The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been going for a good ten years now and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Over the years, it’s produced some great films, with many coming with certain expectations. But I’d argue that none of them have come with the amount of expectation Black Panther has in terms of representation. After all, it’s the first time a black superhero has been presented on such a grand stage. Black Panther is an important cultural character to many comic fans, and I’m happy to say the film delivers in every way possible. There’s a great story, complex characters, awesome action scenes and plenty of word building that sets Black Panther apart from other superhero films.
The film picks up from Civil War, with T’Challa returning to Wakanda to mourn the death of his father and assume the mantle of king. Chadwick Boseman is magnetic in his portrayal as the African monarch. His take on T’Challa is a man who looks outward as much as inward, wanting to protect his home and strengthen ties with the rest of the world. Black Panther feels the weight of the responsibility placed on his shoulders and for all his wisdom, there’s a naivety that reveals itself gradually. It’s not easy being king and the decisions that T’Challa has to make gives Boseman the chance to give an emotive performance.
It’s not just Boseman who shines, as he’s joined by an all-star supporting cast that keep him grounded. Lupito Nyong’o is radiant as Nakia, Black Panther’s former flame who’s fighting for a better future for her people. Danai Gurira is marvellous as the proud Okoye, general of the Dora Milaje royal guard. She steals every scene she’s in with her zero bullshit approach to protecting T’Challa and the Wakandan way of life. Letitia Wright also gives a wonderful performance as the king’s little sister, Shuri. As the smartest person in the world, Shuri designs all of Wakanda’s technology, making the character an empowering figure for young black women.
Every good hero needs a greater villain to fight against and Michael B Jordan steps up to the plate as Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens. Jordan gives a nuanced performance that makes him one of the most memorable villains in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His motivations for wanting to fight Black Panther are understandable and their relationship is similar to the one shared between Professor X and Magneto. Black Panther and Killmonger want what’s best for their people, but they both have very different methods.
It was a smart decision for the film to be centred in Wakanda, as the country is shown in great detail. Wakanda is a technological masterpiece, full of futuristic buildings and beautiful vistas. I enjoyed the mix of old and new technology, such as traditional African beads that are used as communication devices. Wakanda is the perfect backdrop for a soundtrack that blends African harmonies with hard-hitting hip-hop. It goes to show how powerful music is and how it can elevate a film even more.
The film is rich in thematic detail, with an important motif being what it means to be black in Africa and America. The two cultures are thrown together at a time when the American political landscape is as volatile as ever. It’s represented best in the stand off between Black Panther and Killmonger, as both characters have noble intentions that stem from how they were raised.
Black Panther is a culturally important film that signifies an important milestone. More than that, it’s an entertaining, emotional story that will be remembered as one of the greatest comic films of all time.
The film wouldn’t be possible without Black Panther appearing in comics. Be sure to check out my review of Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book One to gain a better understanding of the king and what drives him.