Starting in Oakland in the early 90's, an animated historical recap followed by a London museum heist Black Panther manages to get through the exposition elements right off the top of the proceedings. Things begin to pick up when the breakaway tribe appears at the coronation ceremony to challenge for the throne. The upward trajectory continues as the Wakandans get a tip on an old foe Klaue (Andy Serkirs) a South African arms dealer one of the few outsiders to have penetrated the cloaked Wakanda border. A team headed by new King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) General Okoye (Danai Guria) deft spear wielding head of the all-female royal guards and Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) T'Challa's old flame turned embedded government operative. The trio head to South Korea to cut off Klaue's deal for the heisted London vibranium backed virtually by T'Challa's little sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) who with all of the wonderful tech provided by Wakanda's vibranium is Q on steroids.
Director Ryan Coogler who also has a co-writing credit with Joe Robert Cole tackles some major themes successfully in the film. The first being Wakanda's long-standing policy of secrecy and isolation. They have had alien technology for a generations thanks to a vibranium meteor strike but instead watched their African neighbours be colonialized, sold as slaves and suffer in great poverty. Their technical and medical knowledge if shared could cure many diseases, calm flash points between nations but could bring scrutiny from the outside world.
Coogler muse Michael B Jordan blasts of the screen as Black Panther's foil Eric Killmonger Stevens. He first appears as a glasses wearing intellect at the London Museum, then we learn that he is deeply connected and affected by the opening events in Oakland. Killmonger turned to the military sporting marks on his body to represent each kill he has had over the years. Chadwik Boseman is even keeled as T'Challa / Black Panther. He battles his nature of being a kind and good person versus the hard choices he has to face as the new king. The lead male roles are flanked by a trio of very strong female performances by Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Guria, and Lelita Wright. Look for Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya as W'Kabi the Chief guard of Wakanda's cloaked boarder and This is Us' Stirling K Brown who dominates the early 90's Oakland storyline.
Black Panther is a visually stunning marvel. The bright glow of the Wakanda technological achievements, tribal garments and sweeping lush landscapes jump off the screen. The filmmakers have crafted a project that is definitely in the reified air atop the marvel universe. A stellar cast does not set a foot wrong in this highly anticipated feature that I can fully recommend.
**** Out of 4
Black Panther | Ryan Coogler | USA | 2018 | 134 Minutes.
Tags: Marvel Universe, Meteor, Technology, Challenge, Isolation, Busan, United Nations, Oakland, Colonialism.