To put it in simple terms, Black Panther is one of the best Marvel films ever. The Black Panther character screamed for a movie iteration ever since he debuted in comic book form in Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #52 (1966).
Ryan Coogler, who broke out with the Sundance-winning Fruitvale Station in 2013, is onto a heck of a start to his filmmaking career with three critically acclaimed films. Not many filmmakers can have as successful of a start to their careers but Coogler has it.
We first met T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in 2015’s Captain America: Civil War as the nations of the world met in Vienna for the signing of the Sokovia Accords. It was there in which his father, King T’Chaka (John Dani) of Wakanda, saw his life come to a tragic end when Helmut Zemo set off a bomb. With the character introduction out of the way, this paves the way for Black Panther to introduce film goers to the vibranium-filled land of Wakanda, including the Dora Milaje–the elite all-female security force–after a brief prelude to start the film.
As he mourns his father, what does it mean for T’Challa at the leadership level? With Coogler’s specialty being character-driven films, this is where he does it so well but also made to fit what’s expected for Marvel. Does Wakanda stay isolated or seek to join the world in the 21st Century? This is ultimately the biggest challenge at stake and never more so once T’Challa is challenged for the throne.
With the introductions out of the way, the action gets started with a great action sequence in South Korea, where CIA Agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) is a reluctant Wakandan ally and “another broken white boy” later on. The film is enjoyable even if it doesn’t quite have the fun seen most recently in November’s Thor: Ragnarok. Without realizing it, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) recruited a young Wakandan in Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). A veteran of American Armed Forces, Killmonger is as lethal as any villain could be in a Marvel film–one of the most formidable foes by far since the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a role that is darker but perfect for Jordan but nobody could play this role as well as the Coogler veteran does.
As isolated as Wakanda appears in the film, the country is so technologically advanced that one can only wait for the look on Tony Stark’s face when he learns this information in Avengers: Infinity War. Despite all this technology, Coogler and Joe Robert Cole’s script is one that’s grounded in reality.
For her cinematography in the film, Rachel Morrison could very well be a repeat nominee come 2019. She beautifully captures the scenery, especially at Warrior Falls. Whether it’s close-ups or an overhead view, her cinematography only adds to the film’s marvel.
Make no mistake about it. Black Panther is going to do for People of Color what DC’s Wonder Woman did for females. It’s going to be a box office juggernaut and the biggest question is why Marvel didn’t think to make this film sooner.
DIRECTOR: Ryan Coogler
SCREENWRITERS: Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole
CAST: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, with Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis
This review was originally published last year.