After the events of Civil War, Prince T’Challa is now King of Wakanda and must wrestle with the issues of how he wishes to rule his technologically advanced but secretive nation. However, in the shadows, another makes moves to take the throne.
Black Panther, as well as last years Wonder Woman, is an important film in regards to representation. Not only does Black Panther have a majority black cast, it also has an African-American writer and director. It has something to say about what it means to be in a post-colonial world and what it means to be black in the West. These messages don’t come at you from the film but from character’s conflicts, more ideological than physical; this is a film that uses its resources to its advantage. This glorious conflict of ideas comes from one of the best Marvel villains ever. Though Killmonger’s actions are horrifying and villainous without question, we can still understand how he came to those conclusions. He is terrifying because he could be any of us, he could have been T’Challa if T’Challa was not in the privileged position of a prince.
However, Black Panther is more than that it is a fun, action-packed, great looking movie, taking design cues from Marvel’s space-based adventures with the design of Wakanda. It has some of the strongest, most entertaining and well thought out characters in the MCU, from Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue who is his usual manic self, to Letitia Wright’s Shuri, one of the break out characters of the movie and one that will go down as a highly important figure in the promotion of minority and female representation in STEM fields. Finally, we have Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, the main villain of the piece. I have already said how Killmonger is one of the greatest, if not greatest villains in Marvel’s movies. This is not only down to how he conflicts with T’Challa but the captivating performance from Matthew B. Jordan. Having been sorely mistreated in his previous Marvel film as Johnny Storm in 20th Century Fox’s Fan4stic, Jordan is charismatic, gripping and complex. Perhaps the weakest part of the main cast was Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, who lacked a certain charisma that was perhaps needed in a part like this. This may have been due to T’Challa’s station, to fit in with the core theme of deciding how you wish to be involved in the world or because the film wanted to introduce us to Wakanda and its people without being distracted by T’Challa.
And what a world that is, as well as the cast of great characters, the flair of this film is phenomenal. While not as colourful as the more mystical or galactic based adventures, Black Panther takes visual cues from those films with the design of Wakanda, creating a realistic Afro-futuristic world that resembles Tatooine mixed with Johannesburg. I will say that sometimes the action sequences can be a little dark, especially when you have a character dressed in black and glowing purple, but this is less of an action film than it is a Shakespearean historical play, akin to Hamlet, or Macbeth, about the nature of what it means to rule rather than what it means to punch a bad guy good.
Despite the great story Black Panther tells the film does have issues with bumpy plotting; certain key elements of the story are not given enough screen time, leaving it feeling a little unsatisfactory. There are characters that lack development and that affects the emotional crux of some scenes. The third act feels a little compacted and rushed, with a switch in perspective that felt a little weird and cheap. While sometimes little throwaway lines seem to be enough, I personally would have liked to have seen more of the relationship between Okoye (the walking dead’s Danai Gurira), T’Challa’s personal bodyguard and her lover W’Kabi, played by Daniel Kaluuya. And there is the standard complaint about how Marvel treats their villains, especially one as good as Killmonger.
Despite the standard complaints about the story you could make about literally any Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie, its story and the way that it ultimately deals with its villains, Black Panther is a solid action film, full of great aesthetics and characters that you care about. It is one of the better one’s guys.
You can watch Black Panther in cinemas now