Reel Reviews | Black Panther

by Monica Hayes

Almost 20 years after Blade, hit the big screen, the very first penned black superhero hits the big screen. That’s right, Ryan adaptation of Black Panther is here and it is phenomenal!

Now that King T’Chaka (John Kani) was killed as a direct result of Klaw’s actions in the last Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to lead his people and assume all of the duties and responsibilities as the new King of Wakanda. He also must now assume the role of the Black Panther to protect Wakanda and its secret – Vibranium. However, before he can sit on the throne, he must go through all of the ceremonial rituals. The main ritual is a “challenge” where anyone within the four tribes of royal blood can try to lay claim to the throne.

Meanwhile, at the British Museum in London, black market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue aka The Klaw (Andy Serkis) and Erick Stevens aka Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) steal an ancient artifact made of Virbranium with the intent to sell it on the black market. This news gets the attention of Dora Milaje General Okoye (Danai Gurira) who immediately informs the council. Klaw has eluded the Wakandans for years, and it was time for him to answer for his crimes. T’Challa orders a mission to capture the Klaw and bring him back to Wakanda to answer for his crimes. He assures the council that he will personally capture Klaw and bring him back to Wakanda. T’Challa, Okoye, and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) to an underground casino in Korea where Klaw will meet his buyer. The mission was a success until Killmonger helps Klaw escape. This single act set the wheels in motion to disrupt the peaceful world of Wakanda.

Starting with Iron Man in 2008, Black Panther is the eighteenth film within the Marvel Comic Universe (MCU). Never in its existence has there been a black lead in any of the previous films. You could argue that Black Panther is not the first black superhero to hit the big screen. That accolade goes to Wesley Snipes as Blade. But Black Panther is the first black superhero to command such a demanding role in a franchise series.

A Black Panther movie has been talked about for years but it never really went any were beyond just talk. When it was announced in 2014 that a standalone movie was to be part of the current franchise, fans were screaming with joy like a kid in a candy store. The need to have the script done correctly, the need to find the right actors, the right director and to have the support and backing of the studio were paramount. It was just as important to make this movie just as good, if not better than the previous seventeen before it. To our wonder and amazement, and the spirit of the Panther blessed this film many times over.

Too many times there have been movies that didn’t quite capture the essence of the character or the genre was a challenge or the idea of making the movie was just talk amongst comic fans. Not so here. Director Ryan Coogler did an excellent job of giving just enough background into the history of how the country was hit by a meteorite carrying the rare metal Vibranium thousands of years ago which lead to the advancement and development of cutting-edge futuristic science and technology, the creation of the Black Panther and the need to protect the Wakanda. It was known to the Wakandans that if word got out about their advanced technology and resources, their small third world country, or so they would have you believe, would be too inviting a target for outsiders. That is the reason why Wakanda hides in plain sight.

In his short time as a major film director, Coogler has won National Board of Review and New York Film Festival’s Best Directorial Debut and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival for Fruitvale Station. He also won NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing for Creed. Now with Black Panther on his resume, he is on track to become one of this generation next Scorsese or Spielberg.

There acting in Black Panther is superb! No one person outshined or stood out amongst the others because they all did an excellent job. Boseman, who has played various roles since he stepped on the scene in 2008, makes a seamless transition into his new role as T’Challa in the MCU. When he first showed up in Captain America: Civil War, although a small part, his presence made you take notice.

Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is no slouch either. When it was announced that he would be in the movie and that he would play a villain, most questioned whether he had to chops to pull it off. This is no longer a question because he did a DAMN GOOD job. Unlike many villains in the MCU who are from other universes, have some type of mutant or otherworldly powers, Killmonger is human. He is an unfortunate product of his environment who has strategized, trained, lied and killed just to be the one to dethrone T’Challa. His painful plight started long ago when he was younger with the death of his father and his hatred for all things Wakandan set him on the path of destruction, mayhem, and revenge. Almost makes you wonder, how he would have turned out if he was brought back to Wakanda as a child. The thing that is so good about Killmonger is that he genuinely thinks he is going to bring Wakanda into the 21st century and make his oppressors pay for all the wrongs of the world. He believes the only way for them to learn is to concur the oppressors and rule to world. Jordan brings so much passion, cockiness and pure evil to Killmonger that you kinda feel sorry for him and everything he has gone through in his life, but at the same time, you want to see him fall.

Oh, it doesn’t stop with just Boseman and Jordan. The women of Wakanda are something to see. They are just as bad ass as their male counterparts. Gurira and Nyong’o exude strength, intelligence, love, and beauty all while putting foot to ass when needed. The stand out amongst the women is Letitia Wright who plays Suri, T’Challa’s tech-savvy sister. Think of her as the Wakandan Q a la James Bond. She is the one behind the upgraded Panther suit, and all of the gadgets, weapons, and tech.

Although Black Panther is just another stepping stone to MCU’s upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, it is written, produced and directed well enough to stand on its own. If you haven’t seen any of the previous movies (you must have been under a rock in a dark cave), you could watch this and not have to ask “What’s going on? Who is that?”

Overall, Coogler did an amazing job directing, the acting is outstanding, and the costumes are GORGEOUS. It goes without saying the action is off the chain. Personally, I have to give Marvel props, no Audis were harmed while making this movie. LOL Black Panther just very well be the best movie in the MCU to date.

Grade A