Ryan Coogler knocks it out of the park with his telling of Black Panther. The story picks up a week or two after the events of Captain America: Civil War. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has returned to Wakanda prepared to claim the throne and mantle of Black Panther, Protector of Wakanda.
Starting with the women we have General of the Dora Milaje, the King’s protector Okoye (Danai Gurria), the girl he loves Nakia (Lupita N’yongo), his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and his younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright). Not only do we have this powerful female cast, but also a strong male lineup with Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), N’jobu (Sterling K. Brown), M’baku (Winston Duke), the villainous Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), Zuri (Forest Whittaker), and John Kani/Atandwa Kani as T’Chaka.
With all these top-notch actors and actresses how could you not expect greatness from this film? Coogler’s vision of Wakanda is brought to life in ways even I did not expect. This film is just visually magnificent, whether we are at the borders of Wakanda or within the city itself, or the streets of Korea. Coogler manages to make everything bright, flashy and beautiful.
The Boy who would be King
Although this is just another movie in the long series of Marvel Superhero films, it doesn’t feel like a superhero film. The movie starts out much like a James Bond film would. When we meet Shuri, her character reminded me of Q from those films. Highly intelligent Tech genius and designer of all those fancy gadgets T’Challa gets to play with and some of that tech even makes its way down to the citizens of Wakanda. Once the ball gets rolling and T’Challa takes part in the rituals to prove he has the right to become the ruler of Wakanda, our problems start. At this point, T’Chaka’s past comes back to haunt T’Challa. Old hidden secrets & lies surface bringing feelings of hatred and revenge that threatens to destroy friendships, romances, and even Wakanda itself.
All the other Marvel films were stories of heroes trying to overcome global conspiracies which would end in the subjugation of the planet by one group or in some cases the total destruction of the world. Black Panther, however, focused mainly on T’challa and his struggle as a new king to rule a hidden nation, protect the welfare of his people, while keeping his personal relationships intact.
As I mentioned there are numerous powerful characters in this story. Nakia, the woman T’challa loves who has left Wakanda on her own personal mission. When duty brings her back to Wakanda will she give in to love or the task at hand? His mother Ramonda, no matter how hectic and upside down your world may be everyone should be able to rely on their mother for guidance when you have no one to go to. Having that mother portrayed by Angela Bassett, who for years has been one of the most underrated actresses of our time, is a major plus.
The Dora Milaje, personal bodyguards of the Black Panther, just the mere presence of these women in the film was exciting. I haven’t been this hype to see a bunch of warrior-women in action since the Amazons in Wonder Woman. It’s been said numerous times but the female cast of this film exudes strength. Strength to love, strength to protect, strength to create, a strength of pride in their country. I know I may be gushing about this, but as a black man, this is a very different, but important portrayal of black women in a movie and I love it.
The movie gives us the standard fare of villains from the comic books with Klaw, M’baku, and Killmonger. Klaw & M’Baku although having rather small roles still had important parts in the story as a whole. I was more interested in Killmonger in this whole thing. You start out wondering what is this guy up to? What’s his motivation? Michael B. Jordan did a fantastic job as Erik Killmonger and to be honest there comes a part in the movie where I actually was 90% behind what Killmonger was doing and empathized with him as to why he was doing it. Yeah, it’s a movie about Black Panther, a superhero, and a little more than halfway thru the movie I was siding with the “villain” of the story!
OK, It Can’t Be THAT Good, Can It?
OK, so we’ve got a strong cast, good acting, excellent cinematography, great plot, and story. There has to be something wrong with it. No movie can be this good, right? Well, you’re correct to a point, no movie is perfect and Black Panther does have some minor flaws. If I had to point out anything in this movie its that certain characters didn’t get enough screen time. Specifically, I wanted to know so much more Nakia, M’Baku, W’Kani, & Okoye.
It’s not that they did a bad a job with them in the movie, I just would have liked a bit more about these characters. They had already given us enough to like them, I was just looking for that extra oomph to love them. Hopefully, we get more on M’Baku in the sequel.
My other issue is that although the Panther has some great chase scenes, his fight scenes could use a tad bit of work. At some points, it felt like the Dora Milaje overpowered his fight scenes. I know they can fight but the Black Panther has taken a potion to increase strength, agility, speed. With that edge, he should at least be able to keep up with if not do better than one of the Dora Milaje facing off against random goon squad bad guys.
Black Panther, to me, may possibly be the best-written movie of the MCU series so far. Since I did not know the full history of Black Panther, the one thing I was hoping for walking in was a good story and Coogler fully delivered on that part. I am truly glad that so many celebrities and organizations are helping lower economic communities and working to get kids who might not normally see the film, a chance to see a hero that looks like them. As expected there are 2 scenes after the movie, one mid-credits and one post-credits. So make sure you keep seated to check them out.
Black Panther may not be the first Black superhero we've had in the cinema, but it is easily one of best to date. I can't wait for the Blu-ray release so I can watch it over and over again. I can't help but feel a little sad that I'm gonna have to wait a few years for Black Panther 2.