For Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next film, the studio tackles the rich history of T’Challa in Black Panther. As the titular superhero, he is the newly-crowned king of the fictional reclusive African nation Wakanda. As T’Challa comes to terms with being the new ruler, someone from the country’s past reappears to challenge the throne and harness its precious resources. It may sound like your typical Marvel film but Black Panther is so much more and comes with a unique and empowering story.
The first thing that you notice is that the film is a visual spectacle. Director Ryan Coogler taps into the rich heritage of Africa, respectfully borrowing the continent’s traditions in terms of fashion, jewelry, and body modifications. Black Panther is bursting with color yet it doesn’t feel exploitative or derivative.
The spectacle extends to its setting, a lush grassland that hides the real Wakanda: a city bustling with skyscrapers while still staying true to its region. It’s not just the visuals that’s arresting: the score is amazing and you should listen to the soundtrack Kendrick Lamar produced.
However, the strength of Black Panther is its message of empowerment, both for people of color and women. It goes without saying that most of the cast are POC’s, led by the amazing Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa. Equally striking is that T’Challa is surrounded by women like Danai Gurira as Okoye, the head of the special forces Dora Milaje; Lupita Nyong’o as the operative Nakia; and Letitia Wright as his sister Shuri, who designs new technology for the country. Even his mother, Ramonda, played by Angela Bassett, had a queenly and imperial flair.
All the actors delivered on all counts and they were impressively led by Boseman, who portrayed the reluctant king who comes into his own. Gurira, Nyong’o, and Wright were fabulous, proving that women can both be beautiful and strong at the same time.
The true standout was Michael B. Jordan as the villain Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, the best-written villain in the MCU and whose cause was greater than a slighted ego. His cause is so realistic, so timely, and so needed that you almost root for the bad guy. And when you’re rooting for the villain, you know the film is touching on a truth that demands to be told.
If you look at things from a bigger picture, Black Panther fits snugly within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has action, a good plot, banter (mostly coming from Wright’s Shuri), and a love story. What really separates the film is its strong message. Black Panther tells it well. In fact, it roars it.