic job mixing African and American sounds to create what is probably the Marvel universe’s best original score. The sound is unique and memorable, and I honestly wouldn’t mind just listening to the score, which is something I can’t say about other Marvel movies. Kendrick Lamar’s original music is also good, but it’s less memorable than Göransson’s contributions to the soundtrack.
Finally, Black Panther is just a beautiful movie to look at. The color palette is vibrant and unique, the purples in particular catch the eye, and like its music you will remember certain shots and genuinely look forward to seeing them again.
Black Panther might not be the best Marvel film, but it does do some things better than any of its predecessors. And while it does suffer from pacing issues and a bad habit of telling over showing, A memorable cast, score, and good while still flawed script make it an enjoyable movie-going experience, albeit not a perfect one.