Title: Black Panther
Release Date: February 16, 2018
Director: Ryan Coogler
Production Company: Marvel Studios
Black Panther is rightly celebrated for breaking ground in representation by depicting African and African Americans (and especially Black women) in a superhero/action adventure film. That wouldn’t matter as much if also wasn’t an excellent superhero/action adventure film, certainly the best one I’ve ever seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The all-star cast put in excellent performances that balances the challenge of providing great character development, motivations, and relationships with butt-kicking, blowing stuff up, and witty dialogue. The world of Wakanda comes alive, providing a “what if” view of how an African country uninterrupted by colonialism could develop a technologically advanced society from architecture to clothing to rituals to freakin’ awesome battle rhinos.
Introducing T’Challa in Civil War means that Black Panther doesn’t get bogged down with “superhero origin story” tropes, even as it shows him facing the challenges of coming of age, ascending to kingship, and realizing the nuances of right and wrong in governance. Chadwick Boseman does a great job at examining this uncertainty and loss of idealism. Michael B. Jordan steals the show as Erik “Kilmonger” Stevens whose character is so very American in contrast to the rest of the cast, and brings up uncomfortable questions about Wakanda’s responsibility to oppressed and colonized Black peoples worldwide. (SPOILER: I’m disappointed Kilmonger chooses to die because I think his character could make a great “frenemy” in future films, allying with T’Challa as Wakanda opens itself to the rest of the world. But I suppose Marvel is already telling that kind of story with Wanda Maximof). Like most everyone else, my favorite character is Shuri, the young tech wizard played Letitia Wright who needles her big brother T’Challa (while secretly hero-worshiping him) and says inappropriate things at formal occasions.
You probably don’t need me to say it, but this is an all around terrific movie and has something for everyone.