Going into the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’d hope you wouldn’t see the same thing over and over that we’ve been watching since Iron Man debuted a decade ago. As the years have passed on by, watching a Marvel movie became something tedious, even though most of the films are fun and enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has done a great job with each and every film they’ve put out, but moving into their 18th film, it seems like we’ve seen almost everything and every action scene is something recycled from the previous, whether it be superheroes jumping from car to car during car chases or aliens come out of the sky and destroying the planet. Luckily for all of us Marvel fans, ‘Black Panther‘ breathes new and creative life into a somewhat stale film series in the best ways possible.
Filmmaker Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station), was the perfect choice to bring this character to the big screen as his attention to detail in storytelling, character development, and shooting action sequences is fresh and might be better than any previous Marvel film. If you’re unfamiliar with the whole story around Black Panther, Coogler gives you a short refresher course at the start of the film, showing you that Black Panther or his real name T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) comes from a place called Wakanda, which is located in Africa, but is hidden from the rest of the world. It is the most technologically advanced society on Earth, even more so than anything Tony Stark has thought up. Their society survives and is capable by a certain flower that produces something called Vibranium, which allows for big science advancements, including Black Panther’s super-suit.
As we saw in ‘Captain America: Civil War‘, T’Challa’s father (the king of Wakanda), was killed in a terrorist explosion, which leaves T’Challa the rightful heir. All seems right in the world, but it doesn’t last long as someone has stolen some Vibranium in which to make weapons and sell across the globe. That’s where Killmonger enters the screen who is played expertly by Michael B. Jordan. This Killmonger villain might be the best villain in the entirety of the Marvel Universe, because he is so layered and is actually right for believing his ways. You actually side with him due to the circumstances that is told out in such a tragic way. He’s one of those villains that you truly connect with on many levels and might agree with his reasoning.
On the other hand, we get to witness T’Challa’s struggle with his family skeletons. All this sets the stage for a couple of excellent action sequences, which are never over-the-top, but feel realistic and brutal all at the same time. It’s what we’ve needed in this Marvel Universe for a long time now. At certain points, you might feel like you’re watching a 007 James Bond film as Boseman calmly walks through each scene and is shown by his little sister (the perfect Letita Wright) all of the new gadgets and weapons he will use on his mission. The movie then cuts to an upscale casino scene where T’Challa and a few other Wakandans are undercover trying to execute their mission, which just screams the best of 007. This is also where Coogler shoots the action sequence with the one-shot setup, which is perfect.
Boseman as Black Panther is quite good, classy, and has that quiet yet strong mood as Bond had in his films without the cheesy one-liners. Surrounding Boseman is a great supporting cast, all of which get their time to shine and reveal true emotions and character development, all of which are distinguishable and original. There hasn’t been anything quite this good in the Marvel Universe until now. ‘Black Panther‘ is the ultimate superhero film and I can’t wait to see it again.
The Video: Black Panther comes with a great 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Colors look fantastic in both indoor and outdoor scenes. The scenes in Wakanda showcase rich green pastures, black and brown mountains, and beautiful costumes on the Wakandans. Bright primary colors are excellent luscious and just light up the screen at all times. Wider shots also bring excellent colors to the background without every being dull. Black levels are mostly deep and inky, with some excellent shades of black on the actual Black Panther suit. I was impressed, which also had a hint of purple to it.
Detail is sharp and vivid too with closeups that reveal excellent visual effects, textures in the wardrobe, and individual hairs on the actor’s faces. The heavy CGI never really goes soft either, which is nice and looks very realistic. There are some minor issues though, which all happen early on the film. There is some banding and a few black levels during darker sequences that are a bit brighter than normal and have some crush here and there. Also, video noise is present in a few spots. Despite these issues, the image looks great, although it’s not perfect.
The Audio: Unfortunately, Black Panther on Blu-ray doesn’t come with a Dolby Atmos track like its 4K UHD counterpart. Instead, it has a lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix. In addition to that, the whole sound is on a low level. It’s super annoying. This means you’ll have to turn up the volume significantly to actually hear anything in the movie. Once your volume is turned up past the normal volume, the audio track is quite impressive. Big explosions, a fantastic car chase, and numerous fight scenes all sound hefty and robust.
The scene in the casino is particularly engaging with a ton of ambient noises of cards being shuffled of poker chips flying across the table, or even drinks clanking together. Add to that tall of the fight noises, which is all amazing and dynamic with great directionality. The bass kicks hard in a very big way during heavy action sequences too without crossing over into rocky territory. The score is magnificent with loud drums that pack a punch as well that adds to every suspenseful and emotional tone in the story. The dialogue is clear and easy to follow and free of any pops, cracks, and hiss. I just wish this was on a proper audio level.
Audio Commentary – Ryan Coogler and Production Designer Hannah Beachler talk about making the movie in a great and informative way. They discuss the locations, the hero, the story, tone, and how they brought everything to life. There’s a ton of history behind it too. What a great commentary track.
Director Intro (HD, 2 Mins.) – Ryan Coogler intros the film and talks about the character, the comic and women of the film.
From Page to Screen: A Roundtable Discussion (HD, 21 Mins.) – Ryan Coogler and several comic book writers all sit down and talk about Black Panther in the comics, the adaptation to film, his origins, and Chadwick Boseman’s performance.
Crowning of a New King (HD, 6 Mins.) – This discusses Black Panther’s place in the MCU and how he was introduced in Civil War. His origins, costume, and family are all discussed here.
The Hidden Kingdom Revealed (HD, 7 Mins.) – This focuses on the culture, landscape and mystery of Wakanda.
The Warriors Within (HD, 6 Mins.) – Women of the film are the subject here with the few main female roles being discussed in detail.
Wakanda Revealed: Exploring the Technology (HD, 6 Mins.) – Vibranium is the topic discussed in this section and how it’s responsible for most of Wakanda’s technology.
Gag Reel (HD, 2 Mins.) – Some decent outtakes of flubbed lines, missed cues, and laughter on set.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 7 Mins.) – There are four deleted scenes in total, all of which are more character development and not action set pieces.
Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years (HD, 9 Mins.) – Basically a big montage of clips and interviews of every Marvel superhero in the MCU and how they are involved in the movies.
Exclusive Sneak Peek at Ant-Man and the Wasp (HD, 3 Mins.) – A small look at the making of the upcoming Marvel movie.
THE ULTIMATE WORD
Black Panther is the best film in the MCU thus far in my opinion. The story and characters all fell organic and real. They also have that gray area as far as who is good and who is bad in this situation. It’s not clear cut. The direction by Coogler is fantastic and the performances are excellent. I hope this is the road the MCU goes down for future phases. The 1080p HD video is great despite a few issues as is the audio mix, which I had hoped would be Dolby Atmos on the Blu-ray as well. The extras are plentiful and informative, yet a little short. Still, this releases is definitely recommended!