Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis
T’Challa (Boseman), after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. (Source: IMDb)
The MCU films leading up to a point have followed a fairly standard blueprint; each hero gets their standalone film in the spotlight, plus some subsequent sequels, before appearing in one of the behemoth multi-hero team-up movies.
2016’s Civil War ushered in a slightly different approach however, introducing a handful of characters who, whilst familiar with comic book aficionados, were new faces for fans of the film franchise. One of these characters was Black Panther/T’Challa, given adequate background information in Civil War in order to effectively slot into the storyline, but until now, the depth of his origins were as yet to be told.
There’s always hype for a Marvel movie, but there seemed to be unprecedented levels of hype for Black Panther leading up to its release. With it breaking pre-sale ticket records, boasting an impressively diverse cast, and being helmed by a hot, young director in Ryan Coogler, there were plenty of reasons to be excited.
It is undeniable that this film lives up to the high expectations, but it also surpassed them in incredibly unexpected ways. This may arguably be Marvel’s least “superhero-y” superhero film to date. The character of Black Panther is in many ways an unconventional hero; his powers and responsibilities being steeped in tradition and culture, and with the dual role as a King adding an interesting dynamic to the “save-the-day” hero we’re used to seeing.
This absolutely goes in this film’s favour, and from the start, this is a fascinating world to explore, and even after 10 years and 18 movies in the impressive MCU cannon, it still manages to surprise. Never has the time felt so right for a movie such as this, and there is surprising weight and depth behind its action set-pieces as well.
Previously only mentioned and seen very briefly in post-credit scenes, we get to spend huge amounts of time exploring Wakanda, and it is such a rich and textured landscaped that it is hard to believe it isn’t real. Simultaneously and flawlessly mixing the tradition with technology, Wakanda feels like a nation deeply rooted in mythology and culture which all adds to that believability and offers that real sense of T’Challa being a “hero” in the most interesting and unique of ways.
In many ways, the Wakandan people, and the place itself, offer an idyllic picture of paradise; a place where men and women share equal duties and responsibility, and where technology, resources and knowledge are shared amongst its citizens. There is a surprising challenge as well, Wakanda has until now, remained hidden from view, protecting their resources and knowledge for fear of it falling into the wrong hands. That fear doesn’t come from nowhere though as particularly their most precious resource, the metal Vibranium, is sought after by many a questionable character. It presented a surprisingly interesting view on the sharing of wealth and particularly the idea of an African nation (albeit fictional) being so empowered but yet also dealing with that very real fear of conquest from outsiders, has resonating powers beyond a comic book movie.
If this all sounds a little serious and detailed, there is still huge amounts of fun to be had in this movie as well; the characters in particular having an infectious and believable camaraderie. Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister Shuri, was one of the most fascinating characters and her and Boseman had a genuine sibling chemistry. This is a difficult character to play, maintaining that sense of duty as well as being an exciting hero, but Chadwick Boseman absolutely pulls this off. The rest of the supporting cast are all incredibly strong, and it is so refreshing to see such a huge number of well-rounded and badass female characters. Having never seen Danai Gurira in anything before, her performance as the fearsome warrior Okoye, makes her absolutely one to watch in the future. Superhero movies often struggle with poorly fleshed out villains, but this certainly isn’t the case in Black Panther with the dual threat of the unhinged Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and the spurned “Killmonger” (Michael B. Jordan) making for a formidable duo.
No spoilers, but perhaps one of the most wonderful things about Black Panther comes in the mid-credits scene, with a quote from T’Challa stating: “The wise build bridges whilst the foolish build barriers”.
I saw this movie and you should too. If there ever was a sentence to sum up the significance of this film for 2018, then the aforementioned quote would be it. Black Panther is an impressive and totally different entry into the MCU, and there are no doubts that this universe will be all the stronger for this.