Just like Spider-Man, Black Panther first appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in ‘Captain America: Civil War’. It’s been almost two years since his debut and now the arrival of his first solo outing is here. Proceeding the hugely popular ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and coming only months before the biggest milestone in MCU history, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, would director Ryan Coogler be successful in introducing a new character to, and making his mark on, this already deeply established cinematic universe?
‘Black Panther’ sees T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) return to his home country of Wakanda and claim the throne that has been passed to him. However, his transition to King won’t be a smooth one as he faces competition for the crown which won’t only threaten his title but the fate of Wakanda and the wider world. The narrative here is good, it works both as an origin story for T’Challa and Wakanda as a whole but also tells it’s own story rather than simply being a stepping stone for future installments, which some films in the MCU have been guilty of. One of the main storylines featured surrounds the politics of Wakanda and it’s relationship with the rest of the world. This was a really interesting focus and is without a doubt some of the most grounded storytelling in the MCU to date.
However, if that’s all sounding a bit serious fear not as it still features the trademark Marvel humour, in exactly the right dose too, and a nice level of emotion. Furthermore, the way in which the story reveals the world of Wakanda is wonderful. It’s set up brilliantly, effortlessly merging the more primitive elements of it’s culture with the technological advances unique to the country. Much credit is due to the team behind the production of such a world and for the costume, hair & make-up teams who created the unmistakable image for it’s inhabitants.
These teams had some pretty awesome performers to work with here as the cast assembled for ‘Black Panther’ is quite possibly the most impressive to date. The sheer amount of characters present is quite something yet the film never feels overcrowded and each character is given a satisfying amount of the spotlight. Chadwick Boseman already proved himself when we first met him but his portrayal of T’Challa over a more focused period of time only further consolidates another fine casting choice from Marvel.
There are countless other performers here, both returning and new with a couple really standing out. First is, Letitia Wright who plays T’Challa’s younger sister, Princess Shuri. You might recognise Wright from her performance in the most recent series of ‘Black Mirror’, and if she impressed you there just wait until you see her in action here. Herself and Boseman have an infectious brother/sister chemistry which is nothing short of a joy to watch and the majority of the film’s humour as a whole comes courtesy of Wright, proving to be one of the most entertaining additions to the MCU in years.
The second standout performance comes from Michael B. Jordan, whose appearance here makes this his third collaboration with director Coogler. The pair have struck gold once more as B. Jordan’s performance as Killmonger is the best we’ve seen from a villainous role in the MCU, who are renowned for struggling with these types of characters. However, there’s no sign of this here as his motivations are clear and somewhat understandable, audiences might find themselves caught off-guard with just how much they sympathise with him. He never comes across as cartoonish yet he still manages to be an entertaining presence and a worthy adversary for T’Challa.
We see these characters face off on more than one occasion in amongst the array of thrilling action sequences which keep the pace of the film fast. In particular two of these sequences are really superb. They evoke emotion whilst simultaneously creating spectacle. In addition they include as many of the characters as possible in an authentic manner, a further example of how well Coogler dealt with such a rich variety of individuals in this story. Accompanying these scenes as well as the more subdued sections was the fantastic soundtrack & score. It was the latter that really impressed presenting probably the most unique & memorable sound that this cinematic universe has ever heard, tieing together characters, narrative & action in a truly epic & cool way.
Quite possibly the strongest ever initial solo movie of any of the MCU heroes and the best film in this universe since ‘Captain America: The Winter Solider’, ‘Black Panther’ is a momentous installment that’s going to be profusely celebrated. Rightly so too, Coogler has brought life to one of the most fascinating Marvel creations of all time through his spectacular cast, exciting storytelling and impressive production making sure that ‘Black Panther’ isn’t going to get lost amongst the onslaught of comic book movies we are treated to. All I can say is good luck ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, you’ve some task topping this.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 9/10
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