“Black Panther” is an exciting change-up in the Marvel movie line-up. Here is a hero who is a black African king, as well as being a superhero. Wakanda (a fictional nation) is a powerhouse of technology and civil order in the heart of Africa. An ancient meteor hit that place eons ago, and that meteor was loaded with Vibranium (the fictitious deep-space element that makes up Captain America’s powerful shield). The Wakanda people have enjoyed a hidden wealth of goods and services, along with their tribal rites and laws. But years ago, the king killed his own brother in a tragic incident.
King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is the new young leader, and his country is behind him. He has a young sister named Shuri (Letitia Wright) who is a great teenage nerd with a sense of humor. Ramonda (Angela Bassett) is the Queen and mother to T’Challa and Shuri. Zuri (Forest Whitaker) is his uncle who will guide T’Challa. He also has an ex-girlfriend Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) who wants to open up Wakanda to the outside and share the secrets. The palace is guarded with an all-female Special Forces group, led by Okoye (Danai Gurira). The kingdom is secure, except for a mercenary who is attempting to break in and steal much of the Vibranium. This is Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who has dealt with T’Challa once before.
King T’Challa goes to Korea to try and capture Klaue, along with Nakia and Okoye backing him up. After some cool chase scenes, they finally get Klaue. There is also a CIA agent named Ross (Martin Freeman) around to apprehend him, and they work together to bring down Klaue. Klaue then escapes with the help of a mystery person named Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan). Erik has a background of growing up in Oakland, and he knows about Wakanda. He is also ready to confront T’Challa and take over the throne. The kingdom is in turmoil because T’Challa and Eric struggle for power.
Eric removes T’Challa from the throne and takes over. There are few that follow him, but some follow Eric as a new king. T’Challa is found alive, and he is helped by his tribesman. He also gets some outside assistance from CIA agent Ross. T’Challa needs all the help that he can get. When T’Challa goes up against the current king Eric, he will need powerful allies. There are many struggles before the end comes and the kingdom is peaceful once again. And when the issues are resolved, then Wakanda can become a major nation in eyes of the whole world. The nation will become stronger, and T’Challa will be known for being a beloved leader.
This Marvel movie is the first to have a black main character, a mostly black cast and a black director and co-writer. But even more important, it is beautiful movie with an epic sweep in terms of story and meaning. The themes echo Shakespeare, or with a more recent comparison, “The Lion King”. Brothers battle over who should be king, and even cousins are torn apart with different ideas of how the kingdom should evolve. Ryan Coogler, along with Joe Robert Cole, has crafted a story worthy of much praise.
Coogler also directed the movie, which make his contribution even more valuable. But to work out a very deep and meaningful story, it sure helps to have a cast of great actors. Starting with Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, Coogler has found the two main character that make his story come alive. Boseman is strong and steady as T’Challa. Jordan is electric as the villain Killmonger, who is brutal and vicious – but he is doing the right thing is his own mind.
Also add in Andy Serkis as an over-the-top Klaue, who enjoys being in crazy-town. Martin Freeman plays the lonely white good guy willing to help as much as he can. But with some very strong female back up, the movie becomes even more special. Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett all add much depth and some unique black woman characters that make the movie better.
“Black Panther” is a welcome addition to the group of fine Marvel superhero movies. The story is intriguing and thought-provoking. The production values are top-notch, and the soundtrack is evocative and haunting. There are many places where this movie does new and unusual things for a ‘superhero’ movie. Let’s hope that these can happen again and more often.