Marvel has accomplished a lot over the years, taking us across the galaxy to talking raccoons, Asgard, and magical realms. In Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler takes us to the land of Wakanda and it’s absolutely breathtakingly realized. Just like when we saw Star Wars growing up, every corner of Wakanda feels alive and real. Black Panther transports us to a different place and the result makes us never want to leave.
The film stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, Prince of Wakanda who at the start of the film is dealing with the consequences of Captain America: Civil War. In that film, T’Challa’s father was killed in a sadistic bombing, and now T’Challa is next in line to be king of Wakanda, as well as inherit the power of the Black Panther. This is a major focus of the film, where politics become a driving force of the narrative. With a change in leadership, comes a division of where a society must go. You can tell Ryan Coogler had a lot on his mind about the world and America’s role in it because the parallels to what we face now are very apparent.
For example, in one scene, T’Challa’s father says, “You are a good man, and it’s hard for a good man to be King.” If you apply this to most leaders in African American culture, it speaks volumes. Whether you are Obama, Martin Luther King, etc… Being a leader in that culture is hard, and comes with a lot of pushback regardless of your character.
Then there is Michael B. Jordan who absolutely wrecks this movie with amazingness. Killmonger is the most complex Marvel villain to date and the reason why is because of how much you sympathize with him. Who he is and what he has become is no fault of his own. You can even see his reasoning at times. When the film starts, I asked myself, “If Wakanda has all this technology, then why don’t they help other people?” Then the film handles that question in a magnificent way. Killmonger is mad because they do not help others around the world. To him, they sit in the shadows instead to protect their kingdom. Michael B. Jordan makes Killmonger’s tale heartbreaking, but you absolutely will be afraid when he engages the screen.
On top of all this, the women of Wakanda steal the show. The actress most people will be talking about is Danai Gurira, who most people know as Michonne from The Walking Dead. If her role of Okoye does not move up her up in the big leagues, I’m not sure what will. She is never a damsel in distress, and she is the only person more fierce than Michael B. Jordan in this movie. Another noteworthy character is Shuri, played by Letitia Wright– most recently seen in the Black Mirror episode “Black Museum.” She plays T’Challa’s sister but also deals with all the gadgetry for the Black Panther. Think of a female version of James Bond’s gadget expert Q.
Now, I do have one nitpick with this movie. Some of the action towards the end felt a little too CGI heavy for my taste, which pulled me out of the movie at times. It’s not worse than other films from Marvel Studios, but at this point, this studio should have the money to give us better. That said, there is a car chase in this movie that will blow you away.
Overall Ryan Coogler delivered one of the best movies for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. Black Panther is rich in world building and has some of the best character work since Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a superhero movie bleeding with style and charisma, and unafraid to take a stand on vital issues. There’s nothing else like it, which absolutely makes it worth seeing. A lot of people will say, “It’s an important movie,” and while this is true, it’s also a damn good one.