In Marvel studios’ latest cinematic offering, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is finally crowned king of the African nation of Wakanda, following the death of his father in Civil War, and soon goes on the hunt for the ruthless arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who is selling stolen vibranium. But he soon crosses paths with the dangerous Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), a ruthless mercenary who has his sights set on the Wakandan throne.
Returning to the MCU after his memorable, scene-stealing appearance in Civil War, Chadwick Boseman again proves himself to be well worthy of donning the awesome vibranium suit as he is suitably cool in his role of T’Challa and plays the part with grace, compassion, humour and of course strength, fully throwing himself into the well choreographed fight scenes with gusto. His character goes through a certain journey and through all of this, he displays all the conflicting emotions genuinely and overall, he’s still a mighty fine addition to the MCU.
There are many supporting characters in Black Panther and it’s very impressive to see just how memorable they all are, many of them often stealing the spotlight away from Boseman; in particular, Lupita Nyong’o is tough and formidable as Wakandan spy Nakia, Martin Freeman, having previously been somewhat out of place in Civil War, has a great deal more to do as agent Everett Ross, Andy Serkis has a blast going all crazy in his returning role of Ulysses Klaue, and Danai Gurira is absolutely fearsome and totally wicked as Okoye, general of the incredible Dora Milaje, the all-female bodyguards of the Black Panther.
And now onto the two most memorable characters in the film. Firstly, Black Mirror‘s Letitia Wright is the star of the show as Shuri, T’Challa’s spirited young sister who essentially runs the Wakandan lab, setting him up with all the toys and the gadgets, essentially becoming his Q – a very appropriate comparison since the subsequent “mission” in South Korea, which culminates in an insanely thrilling car chase through the streets, briefly turns Black Panther into a James Bond film (which was apparently a big influence on this film). Anyway, Letitia Wright nabs all the best moments, delivers the heart and soul and shares some charming chemistry with Chadwick Boseman as well as the rest of the cast.
And secondly, in the antagonistic role of Erik Killmonger, Michael B. Jordan is incredibly intimidating, often quite terrifying, and ultimately proves himself to be one of the best villains that the MCU has seen so far. True, the notion of a revenge-seeking character, unrelentingly going after “what’s rightfully his” may have been done before but the character’s backstory is well written and fully realised and Killmonger has proper motivations for his actions – he’s not just a villain who only exists for the good guy to defeat. And as I say; there are those moments, particularly during an unbearably nail biting fight scene, where Jordan is remarkably scary but in addition, there’s deep feeling to the character and he’s allowed certain moments of emotion and perhaps even sympathy. A strongly written character and an excellent performance to complement it.
It’s also worth noting that Marvel may have previously fallen down a bit with their writing of villains and female characters but Black Panther does it all right as the main antagonist is particularly strong and the female characters are the greatest that we’ve seen so far.
Black Panther also succeeds due to its strong script and story; it very effectively enlightens us about the history of Wakanda, something we only learned a tiny bit about in Civil War, and by the end of the feature, we end up knowing so much about this fictional nation and its people as the great script allows for all the necessary information to be given to us perfectly within the runtime without any major plotholes or overexposition. The script also allows certain social issues to shine through, without being too preachy, and it’s clear that this is a film with a bit of a message – something very well intentioned and meaningful to co-writer Ryan Coogler. Lastly on this subject, Black Panther is something of a celebration of Africa and as such, the filmmakers researched African history, politics, mythologies and cultures in preparation; this is a refreshing direction for Marvel to be taking and with Black Panther, Africa is brought into the spotlight with passion and integrity.
On a technical level, the film is impressively colourful, the design of Wakanda is wonderful, and all of the gadgetry, including T’Challa’s upgraded suit with the new “charge up” ability, looks very cool indeed. The use of greenscreen is a little too obvious in some places though and there are also a few action scenes that are too dark and hastily edited – sometimes it’s hard to see what’s going on as it’s a bit too fast. Black Panther also has an excellent score, courtesy of Ludwig Göransson, and in addition, traditional African music is used brilliantly and there are some great original tunes from Kendrick Lamar and others.
So overall, Black Panther is yet another hit from the Marvel juggernaut – there ain’t no stopping this train, no siree.