Hail the King
Every so often a genre movie will come along that gets everyone talking. Last year it was Get Out, the incredible horror mystery from Jordan Peele. This year is Marvel Studios latest blockbuster - Black Panther that seems to have all the buzz.
Directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), Black Panther is the 18th movie entry into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) & stars Chadwick Boseman in the title role, alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.
After an impressive debut in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, could Black Panther hold his own in a standalone movie? Check out the trailer below.
Following the death of his father during the events of Captain America: Civil War, T'Challa (Boseman) takes his place as king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. The title of king of Wakanda also comes with the mantle of the superpowered Black Panther - who is the protector of the nation. Due to a meteorite collision centuries ago & the subsequent discovery of the near indestructible element vibranium, Wakanda has managed to become technologically superior to every other nation on earth - whilst continually maintaining the illusion that they are a poor farming nation. T'Challa's position is challenged by an outsider; Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who looks to take the throne for himself & share Wakanda's secret with the world.
First up, Wakanda looks incredible - the design team have done an fantastic job in bringing it to life. It looks so otherworldly; the futuristic neon skyscrapers & high-speed trains amongst the lush African greenery - think Blade Runner meets The Lion King! The costume & set design also play a huge part in this; traditional African dress is often offset against high tech interiors with the odd traditional decoration in the background. The soundtrack is also a spectacle - Ludwig Göransson has done a wonderful job with the score & the accompanying OST by Kendrick Lamar makes for excellent listening.
Chadwick Boseman plays T'Challa/Black Panther perfectly. He brings all the gravitas & presence required for playing a character of royalty whilst maintaining a sombre gentleness needed of a role that requires him to mourn his father's death whilst being the protector of a nation. Marvel Studios rarely get the casting of their superheroes wrong & they have nailed it again here with Boseman - it's hard to imagine anyone else donning the Black Panther suit (except maybe Shuri?).
One of the biggest complaints about Marvel movies is that they tend to feature largely forgettable villains. How many really stick in your mind out with Loki, Ultron & The Winter Soldier? Thankfully, for Black Panther though, Killmonger is a rather memorable villain who is played brilliantly by the fantastic Michael B. Jordan. Erik "Killmonger" Stevens seems to start the movie as an accomplice to one of Black Panther's longtime foes; Ulysses Klaue Andy Serkis), however, as the movie progresses & through a combination of grief, anguish & rage, we get to fully understand his actions and the motive behind them. Far too often, Marvel villains are just a monster who wants to destroy the world, however, with Killmonger his motives are more contained & Jordan adds a real level of humanity to the character that is usually often missing.
As impressive as Boseman & Jordan are, for me Letitia Wright's (Black Mirror's Black Museum) Shuri steals the show. Shuri, T'Challa's younger sister also plays the role of James Bond's Q; head of Wakanda's technology department, alongside developing Black Panther's suit & weapons - a role that gives Tony Stark a run for his money. Shuri, whilst obviously a scientific genius, finds plenty of time for being sarcastic & a prankster - however, she is not afraid to fight when it comes down to it. It is a role that is played perfectly by Wright, and if you are yet to see the aforementioned episode of Black Mirror - then I urge you to do so.
Black Panther is an excellent addition to the MCU & one that quite rightly has critics & fans buzzing with delight. It looks stunning, it sounds stunning, it is filled with fantastic performances, but most of all; it is bold, unafraid to take risks & makes a cultural statement. For a movie that is director Coogler's THIRD directorial outing, Black Panther is a must-see for movie fans - whether you are invested in the MCU or not.
Overall Black Panther gets 4.5 out of 5 stars from me. Wakanda Forever.