3 (out of 4)
As the streamlined sameness of Marvel movies becomes more repetitive with each successive film, these slightly more daring solo stories – 2016's Doctor Strange was radical by the studio's standards – break up the humdrum even if they still strictly follow the checklist for Disney-approved capeshit. So is Black Panther the greatest movie ever or just a competent blockbuster? Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a box office performance set to outpace the original Avengers for the highest grossing MCU film, seem to place that obvious rhetorical question into a serious light for some people.
Black Panther gets several things right, putting it more than a cut above your usual Marvel flick. The performances have dramatic weight, and the humor is kept to a minimum; the world-building, while flaky and not fleshed out, is interesting when it is in focus; and most importantly, there are no pointless connections to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe until the after the credits. The action is sparse, leaving room for an array of new heroes and conflicts – the fight sequences, though nothing more than filler, are better in general for how much the film commits to characters above all else.
Should Black Panther earn bonus points for diversity though? On some level of course, but no matter how many POCs are included, that alone cannot elevate Black Panther as filmmaking. As much of a cultural moment this film is for its inclusivity on the Hollywood blockbuster stage, it'll never resonate through the years as a watershed superhero film like The Dark Knight or the first Spider-Man by just being pretty good otherwise.
Black Panther is assuredly one of the best Marvel film's to date, and yet it's forgettable, predigested and predictable – impressive in its own context but overall nothing worth carrying on about so much.
To keep it brief...