Get ready to second guess every superhero movie that has come before this. “Black Panther” is almost a religious experience. It goes far beyond a simple origin story. It’s a deeply satisfying comic-book flick with all the entertainment, humor and action you could ever want.
By the time you leave the theater, you will wonder if we’ve been getting shortchanged by the blockbuster movies we’ve come to expect. Previous superhero tales, especially those from the recent DC universe, seem shallow and trite in comparison. There’s a ton of depth, motivation, and richness in “Black Panther.”
Yes, we’ve seen the character of Black Panther before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). He appeared in “Captain America: Civil War” shortly after his father was murdered in a terrorist attack and he takes over the Black Panther identity from the fallen king. He participated, briefly, in the big airport battle scene fighting alongside Iron Man, fighting off Team Cap (Captain America’s superhero posse). So, we already know he’s awesome.
This film opens with a quick history of the Pather’s home Wakanda, the fictional African country founded by 5 tribes and centered around a giant chunk of space-rock called Vibranium. The story jumps into the ‘90s and again into the present day. I won’t dive into detail to keep the spoilers to a minimum. Jump to current day, Wakanda where prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has returned from a rescue mission as the Black Panther to assume the role of king of his country. T’Challa has his panther-powers removed and is asked to defend himself from any tribe willing to challenge him. The pageantry and ceremony is just the kick-off of the journey T’Challa must take to earn the throne and his superpowers. It’s also a key building block to who and what the Black Panther is.
We’ve certainly seen heroic journeys like this before. Thor’s story comes to mind. But, here, the surrounding characters carry weight and importance, a little like “Guardians of the Galaxy” but with a more serious tone and a lot less selfishness. They contribute to the story and the mythos way more than I expected. These are not supporting characters, they are so much more.
T’Challa’s sister Shuri, is wonderfully played by Letitia Wright. She’s the story’s Q (my James Bond reference) and provides much of the film’s humor and taunting sense of joy as she prods her big brother along. She is probably my favorite performance in the film.
Lupita Nyong’o is T’Challa’s ex, Nakia the Wakandan super-spy, provides the anchor of personal responsibility and social conscious throughout the film. She’s also ridiculously charming and strong. Nyong’o effortless acting never fails to impress.“Walking Dead’s’ super-star, Danai Gurira, is Okoye, T’Challa’s personal guard and leader of an all-female warrior group provides a ton of the butt-kicking action moments and one of the best lines of the film. Her character really needs her own movie. She’s SO good!
Andy Serkis amps up his returning Klaw character to a very intense level-10. It’s so nice to have scary bad guy again. He also has a mix-tape.
And, speaking of bad guys, Michael B. Jordan delivers possibly one of the most iconic bad-guy rolls since Heath Ledger’s Joker. Killmonger is absolutely not the kind of villain character you would expect. He’s equal parts complicated, evil, and relevant. I have a feeling this character will be a fan favorite for a long time to come.
Oh, and Chadwick Boseman is still fantastic as the titular Black Panther. We knew he would be. Let’s be glad we get to spend more future time with him in the MCU. Just an amazingly cool character played by the coolest of actors.
Wow, I haven’t even scratched the surface of “Black Panther’s” amazing character list. Angela Basset, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya and Sterling K. Brown… seriously… how much more amazing can this cast get? Hint: a lot more. A special shout-out to Winston Duke for providing a surprise stand-out performance as rival tribe leader, M’Baku. I need to get all these action figures!
Besides the cast, what else is great about “Black Panther?” Oh, let’s see: the action, Ryan Coogler’s directing, the cinematography, the insane car chase, the spaceships, the special effects, the sets, the Kendrick Lamar songs, the costumes, the gadgets, the sheer epic-ness. Yes, it all lives up to the hype.
By the time it was all over, I felt that I knew more about these characters, this universe and this story than anything I’ve ever seen in a mainstream comic-book action movie. And, the way director Ryan Coogler sneaks in depth, emotion, and a profound message, while still maintaining a sense of fun, is sublime. I can’t stop thinking about it.
FYI: there are 2 secret endings. One is mid-credits and the other is just AFTER the insanely huge credits list wraps up. Stick around, it’s worth it.