Black Panther (2018)

The long overdue cinematic debut of Black Panther is a bold and unique new turn in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a perfectly cast Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa. “Black Panther” not only focuses on mostly African cast of characters, but also doesn’t lean too heavily on the Marvel universe to register with audiences. Director Ryan Coogler and Marvel have enough confidence in the clout of Black Panther to allow the film to be its own entity. There are passing references to “Civil War,” and a big supporting role from Agent Ross (a returning Martin Freeman), but this is strictly the movie Black Panther should have had ten years ago.

“Black Panther” sets down on the hidden futuristic nation of Wakanda, a small pocket of a city within Africa where generations of its villagers have mastered amazing technology while keeping true to the ancient tribal ceremonies they originated. Though they have tech that dwarves most countries, it’s their devotion to old principles that have allowed them to plant their feet in to the world as a prosperous organization. After the death of his father in “Civil War,” young T’Challa is tasked with the heavy mantle of Black Panther and wins out against other nations in proving his worth. But when he is informed that someone is dealing the nation’s sacred metal vibranium to weapons manufacturers, T’Challa and his generals Nakia and Okoye (Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira) are led to an ex-SHIELD operative known as Killmonger.

Much like “Civil War,” Coogler focuses on the prospect of revenge and how it can rot those to their very core. The villains in “Black Panther” have their reasons and Coogler is very hesitant to paint them as evil, so much as flawed people with something personal to collect in what unfolds. The respective cast is purely spectacular in their roles from Angela Bassett, to Daniel Kaluuya, and mainly Danai Gurira and Michael B. Jordan, both of whom have a tendency to steal most of the scenes they occupy. Jordan presents a riveting turn as a Marvel villain who isn’t in the film for a macguffin, but for reasons similar to Baron Zemo’s from the aforementioned “Civil War.” Coogler offers such a compelling often emotional narrative that begins in the past, and jumps in to the present.

The narrative then works its way back to where every single plot element comes full circle, and allows a sense of rational and reason for Killmonger’s efforts to overtake the throne and seize Wakanda. Director Coogler remedies a lot of what’s been missing in the MCU from a charismatic personal villain, a smaller scale, a sense of self awareness, and a slew of very entertaining female heroes that the audience root for. Guirira embodies her role of General Okoye, while Letitia Wright is fantastic as T’Challa’s spunky geniue of a little sister who dabbles in experimental technology and proves to be a warrior when pushed in to a corner. “Black Panther” is an accomplishment from head to toe, it’s a brilliant and worthwhile addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that centers its narrative not on superheroes, but on family, the sins of our fathers, and the flawed heroes they can be.