The Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off its tenth year in style with its 18th film, Black Panther. The film brings brilliant directing, acting music and design to the forefront of this origin story of sorts for the MCU’s first black lead character.
Black Panther is set a week or so after Captain America: Civil War as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home after the death of his Father to be crowned King of Wakanda, only for his reign to be challenged by Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). The film’s storyline, while good, is probably the weakest part of Black Panther as it doesn’t offer much that is new. It’s a ‘sins-of-the-father’ plot that we have seen before in the MCU especially in Iron Man 2, though this is executed better. While this film repeats the traditional hero with specific powers vs villain with very similar powers plot point, I would say that this is probably one of the best versions we have seen because of the time taken to develop the villain. Erik Stevens AKA Killmonger is the hero of his own story. While from our point of view he is the villain, the film sets him up with enough background and emotional development that he is a villain we like and understand. This is something that the MCU has struggled with in the past but not in Black Panther.
That isn’t where the character development stops in this film. Black Panther is full of strong, likeable and developed characters. From T’Challa struggling with his rise to power to his good friend and chief of security, W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) who sees some of Wakanda downsides, everyone gets their chance to shine. The old saying goes that behind every great man there is a great woman, in Black Panther though there are many great women. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) is T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend who acts as a Wakandan spy in the outside world. Okoye (Danai Gurira) is the head of the Dora Milaje, a team of women who serve as the special forces of Wakanda. Shuri (Letitia Wright) T’Challa’s sister, Princess and tech-genius. Shuri is the Q to T’Challa’s Bond while also developing new technologies for the nation of Wakanda. We round out the main female cast with Ramonda (Angela Bassett) T’Challa and Shuri’s mother and the Queen of Wakanda. Also bringing fantastic characters to the table are M’Baku (Winston Duke) the leader of the Mountain Tribe, Zuri (Forest Whitaker) an elder spiritual leader in Wakanda and friend of the former King T’Chaka. Andy Serkis reprises and improves on his role from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ulysses Klaue and Martin Freeman returns as Agent Everett Ross.
Black Panther features a stunning setting in the Afro-Futuristic Wakanda a nation with incredible technology that is tied together with it’s spiritual roots that creates some stunning visuals. The design of the world of Wakanda is beautiful and my only issue is that we don’t see enough of it. I would return to Wakanda in a heart beat and judging by the Avengers: Infinity War trailer, it looks like we will, even for just a little bit. The costume design incorporates that same vibe of the future coupled with traditional African culture, so colourful and vibrant, it continues the MCU’s departure from the muted tones of its earlier entries. One of the biggest tools used to immerse the viewer in to the world of Wakanda is the music. The score by Ludwig Göransson is inspired by local musicians from Senegal and South Africa. It brings a feeling that the film is in touch with the culture it is portraying. It helped make Wakanda feel real.
Director Ryan Coogler has created an amazing world within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He and co-writer Joe Robert Cole brought the characters and story from the comics to life in a way that the MCU hasn’t done before. They were able to bring the idea of a secretly futuristic African nation and somehow still ground it in a bit of reality. Coogler brought out the very best from his actors to the point where you could say this film has some of the best and most developed characters in a single film in the MCU. I can’t praise his work on this film enough. Quick shout out to cinematographer, Rachel Morrison who helped bring this world to the screen and came up with some really nice shots including a inverted shot that turns 180 degrees!
Black Panther is a great film and just what we needed to get us excited for Avengers: Infinity War in just a few months. The film benefits from great acting, direction, writing and world-building. The sum of all this come to one of the best ‘solo’ MCU film.