Following the glowing first reactions from the world premiere, it should be no surprise that the earliest reviews for Marvel's Black Panther are universally positive, with critics heaping praise on director Ryan Coogler, the cast and the film's themes. While the studio's review embargo only now lifted, Black Panther stands at 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
From a casual perusal of the reviews for the film, which finds Chadwick Boseman reprising his role as T'Challa from Captain America: Civil War, you'll find words like "gripping," "ravishing," "engaging" and, just maybe, "masterpiece." It's even declared one of the best entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a bold step for the studio, and the genre.
Here's a selection of what the critics are saying about Black Panther:
Peter Debruge, Variety: "Before we get carried away, let’s be clear: Black Panther is still a superhero movie, which means that it’s effectively conceived for 10-year-olds and all those who wish a film like this had existed when they were 10. Except that the latter category is potentially bigger than ever this time around (for a Marvel movie, at least), since 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 — and many have waited their entire lives to witness just such a feat (the way that Wonder Woman was a hugely empowering game changer for women)."
Liz Braun, Toronto Sun: "Black Panther manages to be both thrilling entertainment and incisive social commentary. It’s still a Marvel Universe escapist adventure with extreme car chases and pitched battles, but under all the stunts and effects is a timely drama about identity, isolation, immigration and a lot of the other issues currently dividing America and half of Europe."
Jake Coyle, The Associated Press: "Unlike many of its more hollow predecessors, Black Panther has real, honest-to-goodness stakes. As the most earnest and big-budget attempt yet of a black superhero film, Black Panther is assured of being an overdue cinematic landmark. But it's also simply ravishing, grand-scale filmmaking."
Angie Han, Mashable: "This isn't just one of the best movies in the MCU – it caps off the franchise's best run of movies ever, which started last year with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."
Jamie Broadnax, Black Girl Nerds: "If you want to know who the scene stealer is in Black Panther, that award goes to Shuri (Letitia Wright). She steals damn near every scene in the film, and I’m 110% confident that audiences will walk away talking about Shuri long after the film ends. I’m also confident that Wright would be able to hold a Shuri Black Panther solo movie on her own. "
Brian Lowry, CNN: "While Boseman and Jordan hold center stage, the women's roles are especially meaty and muscular, with Lupita Nyong'o as T'Challa's self-sufficient former flame, The Walking Dead's Danai Gurira -- stealing every scene she's in -- as the fierce leader of the king's guard, and Letitia Wright as T'Challa's brilliant sister, whose gift for gadgets essentially makes her the Q to her big brother's James Bond."
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: "Part of the movie’s pleasure and its ethos — which wends through its visuals — is how it dispenses with familiar either/or divides, including the binary opposition that tends to shape our discourse on race. Life in Wakanda is at once urban and rural, futuristic and traditional, technological and mystical. Spaceships zoom over soaring buildings with thatched tops; a hover train zips over a market with hanging woven baskets. In one of the most striking locales, an open-air throne room is horizontally lined with suspended tree limbs, creating a loose pattern that pointedly blurs the divide between the interior and exterior worlds and is echoed by the fretwork in costumes and other sets."
Kenneth Turan, 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. Energized to a thrilling extent by a myriad of Afrocentric influences, Black Panther showcases a vivid inventiveness that underscores the obvious point that we want all cultures and colors represented on screen because that makes for a richness of cinematic experience that everyone enjoys being exposed to."
David Edelstein, Vulture: "[T]he 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. Men quail before her. Black Panther gives her a wide berth. Everything in her affect says 'uncontainable.' T’Challa’s giddy kid sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), is an even more fun inversion of male superhero protocol, playing Q to Black Panther’s Bond with an array of Vibranium-powered suits and gizmos. The mix of Afrocentrism, feminism, and high-tech gadgetry is irresistible. Black Panther’s team is so wonderful that I hate to think of it being dulled by the mostly white-bread Avengers."
Directed by Ryan Coogler from a script he wrote with Joe Robert Cole, Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, Letitia Wright as Shuri, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross, Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue, Winston Duke as M’Baku and Forest Whitaker as Zuri. The film opens Feb. 16.