While Marvel's Black Panther film isn't debuting in theaters until Feb. 16, the reviews are in, and — wow — they're good.
The critics, all seemingly bored of the traditional Marvel movie equations, are lavishing praise upon director Ryan Coogler for shaking things up.
Not only does Black Panther's nation of Wakanda shine as much as any of the excellent characters in the film, but the critics say this chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels much more real than any before it. The one sore spot, at least according to some critics, is that the fight scenes are OK, but could stand to be much better.
Here's what the critics are saying about Black Panther (which currently has a mighty high 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes):
The New York Times
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Over at The New York Times, Manohla Dargis praised the film for its emotional power and fantastic cast.
"As with all Marvel screen ventures, the story has a lot of moving parts, but in general the results don’t register as the same-old superhero busywork, the kind that makes for forgettable stories and strenuously overinflated running times."
"[Michael B. Jordan] is a terrifically charismatic presence and there are times when you wonder if he might have made a better Black Panther."
"There are sequences in Black Panther that may make you cry because of where they go and what they say, but also because of the sensitivity [Coogler] brings to them. He makes some savvy story choices too."
"Race matters in Black Panther and it matters deeply, not in terms of Manichaean good guys and bad but as a means to explore larger human concerns about the past, the present and the uses and abuses of power."
While Vulture's David Edelstein praises the cast of Black Panther for their performances, he's one of the critics who point out that the fight sequences should be better.
"Black Panther, starring Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the African king who fights evildoers in the guise of a wildcat, is unusually grounded for a Marvel superhero epic, and unusually gripping."
"Better, the filmmakers have surrounded Black Panther with women who are not just worthy of him but frequently leave him in the dust. Nyong’o’s flame-haired Nakia is one, but your gaze will be drawn (or commanded) by Danai Gurira’s General Okoye, another 'Grace Jones–lookin’ chick' (tall, bald) with open contempt for guns and a samurai’s dexterity with a long spear."
"Black Panther’s fight scenes are better than in other Marvel films, but they’re still a disappointment from the maker of Creed."
In her review at Polygon, Joelle Monique praises the acting in Black Panther and highlights Michael B. Jordan's stand-out performance as the villainous Erik Killmonger and Letitia Wright's scene-stealing work as Shuri, Black Panther's sister.
"Played by Letitia Wright, Shuri is a revelation. Wright steals every scene with her bright smile and perfect comedic timing. From a brazen middle finger to a sense of fashion and confidence in the face of imminent danger, Shuri is an inspiration for all."
"In his second turn as the Black Panther, [Boseman] is as flawless as ever. The king Boseman has crafted is the opposite of the martyr Tony Stark or the soapbox-standing Steve Rogers. T’Challa is exactly the kind of leader everyone hopes to serve — soft-hearted, able to make tough decisions, and always putting his people first."
"I have never cared for a villain the way I care for Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger. He is the crown jewel of an incredibly wealthy project."
"All of Wakanda is constructed in harmony with the natural features of the land. Production designer Hannah Beachler has created some of the most unique sci-fi spaces in recent memory. An entire subway runs through an underground cave system. The throne room is built into a mountain. Every window is placed on a curve so as not to obstruct natural lines of sight."
Los Angeles Times
In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan heralds Black Panther as "a royally imaginative standout in the Marvel Cinematic Universe."
"A superhero movie whose characters have integrity and dramatic heft, filled with engaging exploits and credible crises all grounded in a vibrant but convincing reality, laced with socially conscious commentary as well as wicked laughs that don't depend on snark, this is the model of what an involving popular entertainment should be. And even something more."
"An impeccable actor, Boseman brings the quality of belief he's brought to playing real people like Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall to the role of King T'Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther."
"With dialogue that deftly explores serious questions, such as how much if anything do wealthy countries owe the poor and oppressed of the world, 'Black Panther' draws energy from Coogler's sense of excitement at all he's attempting. The result is a superhero movie that's worth seeing twice, and that is a rare sighting indeed."
David Ehrlich, reviewing Black Panther for IndieWire, compliments the film for its individuality, but echoes the sentiment that the film's action scenes leave you wanting more.
"Nobody has ever seen anything like 'Black Panther' — not just an entire civilization built from the metal stuff inside Captain America’s shield, and not even just a massive superhero movie populated almost entirely by black people, but also a Marvel film that actually feels like it takes place in the real world."
"'Black Panther' is different. It’s the first one of [the Marvel] films that flows with a genuine sense of culture and identity, memory and musicality. It’s the first one of these films that doesn’t merely reckon with power and subjugation in the abstract, but also gives those ideas actual weight by grafting them onto specific bodies and confronting the historical ways in which they’ve shaped our universe."
"Given the gravitas of Coogler’s storytelling, and the visceral physicality that he brought to the boxing scenes in “Creed,” this comes as a very unpleasant surprise. It’s not just that the choreography in “Black Panther” lacks coherence, but also that every fight scene is undone by awful CG."