This 2018 American superhero film, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, is the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and directed by Ryan Coogler. It stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis.
T’Challa (Boseman), new King of Wakanda, an African nation fuelled by the extra-terrestrial metal vibranium, faces his first major duty; preserve the secrecy and culture of Wakanda from the eyes of the world who only see it as a 3rd world country when, in reality, they are one of the most advanced cultures on the planet.
As his alter-ego Black Panther, T’Challa works with his General, Okoye (Gurira), CIA operative Everett Ross (Freeman) and former lover Nakia (Nyong’o) to track down arms-dealer Ulysses Klaue (Serkis) who is planning to sell stolen vibranium on the black market.
But T’Challa discovers a new threat alongside Klaue; Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens (Jordan), a special-ops solider with ties to Wakanda who poses a threat to T’Challa’s rule. As his position as Black Panther is under threat, T’Challa must prevent Killmonger from taking over Wakanda and preserve the peace of his people and his country at all costs...
Following in the footsteps of ‘Thor: Ragnarok’, Marvel presents a film that strays from the usual super-hero template for the most parts and blends more external genres. While ‘Ragnarok’ hit us with comedy and sci-fi fantasy, director Ryan Coogler blends espionage and history for his take on ‘Black Panther’. While these elements win for the most part, I sadly was bothered by a few negatives that over-shadowed the good.
This is going to create shock-waves not for the story or presentation of old ideas in the Marvel shell, but for the introduction of an African-American primary cast leading the film. It shouldn’t BE a headline event sadly, but in todays world, it is. Yet it shows the range of talent we have in the likes of Boseman, Nyong’o, Gurira and Kaluuya that deserve more mainstream attention.
With stellar support from the likes of Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Letitia Wright, the cast come together as one of the best and most unified of the whole series. They are characters from Wakanda, a fictional country in Africa, and so are brought together in established relationships and goals that welcome you as the audience in to discover, explore and appreciate this wonderous place.
The first hour or so plays out the espionage card and comes over like a James Bond movie. Boseman is our “first black James Bond” looking suave, sophisticated and packing a punch when needed. Shuri is our quartermaster providing high-tech gadgets and weapons. Gurira is our agent in the field who is just as strong and capable as Boseman. Nyong’o is the love interest - except she kicks more ass and takes care of herself than she does swoon over the lead. Andy Serkis is our dastardly villain.
With a glorious set-piece in and around a casino in Busan, South Korea, the James Bond vibe isn’t far away as the action is well paced, well executed and looks stunning amidst this vibrant city during a pulse pounding car chase with an even stronger pulse pounding soundtrack.
It’s Marvel’s James Bond for the new generation ripping up all the rule books. And it works. Black Panther shines here with the action, cast and story - motivated by hunting down an arms dealer who could pose a threat to the fragile world our heroes live in. I was taken in from the start and I enjoyed it. The fusion of African culture into a modern super-hero story is very fresh and very welcome. The colours, settings and characters are just as vibrant as you would expect, and it’s so authentic and, well, different to the usual Marvel offerings. Even the soundtrack by Ludwig Goransson is a highlight; African instruments and themes blended with hints of modern compositions really works and really takes you into Wakanda’s world.
Yet, after all the strong positives and a strong hour, the second introduced a few elements that didn’t sit with me.
Firstly, the villains. After a rather unsettling and, quite frankly, disturbing opening killing spree by Serkis’ Klaue and Jordans’ Killmonger that I felt had no place in a family-orientated movie, they came across to me as nothing but thugs with attitude. Villains can be cold and dangerous to a point without us seeing things that go beyond what you expect from a movie such as this - Klaue did some things that I felt were played for dark comedy but was very close to the bone of real world events.
Killmonger simply had a swagger to him and attitude that took him out of being a worthy Marvel villain to just a typical special-forces trained bad guy with a grudge. Johnson was tolerable in ‘Creed’ as his attitude and development fitted the character and the journey. Here he is just annoying and belongs to ‘Boyz In Da Hood’ or something. Keep your gold teeth, your swagger and your smart-arse attitude; it doesn’t work for me and I found him of no great threat to anything except the throne of Wakanda. And, for me, he is outrageously racist and is motived only by having different creeds go to war. I wasn’t sold on that.
Couple this with a sag in the story as we have the usual self-discovery journey where things go wrong, alliances turn, and people need to find their place in the world once again to rise up and take a stand...blah blah blah. It becomes a real generic Marvel film in the second half. I found myself bored and just waiting for things to pick up again for the finale. Yes, it continues with the strong themes of the first hour, but it becomes bogged down with the Marvel genre that offers by the book story telling, a cluttered finale and CGI heavy action. On that note, the CGI throughout is very ropey - plenty of clear green-screen a plenty and body doubles. But, well, what can you do. It’s a superhero film - CGI is as standard now as the 2hr plus run time.
‘Black Panther’ will gain word of mouth for the strong positives it offers audiences from the typical “white Americana” dominated themes of the past. Yet, behind all this, is a very average and very typical Marvel movie that offers little in terms of story and over-all scale compared to that like ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ or ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ in terms of origin stories.