By now you probably already know that Marvel’s latest blockbuster superhero movie Black Panther is breaking records for pre-sale tickets and is being discussed passionately for the cultural impact of such a mainstream blockbuster with a cast and crew of predominantly people of colour from around the world.
Plenty of people are rejoicing in being able to have a full cast of heroes, villains and supporting characters for their children to look up to beyond the usual token minority casting of other Hollywood tent pole films and plenty of people are feeling threatened by it, or are otherwise manufacturing the same moral outrage they level and movies like Mad Max: Fury Road for giving real action roles to women.
This review isn’t about any of that, because thankfully Black Panther is in cinemas now and we get to judge it on its merits as a superhero comic book movie in the 10th year (holy crap) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
First of all, Black Panther is not a movie that tries to spoon-feed its audience. Plot points and dialogue are well constructed and lots of things are called back as important later on, but unlike most Hollywood movies it's expected that the viewer will be capable of following along without constant heavy-handed repetition to make sure you didn't miss anything.
Personally I feel this is a big plus, and with an overall plot that hits many familiar notes (as you do when dealing with both Superhero movies and stories about the succession of a royal line) it still manages to be fresh and at times surprising without dropping the ball on continuity.
Overall it's a strong story well told, and it gets full marks from me.
Up there as one of the highlights of this movie, Black Panther's cast of characters are more than just diverse and blacker than the Hollywood norm, they are fantastic characters played by genuine talent.
Chadwick Boseman is a perfect fit for T'Challa as the protagonist with one of the most genuine emotional arcs of the Marvel roster and Michael B. Jordan is fantastic opposite him, his role is the villain Killmonger more than making comic-book movie amends for any damage done by Fant4stic.
The real stars of this movie are the women in the supporting cast however, with Letitia Wright killing it as teen phenomenon and royal tech-whiz Shuri, while Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira are stand-outs as the fierce Nakia and General Okoye respectively.
Despite such a packed cast, almost every character in Black Panther has their own arc of progression and even the adaptation of Black Panther's somewhat two-dimensional comicbook rival Man-Ape is a genuinely well developed character thanks to Winston Duke's performance as M'Baku of the Jabari.
Despite all the character and plot, this is absolutely an exciting action blockbuster. Super-powered combat, larger battle sequences, shootouts, hand to hand duels, multi-vehicle chases and even a full blow sci-fi ship to ship dogfight make this not just action-packed but full of enough variation to keep the tension and outcomes from getting stale or predictable.
Even with trailers for Marvel's Infinity War making it clear that some characters are certain to survive this movie (maybe not ideal timing of the over-stuffed release schedule) every sequence has legitimate tension that held my interest and in some cases had me on the edge of my seat.
Film Victoria can be proud to have their logo attached to the visual effects of yet another gorgeous blockbuster, but despite the quality of the CGI and effects, the real visual stand-outs are the costuming department.
It's clear from the get go that this movie and the nation of Wakanda are totally unique to anything we've seen before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even in mainstream Hollywood movies generally, but the costuming and visuals truly bring that to life with complete success.
Ever since Guardian's of the Galaxy the big temptation for superhero movies has been to stuff the soundtrack with classic hits that are so recognisable that the movie automatically taps into the cultural nostalgia for those huge songs, but thankfully Black Panther's soundtrack avoids that trope, with a fantastic score and great songs by Ludwig Göransson and some original tracks from Kendrick Lamar that work to give the movie its own flavour and feel without feeling like a gimmick.
Along with the costuming and visuals, the soundtrack really brings the locations and emotions of the movie to life in a big way.
The concept for a Black Panther movie first gained momentum with Wesley Snipes as the lead back in 1992, then got back onto the slate when the MCU was realised after the success of Iron Man. But what is the concept for this movie beyond "another Marvel movie, but with the first black superhero as the lead"?
Just like the Lion King, Black Panther is almost Shakespearean in much of the character and conflict, but instead of African animals singing songs, it's a science-fiction African nation with riches and resources capable of changing the world, with a costumed Superhero as their King.
More than that, right here and now in 2018 Black Panther is a movie that continues the growth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, injects new and interesting flavour into the decade old mix, gives some long overdue representation to a major global demographic and manages to touch on some pretty important cultural and political topics with some admirable grace.
I'm sure plenty of Producers considered this movie to be a risk in many respects, but you can't argue that it lacked potential when the end result is so definitively good.
I'm getting worried that this is going to be the first movie or game to get a perfect review score from me, not because it's not deserving but because I usually consider myself to be a relatively harsh critic.
In this case, more full marks as I failed to come up with any flaws, plot holes or failings that stood out at any stage during or after the movie.
Black Panther is a movie that really delivers.
I could knock some marks off here just because the Marvel superhero thing has been going on for so long and with DC up and running in their own way, there's definitely some over-saturation in terms of blockbuster Superhero comic book adaptations.
But that would be a disservice to Black Panther as a movie.
Although it fits into the MCU, it's also a complete stand-alone movie, and one that absolutely brings freshness to the cinema in style and content that can only be described as original when compared to the Hollywood landscape.
This movie is completely self-explanatory, no prior comic-book knowledge, no previous Marvel movies, no research into the over 50 years of the Black Panther character required.
Add to that the unique appeal and cultural impact of such a huge mainstream movie being so diverse, the comfortable fit in the PG rating and the added bonus of having much of the important dialogue clearly subtitled due to the multiple languages being spoken, and it's another Great rating for Black Panther.
I want to see more of Wakanda, I want to see more of Black Panther, I want to see more of Shuri, Nakia and Okoye and importantly for Marvel, I can't wait to see what happens next to this shared universe with the upcoming Infinity War.
It feels wrong to ever call anything a perfect movie, but Black Panther certainly earned high praise from me and I'll be seeing it again soon. Just as Taika Waititi did with Thor: Ragnarok, Ryan Coogler has carved out his very own piece of the Marvel Universe in his own way, and it's a fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable thing to behold. Get out there and see it!