The most redundant statement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that each new movie is “unlike anything they’ve made before.” Every Marvel film gets slapped with this — and it’s something I’m guilty of as well. But when it comes to Black Panther, I really mean it. Here’s the first Marvel movie with a truly broadened audience.
Bringing in director Ryan Coogler was one of Kevin Feige’s best ideas yet. Following through on his rise from independent (Fruitvale Station) to mainstream (Creed) to blockbuster, Coogler makes good on his potential and delivers one of the best Marvel entries yet.
Starting in 1992, Oakland, California, we meet Wakandan Prince N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) confronted by his brother King T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani, son of John Kani who plays the older version of T’Chaka). N’Jobu has betrayed their homeland, enlisting black market dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) to steal their beloved vibranium.
In present day, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has returned to Wakanda as heir to the throne after his father T’Chaka was killed in Civil War. Along with Okoye (Danai Gurira), T’Chaka brings Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) back to Wakanda. He enlists further help from his younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), to stop the impending menace of Erik (Michael B. Jordan), aka Killmonger, who seeks the ultimate reparation by using Wakanda’s precious vibranium to wreak havoc upon the world.
The best thing Coogler decided to do with Black Panther was to make a Black Panther movie. Never worried about trying to reference the 17 MCU films which lead us here, Coogler — and co-writer Joe Robert Cole — focus on telling their own story. Think Guardians of the Galaxy. It fleets with origin story necessities for those of us new to the character while providing a villain to love in Killmonger. Motivations are crystal clear and the threat feels real.
The other amazing thing about Black Panther, is its cast. Boseman is terrific in the lead, but he’s surrounded by a killer backup of badass women. If you’re going to get in a fight, who wouldn’t want Okoye, Nakia, and Shuri standing next to them? As fantastic as Nyong’o and Gurira are, Wright overshadows everyone and steals the whole movie. We’ve been blessed with a new Disney Princess and she’s feisty, super smart, hilarious, and every bit as heroic as her brother.
This is the film that was needed to cast a great big spotlight on how fantastic it can be when given the chance. It’s too bad Wakanda isn’t real because we sure could use it these days. With one of the best ensembles in years, a Bond/Mission: Impossible-styled plot, breathtaking action, and Marvel’s most fully fleshed characters in a while, Black Panther lives up to the hype and is the year’s first must see blockbuster event.