Marvel does it again with the much-anticipated Black Panther. 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.
As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), Chadwick Boseman slays it as T’Challa, the young African prince who becomes king of the secluded nation of Wakanda after the death of his beloved father. After traveling the world and finding himself involved in other matters, as you might recall from the character’s introduction in another Marvel franchise, 2016’s blockbuster Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa now finds himself in a wholly different situation as he must not only run Wakanda but face new threats to his technologically advanced country as South African arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (the great Andy Serkis), last seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, is determined to get to Wakanda’s richest resource of Vibranium. Not only is it the formula that powers Captain America’s shield, it’s also the ingredient that makes T’Challa’s Black Panther suit so powerful as well. Imagine what Klaue could do if he got his hands on it.
T’Challa also has a new rival in the mysterious Erik Killmonger (a terrific Michael B. Jordan), whose familial connection, desire for revenge, strong technical skills and knowledge of Wakanda has him coming in to try to become king himself. In the mix of all of this is a large supporting cast that also features a number of strong female roles including Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o as the crafty Nakia, whose duties are complicated by her relationship with T’Challa; Danai Gurira as Okoye, the kickass head of the all-female Special Forces; the delightful Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s technical wizard of a younger sister; and Angela Bassett as their Queen Mother, Ramonda. Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) is a CIA agent on the trail of the same villain as Black Panther. Get Out Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya has some good moments as W’Kabi, who runs security on the borders of Wakanda, and Forest Whitaker lends a kind of spiritual guidance to it all as Zuri.
It is remarkable how Coogler (who also wrote the script with Joe Robert Cole) has been able to give all these many characters, and others, their own story arc and weave them all together in masterful fashion. He fully meets the promise he showed in both smaller personal films like Fruitvale Station and a larger canvas like Creed. He is helped here enormously by a terrific production crew, with many key jobs filled by women including Mudbound cinematographer Rachel Morrison, the first female to be nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar; the colorful costumes of Ruth Carter; great production design from Hannah Beachler; and generally fine work right on down the line including an awesome visual effects team. This is about as diverse a massive studio production of this scope that Hollywood has ever seen, both in front and behind the camera It’s all on the screen and definitely worth the effort.
This is a superhero movie for the ages, and especially for this age. As usual, Kevin Feige produces. Disney releases it everywhere on Friday Feburary 16. Watch out.
Do you plan to see Black Panther? Let us know what you think.