Black Panther is an entertaining entry into the MCU, detailing the origin of one of Marvel Studios’ newest cinematic characters, the superhero Black Panther, played superbly by Chadwick Boseman.
T’Challa (Boseman), has been crowned the King of Wakanda after his father, the former King T’Chaka (John Kani), was murdered in the events that took place in Captain America: Civil War (2016). The new, young King now faces the hard task of governing his Kingdom ethically and fairly, while protecting his country’s secretive technology from falling into the wrong hands. T’Challa faces his greatest test when Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) arrives in Wakanda and attempts to claim the throne, and the country’s technology for his own sinister purposes.
Stripping the film’s plot down to the bare basics as above does not do it any justice, however. There are several themes that run concurrently throughout the course of the film. Family, heritage, pride, acceptance, diversity, are all key themes at play here. All which are socially relevant in the modern era. Some deep moral issues are explored in the film; such as the oppression of minorities, and what lengths they could, or should go to in order to fight back. Killmonger’s vision is to use violence and attack his oppressors, while T’Challa/Black Panther’s is to make peace, and give education and diplomacy a chance instead. It’s the classic two-sides-to-every-story approach, one that allows the audience to garner empathy for both the film’s hero and its villain.
It’s the film’s heroes and villains, supporting characters and the performances by its leads and ensemble cast members that are Black Panther’s biggest strong point. We’ve already been introduced to Boseman as the Black Panther before, however his supporters and detractors that are featured in this film make for some welcome additions to the Marvel-movie character fold. Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Andy Serkis deserve special mention for the portrayal of their characters, however the entire supporting cast puts in their best effort, with resounding success. Each actor brings depth to their characters, allowing the audience to connect with different characters on different levels. Too often is the case that in some films, a lot of the characters are there just to serve the purpose of the narrative, however this is not the case here, much to the benefit of the film’s fans. Unfortunately, while his performance was fine, Martin Freeman’s character, the US Government Agent Everett K. Ross, does not add much value to the rest of the film’s rich cast.
Director Ryan Coogler and his team have also hit a home run with the film’s art direction. Black Panther is full of colourful scenery and costume design, that perfectly complements the depiction of the film’s cultural aspects. Each of Wakanda’s different tribespeople have their own unique style, adding an extra layer to their cultural backgrounds. Combine that with some futuristic sets, vehicles and gadgets, and we get some interesting, well thought out designs that we’ve yet to see come out of a Marvel film yet. The film’s cinematography places an emphasis on gorgeous visuals and exhilarating action sequences, however some of the visual effects fall flat, especially at the film’s climax, which is concerning when you consider that Marvel Studios has a seemingly endless budget behind its slate of films.
Black Panther doesn’t offer much new as far as its story and themes go, borrowing things from many other films that have come before it, however its characters, performances, and the cultural mythology and art direction it brings makes it a unique entry into Marvel Studios’ catalogue of films. That alone is worth the price of admission.
The Black Panther was created in July 1966, two months before the founding of the Black Panther Party. Many people mistakenly assumed the name referenced the Party, and so the character was renamed the Black Leopard. However, neither the readers nor the creators cared for that title and it did not last for long.