Black Panther is more aligned to Captain America films in terms of its tone than the lighter-hearted Iron Man or Thor franchises, and it works to bring the world of Black Panther to life. The opening visuals as we are told the history of Wakanda, its tribes and the power of the Vibranium and the Black Panther story was beautifully done and sets the tone for the rest of this film, opening this world up to a larger audience.
Following on pretty much straight after the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa returns to take the throne of Wakanda after T’Chaka’s death.
The Wakanadans are a strong and proud people rooted in tradition and inward looking but yet still technologically advanced thanks to their Vibranium deposits that it helps develop. Strong warrior women of the Dora Milaje guard the royal family which I think is a fantastic touch. Continuing this theme the characters of Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) were both amazing in their roles: being strong, resourceful, intelligent and entirely self-sufficient.
Chadwick Boseman as Prince/King T’Challa put in another great performance as the Black Panther. He walks the fine line between warrior and leader extremely well and in remarkably measured. However, because of this more restrained approach he was frequently put into the shade by the more emotive performances, particularly from Michael B Jordan‘s Killmonger and, most impressively for me, Danai Gurira‘s Okoye. T’Challa’s younger sister Suri (Letitia Wright) plays an important and more youthful, playful role as chief technology officer to the Wakandans and general genius.
Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman and Winston Duke all play pivotal, but smaller roles in this ensemble cast. Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue was amazing as he has been in previous outings just more so this time: more crazy, more over the top but it works here as it seems he is having so much fun with the character. Michael B Jordan as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens is my real star of the show. Brooding, deadly and purposeful, an awesome combination of power and technique, the result of his lifetime of preparation for this tilt at the throne. He is a great villain, something not said terribly often within the MCU, you really felt the threat from him, the desire to ascend to the throne to right the wrongs he felt had been put upon him. Ultimately they could’ve explored this a bit more for my liking, taking too long to get to this crisis point and not showing more of this newly crowned tyrant.
Visually this is a feast for the eyes. There are some great locations and some fantastic sets. The special effects, particularly on the Black Panther armour and the Vibranium mine, were superbly done as were the costumes and outfits of the varied tribes. The score byLudwig Göransson and soundtrack were also well done, although I was expecting something more bombastic knowing that Kendrick Lamar was involved.
Ryan Coogler has shown with this film that he is a big hitter, able to control a big budget and a big cast. Being involved in the writing (alongside Joe Robert Cole) as well as directing, this is his film. Great characters, fantastic action, maybe less so on the drama but all together as a package this is definitely something to behold. It is hard these days to craft a wholly new story without utilising tropes from the past and I felt that the plot-line of fall & redemption was slightly telegraphed but in the context of the film as a whole it didn’t overly matter. Some fight scenes were dizzyingly cut together, making it hard to understand what was happening but on the whole the fight scenes were excellently choreographed and varied in execution. And the Busan-set car chase scene was astoundingly done, a fantastic mix of action, humour and tension. And to top it all off, after all this has been said and done, the Stan Lee cameo WASN’T cringeworthy. Success!