Black Panther is the first of three MCU films releasing in 2018 and Marvel has really come out swinging with this one which successfully incorporates a deep story and thrilling action sequences once again taking the superhero genre to a new level. Directed by the talented Ryan Coogler, the film follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who after the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016) returns to Wakanda shortly before a new danger emerges posing a major threat to the nation of Wakanda and its people. This movie from start to finish is undeniably fantastic, I can’t pick out a certain sequence I didn’t like or a character who was underdeveloped, everything in here comes together and blends fluidly into one smooth adventure. The cast across the board are incredible with some notable standouts and every major character has their own arc that develops independently of the main plot or connects to it in a clever manner. There is a lot to go into but firstly I want to highlight the storytelling.
In at least one way each entry in the MCU does what it can to change up the game and push the superhero genre to new lengths, and that is no difference here. Black Panther delivers a story that is deeply emotional and highlights some important themes and issues in todays society but at the same time doesn’t forget to be a superhero movie at its core. It balances a tonne of story elements so well that it’s some damn impressive storytelling on Coogler’s part to tell every angle of the story without losing focus on a single one. In terms of the characters and the city of Wakanda there is a lot of history there that we don’t know about yet, and miraculously the story divulges so much information on the inception and evolution of this city and the people within it I feel like it’s just as real and fleshed out as a real modern city. By the end of the film I didn’t feel like there were any characters who were underdeveloped, it provides enough backstory and enough depth into their lives and personality to where I feel like I understood everyone in here and why they are the way they are.
On top of the core hero and villain story playing out I mentioned that some important real-life themes are thoroughly explored and excellently woven into some core character motivations without coming across as jarring or forced. These themes add a lot of meaning to the story and character decisions and ground these events in reality by making certain things more relatable and familiar for the audience. This is a detail I loved about the story and will keep Black Panther relevant in film discussion in the future.
This cast is one of my favourite ensemble performances in an MCU film to date, everyone plays their part so well that I bought into every character, their morals, and their motivations instantly or with time. The performances are all very powerful and successfully tap into the emotional, comedic, and action-packed portions of the story with ease. Chadwick Boseman is of course the star of the show, he shines in every scene he’s in and has such a tight grasp on the character of T’Challa it makes all of his scenes that much more entertaining to watch. Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, and Daniel Kaluuya are all equally awesome and play their characters greatly. I cared about each one of these characters and they each have their own subplots that give the actors room to flesh out the characters and build their personalities and relationships in intriguing ways. But one of the biggest surprise standouts for me and the breakout star is Letitia Wright who plays T’Challa’s sister Shuri as she completely steals every single scene she is in with absolute ease. She has this natural talent and charisma about her that has you instantly falling in love with the character and even when on screen besides Boseman she is the one who shines brightest. Get ready because you are bound to see a lot more of her in a number of other projects going forward.
There’s a number of other performers who all play their parts well including Forest Whitaker as Zuri, Martin Freeman as Everett Ross, and Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue, but the one guy I’ve left to last is the man who has persevered beyond his shitty superhero genre appearance to deliver a villain, the likes of which the MCU hasn’t seen.
Michael B Jordan has survived his appearance in 2015’s Fant4stic disaster and finally appeared in a good superhero film as a villain who has instantly cemented himself in the top 3 MCU villains. Erik Killmonger is a villain with goals, morals, and motivations different to any other villain we’ve seen to this point. One of the MCU’s biggest criticisms is the lack of development for its villains, a criticism that has been applied to almost every villain aside from Loki. The belief is that if time is spent developing the villain that takes away from the hero’s story, except here Black Panther proves that isn’t the case by giving Killmonger an intriguing backstory that allows the audience to understand his mindset and the reasons behind his actions. When the villain of a superhero film is treated less like a villain and more like a character it adds another level of enjoyment to watching the character and that’s all the more evident here.
So in the end Black Panther is a solid entry into the MCU and breaks new ground in the genre with a fast paced, emotional, action packed, unique experience. It features incredible performances, a riveting story, and intriguing characters all working seamlessly together to create this awesome movie. I shouldn’t need to go into the action at this point but I will say it’s fast-paced, exciting, and there isn’t too much nor too little spread evenly throughout the movie. And I need to give major props to the soundtrack which captures the tone of the film and carries it through right to the end. I can’t wait to see where the Black Panther character goes from here in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and beyond.