Here's what the critics are saying about "Black Panther" — it's a "masterpiece"

The first reviews of the Marvel film are streaming in, and they're even better than expected

Published February 6, 2018 1:11PM (EST)

Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa / Black Panther in "Black Panther" (Marvel Studios)
Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa / Black Panther in "Black Panther" (Marvel Studios)

This story has been corrected since it was originally published.

"Black Panther," the new Marvel film starring Chadwick Boseman, was always going to make history, was always going to be important, was always going to make money. Much like "Wonder Woman" was a big-budget, tentpole-style movie wrapped around an iconic, female comic-book character, Black Panther is centered on an iconic black comic-book figure. The film features a predominantly black cast and has a black-writer director, and it’s being distributed to a wide audience. Crucially, both arrive a little too late and right on time — long-overdue films featuring figures from marginalized populations released just when those on the margins seem more under attack than they've been in years.

But was "Black Panther" going to be actually, you know, a good film? With a stellar, deep-benched cast, including Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira, with direction and script by Ryan Coogler of "Fruitvale Station" and "Creed" fame, everything was set up for success. In the end though, you just never know about these things.

Now, it appears we do.

Overwhelmingly, the early reviews for "Black Panther" have been consistent in their praise, with some calling it a "Marvel movie masterpiece,"  the best entry from the studio so far and the superhero film America needed just when it needed it most. While no one calls it perfect — it is superhero blockbuster fare after all — its performances, direction, world building, visuals and more have all been lauded in a growing tide of reviews that should put all those "alt-right" efforts to tank its Rotten Tomatoes score in the dust. Indeed, it's currently holding strong at 100 percent.

Here's an entirely spoiler-free sampling of what's been published about "Black Panther" so far.

Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times:

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.

Pete Hammond, Deadline:

It has taken more than half a century since the debut of the first black superhero character to make it to the screen, but director Ryan Coogler has done in great style with a dazzling film that not only thrills at every turn but has real social value and importance. Its themes including the importance of a wealthy nation taking on responsibility for the betterment of the whole world especially hit home for me in the Trumpian age of America First.

Peter Debruge, Variety:

In their print form, comic books have led the way in terms of representation and inclusivity, long empowering non-white, non-male characters in their pages. Although previous big-screen examples certainly exist — among them Wesley Snipes’ “Blade” and Will Smith’s “Hancock” — “Black Panther” celebrates its hero’s heritage while delivering one of Marvel’s most all-around appealing standalone installments to date. Going forward, Black Panther will join the ranks of the Avengers, further diversifying their ranks. In the meantime, it’s awesome to see Black Power celebrated in such a mainstream fashion.

Angie Han, Mashable:

If there's a downside to Black Panther, it's that it has to end eventually. Wakanda's setting and characters made for a world that I never wanted to leave, and wanted to return to as soon as the credits started.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:

Thrillingly and thoughtfully directed and written (with Joe Robert Cole) by Ryan Coogler, the film lights up the screen with a full-throttle blast of action and fun. That's to be expected. But what sneaks up and floors you is the film's racial conscience and profound, astonishing beauty. Not just a correction for years of diversity neglect, it's a big-budget blockbuster that digs into the roots of blackness itself. Coogler, 31, has proved his skills behind the camera with Fruitvale Station and Creed, but in Black Panther he journeys into the heart of Africa to bring a new world to the screen. The result feels revolutionary.

Manohla Dargis, The New York Times:

A jolt of a movie, “Black Panther” creates wonder with great flair and feeling partly through something Hollywood rarely dreams of anymore: myth. Most big studio fantasies take you out for a joy ride only to hit the same exhausted story and franchise-expanding beats. Not this one. Its axis point is the fantastical nation of Wakanda, an African Eden where verdant-green landscapes meet blue-sky science fiction. There, spaceships with undercarriages resembling tribal masks soar over majestic waterfalls, touching down in a story that has far more going for it than branding.

Bryan Bishop, The Verge:

Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is different. Not only is it a long-overdue embrace of diversity and representation, it’s a film that actually has something to say — and it’s able to do so without stepping away from the superhero dynamics that make the larger franchise work. It’s gripping, funny, and full of spectacle, but it also feels like a turning point, one where the studio has finally recognized that its movies can be about more than just selling the next installment. In the process, the studio has ended up with one of the most enthralling entries in its entire universe.

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian:

The intriguing thing about Black Panther is that it doesn’t look like a superhero film – more a wide-eyed fantasy romance: exciting, subversive and funny.

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter:

With uncanny timing, Marvel takes its superheroes into a domain they've never inhabited before and is all the better for it in Black Panther.

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly:

[Coogler] infuses nearly every frame with soul and style, and makes the radical case that a comic-book movie can actually have something meaningful — beyond boom or kapow or America — to say. In that context, Panther’s nuanced celebration of pride and identity and personal responsibility doesn’t just feel like a fresh direction for the genre, it’s the movie’s own true superpower.

By Gabriel Bell

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