After having played a pivotal role in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther needed his own movie. I mean, he was excellent and we all liked him but who the hell was he? Where did he come from? How do I get me one of those suits!?
Thankfully for everyone, Marvel have continued with their current trend of choosing the hottest directorial talent around and giving them a fair amount of leeway. The result here is that Ryan Coogler (Creed) has delivered us a blockbuster powerhouse of a movie that also delivers a fair bit of family drama, some excellent laughs and some satisfying bone-crushing action.
The quality of the cast is also excellent. Coogler stalwart Michael B Jordan doing impressive work as bad guy with a murky past, Erik Killmonger. Chadwick Boseman as the Wakandan King T’Challa, who is imbued with the powers of the Black Panther (by way of the heart shaped purple herb, powered by Vibranium) reprises his Civil War role and has all the gravitas and cool that make him very believable as a king and also an ass kicking superhero. Special mention has to go to Lupita Nyong’o (playing T’Challa’s on/off love interest/Wakanda spy Nakia), Danai Gurira (as bad ass General of the Kings Guard Okoye) and Letitia Wright (as tech expert and Princess Shuri). They all get prominent things to do, most of the best lines and some exciting character development which makes me think they’ll feature quite a lot in upcoming MCU films. This is great news because often in action films like this, female characters get sidelined and marginalised into damsel in distress roles or just there to make the place look pretty. Thankfully, these three talented actors get to thrive and deliver great performances.
The plot revolves around Ullysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and Killmonger stealing an ancient Wakandan relic made of Vibranium. Klaue is looking to sell it, Killmonger’s motives are a bit more murky. We see a ritual combat fight for the throne due to a few plot twists I will not spoil. From there we get a war for the soul of Wakanda. Do they stay a secretive nation who’s wealth and technology are hidden from the outside world or do they share the wealth and risk it being corrupted and used for less worthy purposes? It’s an argument you can actually see both sides of and it pulls off a clever trick by not being restricted to 100% good guys versus 100% bad guys. There are shades of grey here that makes it interesting to watch.
It’s a slick ride and one that flies by, even at the 2hrs 15min run time. There are a few things that don’t work. So me of the fight scenes are poorly lit which makes it difficult to keep up with the action. I also found that one scene in particular felt a bit out of place tonally, feeling a bit more like a scene from a Tarantino film. These are minor gripes however as this film is Marvel Studios at the top of their game and Coogler proving he’s got an incredible talent and will go down, I’m sure, as one of the greats when all is said and done.
4 Stars ****