T'Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.
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Marvel Studios has done something truly impressive with Black Panther
, which stars Chadwick Boseman as the titular hero. While past Marvel films have tackled familiar themes of government paranoia (Captain America: The Winter Soldier
) and adolescent growth (Spider-Man: Homecoming
), this latest film taps into the zeitgeist better than many dramas. At its core, Black Panther
is about a prince named T'Challa who is set to ascend to the role of king of Wakanda, a technologically advanced African nation that has hidden itself from the world. But it's also about the actions of the privileged and how they can better the less fortunate. Everything about Black Panther
has that Marvel feel, but there's a deeper message to it all that makes it all the more relevant. It may not be Marvel's most entertaining movie, but it is certainly one of its most important.
picks up shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War
, with T'Challa (Boseman) returning home to Wakanda to take up the mantle of king and Black Panther, protector of the African nation and representative of its values. As his first mission as king, T'Challa pursues Ulysses Klau (Andy Serkis) who has come into possession of some Vibranium, a fictional metal that is indestructible and has helped Wakanda's technology advance well beyond the realm its contemporaries. On his mission, T'Challa is flanked by his trusted guard Okoye (Danai Gurira) and old flame Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), equally capable Wakandan warriors that are as deadly as Black Panther, if not more.
Without giving too much away, what seems like a fairly straightforward "stop the bad guys from using our technology for evil" plot turns more complex than most might expect. Once Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger enters the scene, Black Panther
sheds its traditional Marvel "origin story" coating and begins a deeper examination of the Wakandan culture and how it reflects today's society.
There's no question that a lot will be said about Black Panther
's relevance and its cast. A big budget superhero movie featuring a black lead actor, black supporting characters, and a locale rarely featured in blockbusters is something to applaud all on its own, but the fact that director Ryan Coogler is able to make a movie that entertains and will make audiences consider their world takes the film above and beyond. In one fell swoop, Coogler proves that Marvel movies can have a diverse cast, that the familiar is not the only route, and that the stories can be nuanced in their plot and themes.
If there is one gripe to be had with Black Panther
, it's that the action doesn't feel as exciting as the Marvel brand has come to deliver. There's certainly something James Bond-like about T'Challa, with his use of gadgets and reliance on undercover reconnaissance, but once Killmonger enters the frame, the reliance on CGI becomes a little overbearing. Coogler does well to add some creativity to the action sequences, but they have a little too much of that early 2000's feel, where one CGI character goes toe-to-toe with another CGI character in a weightless, borderline silly fight scene.
Overall, though, Black Panther
takes a ton of risks and succeeds where it counts. This is Marvel taking risks with talent that has been waiting for its opportunity to prove the superhero genre can be more than Iron Man
s and Captain America
s. Black Panther
kicks as much ass as any Marvel hero, and his solo film debut is well worth seeing.
As was mentioned, the action in Black Panther
has a little too much of that CGI-heavy feel, with the titular character looking a little weightless in his action scenes. To the film's credit, there is plenty of creativity at play in the action sequences - they by no means feel derivative - but it does seem like a step backward to the era of Spider-Man
Alongside some unconvincing CGI fisticuffs is a secondary final sequence that feels uniquely Black Panther
. Seeing tribal warriors use advanced technology is where the film can keep the bombast without becoming overly generic.
There's a fight sequence featuring Boseman, Gurira, and Nyong'o that strikes a great tone for the film, but it is overshadowed by the more bombastic and effects-heavy moments. Hopefully, future Black Panther
films will touch more on what makes the character unique, rather than trying to fit his action into a familiar mold.