The splendour of Wakanda serves as a beautiful backdrop for T’Challa to earn the responsibility of being the Black Panther…
After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.
Throughout its ten-year existence, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has provided the fans of the comic book genre with some of the finest, most exhilarating motion pictures ever made. This succession of marvellous movies culminated in what would be defining achievement once the greatest superheroes of all time arrived on screen TOGETHER for the very first time in Marvel’s Avengers (Avengers Assemble in the UK). This incredible shared universe opened the gateway for an abundance of comic book characters to stake their claim on the box office, and with the release of Captain America: Civil War, we were introduced to one of the most significant characters of all time, the Black Panther.
Black Panther first leapt onto the page in July 1966, in issue #52 of Marvel’s most successful comic book at the time, Fantastic Four and would be the first black superhero to arrive and challenge the racial stereotypes of the era. He made his debut over two concurrent issues and refused to conform to the cliché image of black culture and challenged the status quo on almost every level making him a champion amongst the community. It was a breakthrough, one masterminded by the visionary duo Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who decided to take a stand against discrimination.
The characters debut in Civil War was just a taste of the characters enormous box office potential and it was only a matter of time before Black Panther stepped out from the shadows and staked a claim on the worldwide box office.
In past times, the notion of an entirely all black major motion picture would have been considered a dangerous move from the major motion picture studios of Hollywood, but at last, that is all about to change. Black Panther’s illustrious history demands the finest care and attention available, more so than any other character in the Marvel universe and required a director with the courage and vision necessary to take up the challenge and do the property justice.
Enter Ryan Coogler.
His interpretation of the Black Panther legacy picks up where the events of Civil War leave off, but not before we are treated to a glorious lesson in Wakandan history set against the backdrop of the changes in the world outside of its borders. The film’s events begin in 1992, where the Black Panther of the time, King T’Chaka, arrives to oppose his treasonous brother who grew disillusioned with his homeland’s idealistic isolationism after witnessing the black communities’ plight throughout the turbulent prejudice of the period.
The controversial events of that fateful day have a direct influence on the events of the entire movie which fasts forward to the present day where the soon to be crowned King, Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), assumes his role as defender of Wakanda, and sets off on a mission to maintain the peace. There, he is reunited with his long-time love Nakia, (Lupita Nyongo) who impresses upon him her experiences of oppression for the black community across the world. In her role as an emissary, she has witnessed the racial prejudice first hand and pleads with the would be king to allow Wakandan aid and resources to be shared with the entire world.
Her mandate is controversial and divides opinions amongst Wakanda’s high court, but the sinister plans of Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis) and the intense Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) curtails the argument for in favour of the newly crowned King, setting off to apprehend the villains before they can peddle a stolen Wakandan vibranium artefact to the US Government.
Sporting an all new Black Panther suit and boasting the support of the Dora Milaje, the all-female King’s Guard commanded by Danai Gurira’s Okoye, as well as his hilariously defiant sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa sets off to put an end to Klaw once and for all. It is amongst this confrontation that Erik Killmonger makes his move. Killmonger is tormented by years of suffering and will stop at nothing to extract his revenge on T’Challa and the people of Wakanda and hatches a cunning plan to infiltrate the hidden kingdom and replace the latter as Black Panther.
What follows is a regal duel where the mistakes of the past dominate the future, set against the backdrop of a world in need of aid where Wakanda has an abundance to share. It is a moral dilemma and a learning curve for T’Challa to reverse the mistakes made by his forebears. And it is here where the landscape is about to change for all the people of Wakanda.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a wonderous place. It is full of vivid colour and glorious, exotic destinations which are easily surpassed by the glorious backdrop of Wakanda. The comics painted a wonderful picture of the hidden kingdom and the magnificent team at Marvel Studios, have done a fantastic job of conceptualising its wonder for the screen. Its rich culture is presented in glorious abundance, however even this level of exposure still cannot do justice to the incredible comic book.
The black community is represented gloriously in Black Panther and the characters are presented wonderfully. Chadwick Boseman provides a solid performance as T’Challa and builds upon the foundations established in Captain America: Civil War, Lupita Nyongo is delightful as Nakia, and is a perfectly acceptable stand in for his traditional comic book true love, Storm from the X-Men.
Michael. B Jordan provides an intense performance as the bitter, twisted and savage Killmonger but, with his story arc not reaching fruition until the final act, his character feels a little short changed and deserves more screen time to translate his full narrative from the comic books. Andy Serkis on the other hand affords us a truly wonderful performance as Ulysses Klaw. Reprising his role from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Serkis genuinely has fun with this role and offers many hilarious moments whilst maintaining his devious and evil persona.
Letitia Wright is truly magnificent as Shuri and is true breath of fresh air, invigorating the atmosphere with hilarious anecdotes just as the story begins to slow. Her portrayal is one of the jewels in the crown of his movie and will undoubtedly ensure her contention for performance of the piece, however, that accolade is reserved for Danai Gurira. Her role as Okoye is mesmerizing and every scene is enriched by her involvement. Her personality outshines the characters gloriously regal essence and only serves to improve matters tenfold.
Black Panther has been heralded as a ground-breaking achievement for both Marvel Studios and black culture in general, and I find no grounds to disagree with this statement. Ryan Coogler has done a fantastic job in conveying the comic book to the screen, complete with the recognition it deserves, and he has crafted one of the finest Marvel movies of the modern era. The projection of black culture is a remarkable feat and the movie is littered with references that ensure a level playing field at long last. However, to credit Coogler for Black Panther’s majesty would be unfair to the incredible duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who sought to right the wrongs of black subjugation in 1966. Coogler has done a fantastic job of translating the source material to the screen, but this would not have been possible without the foresight of the masters who laid the groundwork.
Furthermore, with the motion picture being based upon the storyline “Panther’s Rage” I had expected the narrative to echo the great story arc for the infamous villain, Killmonger, but the movie has neglected this final act of characterisation in favour of scoring one final point designed at upending racial prejudice. The movie has an abundance of these moments and being a fan of the comics, I was disappointed that the essence of Killmonger’s story had been altered to facilitate this final message, but this is a minor detraction of what was a fantastic adventure.
In short, Black Panther is a fantastic entry into the Marvel cinematic universe, one that will have fans celebrating in the aisles. This movie is for the fans. Fans of all colours, origins and upbringings but has a predominantly black core and is even more luxurious for it. It may not be the best entry in the franchise and has suffered from a weakened storyline for some of its more important characters but that will not stop it from being an overwhelming success at the box office.
Take a trip to Wakanda, enjoy its rich beauty, the glory of its proud people and the beautiful landscapes within its borders. But beware, the hidden kingdom is a protected province, defended by King T’Challa…the ruling Black Panther.