Black Panther ★★★★★

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a vast and interconnected world full of heroes, antiheroes and villains, both big and small. For 10 years, we’ve seen billionaire geniuses, men out of time, warriors from other realms, ex-cons that can enlarge and shrink to various sizes, sorcerers that can manipulate time and space and a diverse band of galactic a-holes, among others. In 2016, we were introduced to T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), a prince of the technologically advanced nation of Wakanda who witnessed the death of his father in a bombing at the U.N. Building and took up the mantle of his nation’s most revered protector known as the Black Panther. At the end of Captain America: Civil War, we got a glimpse of this hidden nation. Now, we get a full look at Wakanda, its people, its advancements in technology and its beauty with this latest chapter of Phase 3 in the MCU! 

Picking up after the events of Civil War, T’Challa protects his people from danger as the Black Panther. He’s also preparing to take his late father’s place as king, a position he takes seriously and unchallenged. T’Challa rules over the land with his tough security team, the Dora Milaje led by the no-nonsense Okoye (Danai Gurira), protecting their king and his land with their lives. Also by T’Challa’s side is Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), a headstrong spy and his ex-girlfriend, Shuri (Letitia Wright), his little sister and tech expert who supplies him with cutting edge gadgets that helps him fight evil that takes place in Wakanda and beyond, W’kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), his friend and leader of a neighboring tribe and Ramonda (Angela Bassett), the strong queen mother of Wakanda and mother of T’Challa & Shuri. However, his home and position as king is threatened by a great threat from the outside world when wily arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) has plans to seize the weapons and technology that’s housed on Wakanda and he’s helped by someone who has more connection to Wakanda: Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), a former Spec Ops soldier with a high kill count and resentment towards T’Challa and his place at the throne and he challenges T’Challa for it. Now, in order to save his land and his throne, this newly crowned royal king will have to rely on the help of CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman, reprising his role from Civil War) along with Okoye & the Dora Milaje, Nakia and Shuri to stop Klaue and Killmonger’s plans that could bring about destruction to Wakanda and the rest of the world. 

Before I start praising this masterpiece, allow me to correct something that the media has been getting wrong these past few days: Black Panther is NOT Marvel’s first black superhero movie or the first black superhero movie in general. Believe it or not, 1993’s The Meteor Man was the first but 1998’s Blade was the one that really got the ball rolling so without those movies, Black Panther wouldn’t be here today. Now, you know so you can stop creating inaccurate facts. 

Anyway, this movie is absolutely, positively incredible. It’s not just a fantastic MCU movie, it’s a film that joins ranks of The Avengers, Spider-Man: Homecoming, X2: X-Men United, the Guardians of the Galaxy series and the Captain America sequels as one of the best Marvel movies ever but also joins the ranks of Batman, Superman: The Movie, A History of Violence, Dredd and the Dark Knight trilogy as one of the best comic book movies ever made and it’s all thanks to all parties involved in front or behind the camera. Rachel Morrison, who recently made history as the first female cinematographer to receive an Oscar nomination for her work on Mudbound, shot these beautiful shots of Wakanda in daylight and moonlight and they’re breathtaking, especially in IMAX, the costume design by Ruth E. Carter was a wonder to behold, the music is more memorable than both The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy with the score by Ludwig Goransson and the original songs by Kendrick Lamar being the perfect marriage of bombastic superhero melodies and west coast swag that’s straight outta Compton but the one behind-the-scenes talent that gets the most credit is Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote with Joe Robert Cole and directed. This is only his 3rd film and he doesn’t have one sign of slumping showing onscreen. He’s made a Marvel movie of many colors: a superhero movie, a Shakespearean epic, a James Bond-type spy movie, a politically charged commentary on race and colonization, all those things. He’s able to take the MCU formula and improve on it by putting his own identity into the film. How so, you ask? If you thought the long take boxing match from Creed was spectacular, Coogler one-ups himself with not one but two equally spectacular action sequences: the long take casino fight scene and the energetic car chase on the streets of South Korea, where it’s both intense and disarmingly funny in equal measure. Indeed, Coogler has taken the MCU to new heights. 

Then, you have the performances. While Boseman does an exceptional job in the title role, providing more gravitas and sense of wit here than in Civil War, it’s the supporting cast that really shines in this film. Nyong’o, Gurira, Wright & Bassett are definitely the heart of the film, each one being captured at their best with performances that range from fierce to funny to emotional to badass, proving that the women of Wakanda are just as important to the story as the men. Finally, Marvel continues its recent success with villains with Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger. Killmonger is a villain that’s more than just pure evil. He’s a villain with something that some big screen baddies don’t have: a soul. His motives for doing what he does in this film gives him sympathy from the viewers watching and you might somehow see yourself feeling sad and sorry for him, especially when the reasons for his treacherous acts are revealed in a heartbreaking moment during the 3rd act. It’s definitely Jordan’s best acting work in recent years. 

Packed with nonstop action, emotional drama, hilarious moments of levity, outstanding acting and brilliant directing, Black Panther is hands down the best MCU movie since The Avengers and it’s truly a culturally important movie that everyone of all ages, races and homelands should see. Just like how Wonder Woman sparked something big last year, this film will really spark something big this year. It’s a film that will make a big difference when it comes to kids and who they want to see on the screen, the very definition of representation matters. Wakanda Forever!