Black Panther Review Roundup: Critics Praise the Newest Marvel Film for Its Timeliness

See what's being said about the superhero movie which hits theaters on February 16

By Amanda Rothenberg Feb 07, 2018 12:07 AMTags

A new superhero has officially joined the Marvel film universe and he couldn't have come at a better time.

With just 10 days left until its release, Black Panther already has all the critics talking. Based on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's 1966 comic, the film introduces the audience to the African nation of Wakanda. After the death of his father, the Black Panther, portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, returns home and is tasked with the dual role of king and crime fighter.

Directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther promises action and adventure, as is customary in the Marvel world, while also giving audiences a new perspective on superhero flicks. Michael B. Jordon, Lupita Nyong'o, Letitia Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Danai Gurira and Daniel Kaluuya join Boseman for this epic on-screen adventure.

Here's what the critics think:

Marvel Studios

New York Times' Manohla Dargis touches on the novelty of the adaptation. "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. Written by Mr. Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, Black Panther brings T'Challa's story up to the present, sketches in his past and looks to his future, all while clearing room for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its other unitard-wearing warriors...It wouldn't be a Marvel production without manly skirmishes and digital avatars. Yet in its emphasis on black imagination, creation and liberation, the movie becomes an emblem of a past that was denied and a future that feels very present. And in doing so opens up its world, and yours, beautifully."

Variety's Peter Debruge writes, "Black Panther is a radically different kind of comic-book movie, one with a proud Afrocentric twist, featuring a nearly all-black cast, that largely ignores the United States and focuses instead on the fictional nation of Wakanda — and guess what: Virtually everything that distinguishes 'Black Panther' from past Marvel pics works to this standalone entry's advantage...There has never in the history of cinema been a film that allows an ensemble of black characters to take charge on a global scale quite like this."

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers raves, "Black Panther is an epic that doesn't walk, talk or kick ass like any other Marvel movie – an exhilarating triumph on every level from writing, directing, acting, production design, costumes, music, special effects to you name it. For children (and adults) of color who have longed forever to see a superhero who looks like them, Marvel's first black-superhero film is an answered prayer, a landmark adventure and a new film classic."


The Wrap's Alonso Duralde commends not just the leading man, but also the supporting characters. "This mostly rousing solo adventure surrounds our hero with such a terrific cadre of gals and pals — and sidelines him for a chunk of the third act — that he almost gets shoved to the background...Coogler plunges us into the wonders of Wakanda, and in doing so, gives us three women in T'Challa's orbit who steal his onscreen thunder: besides Nakia, there's Okoye (Danai Gurira, 'The Walking Dead'), the intensely dedicated (and drily funny) warrior general, as well as the new king's younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright, 'The Commuter'), a tech genius who serves as this movie's Tony Stark...It's already been announced that Black Panther will fight alongside the Avengers in the upcoming 'Infinity War,' but here's hoping he brings as much of his entourage with him as possible."


USA Today critic Brian Truitt believes the film has a "James Bond-style" and "is extremely grounded, dealing with the consequences of ages-old colonialism and exploring isolationism at a time when actual countries are building borders rather than breaking them down." Black Panther is able to "differentiate itself by having a loyal cadre of allies for its main character." He also says, "This superb cast doesn't have a weak link."

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times describes Black Panther as 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." He continues, "this is the model of what an involving popular entertainment should be."

Lupita Nyong'o "Loves Physical Challenge" of "Black Panther"

"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," The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy states. McCarthy attributes part of the film's presupposed success to its actors, writing "Boseman certainly holds his own, but there are quite a few charismatic supporting players here keen to steal every scene they can — and they do, notably the physically imposing Jordan, the radiant Nyong'o and especially Wright, who gives her every scene extra punch and humor."

David Edelstein's review for Vulture describes the film as "unusually gripping and grounded for a superhero film...That Black Panther has a richer palette than its Marvel precursors is no surprise, since its roots are equally in pop culture and African folklore." Edelstein continues, "Even in this, the most original Marvel movie, there's a sameness to the rhythm of the storytelling and the nature of the CGI, which is just money thrown at creative challenges. The good news is that Coogler has proven he can play in the big boys' house, and there's no excuse for studios to pass on more personal projects he has in the pipeline."


Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt discusses her contempt that Marvel "readily welcomed creatures blue and green, Ant-Men and Wolverines," but "took so long to put a black superhero at the center of the screen." Nonetheless, "now that the moment has arrived though, it feels like nothing less than a sea change: a wave started by Wonder Woman last year and grown to full swell in Panther's moral weight and real-world currency." She concludes, "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."

Are you excited to see the new Marvel film? Tell us what you're most looking forward to in the comments below!

Black Panther will hit theaters February 16.