- Disney/Marvel Studios
- Marvel finally gave Black Panther his own movie, and it was worth the wait.
- It’s a movie that has lots of action but also a deep story about family, heritage, and community.
- Michael B. Jordan elevates the movie from good to great.
Like “Wonder Woman” last year, “Black Panther” is a project that fans have been waiting decades to see. And just like “Wonder Woman,” it was worth the wait.
The latest superhero movie brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be its most meaningful yet. “Black Panther” is perfectly timed to arrive at a moment when audiences want different stories told by (and focused on) people who rarely get the spotlight.
The director Ryan Coogler – who showed with “Creed” that he could work within the confines of an existing franchise and still give us something special – uses the tools and resources that come with Marvel Studios to build out a movie that isn’t just filled with action (and sometimes has a Bond-film vibe) but also brings the audience on an emotional journey about family and community.
We meet up with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) following the death of his father (which happened in “Captain America: Civil War”) and his return to Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. Immediately, we are thrust into the beauty, technology, and heritage that is Wakanda, the African nation that Black Panther rules over and that is technologically advanced because of the use of a special material called Vibranium.
- Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The fact that Wakanda is hidden has protected its people, but T’Challa knows that the technology they possess could help those outside its walls. Should he let his kingdom be more open to the outside world? It’s something he ponders until he learns that Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), now sporting an arm cannon since “Age of Ultron,” is causing trouble with the Vibranium he possesses. When T’Challa investigates with his new and improved Black Panther suit, it’s revealed that Klaue has teamed with Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who has a shocking backstory related to T’Challa and his family that could affect everything T’Challa is trying to do.
Honestly, there are moments in this movie that get really deep. This is far from a Marvel movie with constant action. There’s a solid story in “Black Panther” (written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole), which may get tiresome for some audiences. But what it does is help with delving into the story arc of Killmonger, and it bolsters Jordan’s standout villain performance.
Jordan plays a Killmonger fueled with hate and emptiness – we won’t give away why – but he also delivers it with a swagger that’s just a joy to watch. The movie takes off more in story and viewing enjoyment whenever Jordan is on-screen.
Perhaps the biggest strength of “Black Panther” is its character development. This is particularly true for T’Challa’s sassy sister/tech wiz, Shuri (Letitia Wright), and the head of his royal guard, Okoye (Danai Gurira), who are major scene-stealers.
Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman, Forest Whitaker, and a small (but important) role for Sterling K. Brown round out a really strong ensemble.
And the movie isn’t all serious, just so you know.
There are a lot of lighthearted moments – from Shuri making fun of T’Challa’s footwear, to Serkis’ over-the-top antics as Klaue (honestly, it’s nice to see Serkis get to perform on-screen once in a while in his own image and not in motion-capture form), to Martin Freeman as a CIA operative named Everett Ross who is used perfectly as the vessel for any soft-handed jokes about race (as he’s the only white guy on Black Panther’s team).
“Black Panther” opens in theaters Friday.