Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Letitia Wright
Whether you may want to admit it or not, we are currently living in the era of superhero movies. With the likes of Marvel Studios and DC Films churning out blockbuster hits such as Avengers, Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spiderman: Homecoming, Wonder Woman, Justice League, etc., it isn't difficult to see how the taste of the mainstream audience has changed over the years. While Black Panther was initially surrounded with the hype of a “superhero movie with a black cast”, the final product was something that pleasantly exceeded general expectations, and turned out to be so much more than what the hype had dictated it to be. Being a longtime fan of the superhero genre, I will say this; Black Panther is unlike typical superhero films. It is a story of a king and its people, how the king struggles with olden traditions to promise new hopes, and how the nation itself copes under internal conflicts while keeping respect to tradition and culture. Black Panther is not just a story about the black culture, it is about the mystery of nature and science, it is about a man being a king by being a hero to his people and to his own morals and beliefs.
The story of Black Panther, in its core, is a simple one. After the unfortunate demise of King T'Chaka in Captain America: Civil War, the prince of the fictional African country Wakanda, T'Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman), takes the throne. While he spends the majority of Civil War trying to track down his father's killer, in Black Panther T'Challa is shown to be truly ascending to the throne and being put to the test as his land's rightful ruler. During a situation involving poached vibranium, Wakanda's greatest natural resource and the most precious metal on Earth, a stranger claiming to be a born Wakada citizen challenges T'Challa's seat on the throne. Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), son of the discarded brother of the previous king, defeats T'Challa and attempts to exercise his power on the rest of the world by attacking them with the hidden power of vibranium weapons and military technology that Wakanda has been concealing since their inception. Killmonger also feels that his “people”, i.e. black people all over the world, should not be shackled by white supremacy and with the power of Wakanda and its infinite source of powerful vibranium, he can free all those under oppression. What follows is what you would expect; a full-blown civil war in which T'Challa AKA Black Panther saves the day by defeating the villain and stopping an almost-to-be world war.
I may have made the villain sound less “evil” than one would expect a typical supervillain to be. That's because his notion of “evil” was not really evil at all. This is where Black Panther really shone; Killmonger was the type of villain the viewers could relate with. The only reason he wanted to take the throne was because he felt that he was deprived from his own origin. His desire to take over the world, while a crude approach as expected from a supervillain, was more in the lines of balancing world peace than just senseless aggression. Killmonger's notion of freedom even reflects with that of T'Challa. Both believe that Wakanda should break out of the olden ways of keeping its wealth and power in secrecy and instead lend a helping hand to the rest of Earth. In many ways, T'Challa and Killmonger are shown to be the opposite sides of the same coin: both seek ultimate peace over their country and the people, albeit through different moral approach.
Moving along, Black Panther shone in many other aspects as well. Aside from having a brilliant cast of female characters, all of whom contributed to the story as much as the main character himself, the film utilizes a very strong support cast overall. Each and every support character goes through some sort of character development, and they all act as effective plot progression devices while displaying their own perspective of what's right and wrong as the movie rolls along. The cinematography, as you would expect from a Marvel movie, was top-notch. The action scenes, again as expected, were great, but in many places felt more refreshing than most other superhero films. Of course, I can't forget about the acting. Chadwick Boseman brought the Black Panther from comics to life in the cinema hall; the emotions he portrayed and the dialogues he delivered truly made him seem like a real-life T'Challa. Michael B. Jordan absolutely slayed as Killmonger, for reasons similar to Boseman; his sheer intensity emanated the role of a perfectly relatable supervillain, a rare breed these days. All in all, Black Panther was a fantastic movie for more reasons than one. It wasn't entirely focused on the black culture as many early reviews had raved on about, and it certainly was more than the “save the world from the bad guy” trope the superhero genre is filled to the brim with. If you haven't watched the film yet, definitely give it a try. Regardless of whether you a fan of superhero films, this is one movie you shouldn't miss out on!