After the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to the technologically advanced African state of Wakanda to succeed his father as king. Immediately, he must defend his country from arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and former American soldier Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).
After ten years and seventeen previous films, it could be argued that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was at risk of complacency. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther has proven this wrong in emphatic fashion. The Fruitvale Station and Creed director has delivered an innovative film that is exhilarating, thought provoking and one of the studio’s best films to date.
The film’s predominately black cast is arguably Marvel’s greatest ensemble to date. The softly spoken Chadwick Boseman is superb as the titular character, while Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger competes with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki as Marvel’s best cinematic villain. With a sympathetic cause and emotional depth, Killmonger is a befitting foil for T’Challa.
Additionally, Lupita Nyong'o is excellent as Nakia and Top Boy’s Letitia Wright, who plays Shuji, steals every scene that she’s in. Her sibling relationship with T’Challa is pitched perfectly and the two possess stellar chemistry. Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman, Winston Duke, Andy Serkis and Danai Gurira make up the rest of the film’s talented supporting cast.
Coogler handles the promotion to mega-budget filmmaking with aplomb. As well as being an immensely entertaining and technically brilliant action blockbuster, Black Panther poses serious questions about foreign policy, isolationism and aid. Coogler combines philosophy, identity politics and action sequences seamlessly.
The set pieces, particularly the numerous battles on top of a waterfall, the 007-esque casino scene and its subsequent car chase, are spectacular. Hopefully, Coogler will be invited back to direct another installment in the MCU. Whether it is Black Panther’s next solo-outing or an Avengers sequel, the Californian auteur has proven that he can blend first-class entertainment with grand ideas.
Visually, Black Panther is astonishing. The film’s Afrofuturism is realised beautifully, as the production design brings the nation of Wakanda alive in a spectacular manner. It is unlike anything seen before and introduces another beautiful location to Marvel’s cinematic canon. Unfortunately, the Kendrick Lamar-curated soundtrack is not used to its full potential, making the album feel like an after-thought for marketing purposes. However, Ludwig Göransson’s score ensures that the film’s music is as impressive as its visuals.
Black Panther is a blockbuster that is not only fresh, beautifully realised and raises pertinent issues, but is a momentous cinematic occasion. Its black cast provides long-awaited representation while its aesthetic offers a ground-breaking portrayal of African culture. The film will hopefully remind Hollywood that it is not only white people who go to the cinema and will stop any future whitewashing in its tracks. To answer Kendrick and SZA, it is indeed anything and everything you hoped for.