Despite having its movies mapped out for the next three years, Marvel somehow manages to stun viewers with its additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel’s latest film, “Black Panther,” not only lives up to the massive amount of press it’s gotten but also well exceeds any expectations Marvel fans have built over the months of anticipation.
Everything from the film’s awesome stunts, gorgeous sets and incredible casting is nearly perfect, but what makes “Black Panther” a true gem unlike other Marvel projects is the tense racial and colonization themes laced throughout the narrative. Toting this reputation, “Black Panther” truly goes where no superhero movie has ever dared to go.
“Black Panther” takes place a mere week after the catastrophic events of “Captain America: Civil War” with T’Challa/BlackPantherpreparingto take the throne of the most advanced civilization on Earth: Wakanda. Not long after officially claiming his title as king and as the country’s protector, T’Challa faces his greatest challenge yet in the form of veteran and murderer Killmonger.
Fans of the MCU have been incredibly vocal about their displeasure of knowing the lineup for Marvel’s upcoming projects, claiming that this makes the movies more predictable considering the well-known formula to superhero films. An unsuspecting person gets extraordinary powers and they must save the day because his or her parents died. Director Ryan Coogler, though, doesn’t fall victim to this seemingly inescapable formula and instead ushers in a fresh form for the superhero genre.
Almost to a surprising degree, “Black Panther” refuses to shy away from its roots, tackling racial issues head-on with a story centered around the colonization of one’s land and the crippling, defenseless power one feels knowing that the usurper has incredibly overwhelming forces. This message becomes increasingly prevalent once Michael B. Jordan’s character Killmonger makes his appearance. Killmonger, previously scarred by the Wakandans, was forced to live in poverty in a predominantly black community, and his main goal, albeit a bit twisted, is to put the power that Wakanda keeps secret into the hands of his people so that they may fight back.
It was a massive relief to see Jordan redeem himself after his awful debut onto the superhero scene in the latest “Fantastic Four” film, and there could not have been a better reintroduction than this stellar performance. Killmonger is truly the greatest villain that the MCU has seen since the massively popular and conflicted Winter Soldier character. With his ideals and motivations centered around equality and revenge, Killmonger brings something tangible that the MCU has been missing all along, and Coogler expertly manages to place these complex ordeals into a world of gods, aliens and super suits.
With Killmonger’s final lines of the film, Coogler demonstrated Killmonger’s capacity to become the most fleshed out, incredibly complex villain in MCU history. In one short sentence Coogler captures the overall controversial themes of the movie and ironically places these themes within a grounded, stellar villain.
Villain aside, “Black Panther” is also sporting possibly the greatest casting of any Marvel film. The women are just as amazing as expected, outshining Valkyrie and Hela from “Thor: Ragnarok” by miles. Letitia Wright’s (Shuri), Lupita Nyong’o’s (Nakia) and Danai Gurira’s (Okoye) characters far surpassed almost any other performance in the film with each actress battling for best character any time they’re on screen. The relationship between T’Challa and his sister Shuri is unmatched, their chemistry oozing off the screen and makes up for the weak romance of T’Challa and Nakia. Meanwhile, Okoye steals the audience’s attention any time she appears with emotional, raw lines and amazing battle choreography.
Chadwick Boseman clearly continues to be an excellent cast choice for the titular hero. Like Jordan, Boseman makes a perfect action star as if he were born to representBlackPantherinthisrole. Every line is delivered with a precise, practiced accent and every action sequence, no matter how CGI- filled it may be, is executed to near perfection.
Besides the heavy themes, “Black Panther” is fun and action-packed without being overbearing with imposing laser beams and multi-colored magic stones. As Shuri points out multiple times throughout the film, everything Black Panther and the Wakandansareabletodoisbecause of science and technology, not magic. The sleek black suit is unbelievably high-tech and looks gorgeous even during CGI-heavy scenes. You’ll hold your breath and watch in amazement every time T’Challa puts on the suit and starts taking down gunmen one at a time.
Instead of spanning over an entire galaxy, “Black Panther” mainly takes place in Wakanda and parts of South Korea, which was a relief. Though Marvel isn’t known for pairing heroes in their first solo films, it would have been a great disappointment if Black Panther was forced out of his homeland to solve an issue happening in New York City. Keeping Black Panther based in his native land keeps the hero true to his character as he is the sole protector of Wakanda and is primarily interested in protecting his country and people.
Coogler also somehow manages to combine every nuance Marvel has built throughout its films and exceptionally expands on them. “Black Panther’s” action has multiple moving pieces, even evolving into an all-out civil war in the film’s final act. The film also has its own take on comedy, poking fun at traditions and old ways while also celebrating and creating a healthy awareness of African traditions. The emotions in this film greatly rival those of a traditional arthouse film, which is something Marvel movies have always lacked.
If it wasn’t obvious, “Black Panther” has easily become my favorite Marvel film, rivaling my infatuation with “Civil War” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” As the senses during the end-credits open up an entirely new world for the MCU, it’ll be interesting to see what roles Black Panther and the Wakandans play in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“Black Panther” is out now, and “Avengers: Infinity War” releases May 4.