Believe or not, Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is the eighteenth movie this massive ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Over the last ten years Marvel has totally changed the landscape and measuring stick for what is to be considered a successful franchise. Rather than resting on its laurels, Kevin Feige and company continue to push forward, raising the bar for success even further out of reach for its next closest competitor. The amazing aspect to Marvel Studios’ success is that it still doesn’t have that stale retread feel to it. Just when thing things have finally plateaued, it’s a quick cut to the left and upward they go. How does the latest offering play into the much larger picture? Let’s get into right now.
The last time we saw T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who is also Black Panther was a couple years ago after dealing with the death of his father in events that transpired in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Even with the irreplaceable loss of a great man, T’Challa gained new allies in the process. Now as the newly anointed King of Wakanda, he must focus on making his nation whole again by filling the void left by his now deceased father. A new threat arises in the form of Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), an unknown from the “regular world” who has his sights set on the throne. T’Challa will be challenged in ways he never imagined as the world as he knows it is changed forever.
Even though the majority of Black Panther takes place in Wakanda, the scope of events goes beyond this amazing place. The visuals on this movie are quite stunning to say the least. Full of life and glorious color, audiences will experience the immense totality of the MCU has to offer on Earth. There are no other galaxies to contend with. No aliens from other planets just dropping in for a visit. This chapter of the bigger picture is much more subdued so it might take some getting used to. Even though this is part of a much greater story, there is less of a GRAND impact that one might expect with Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War lurking so closely in the near future (May 4, 2018).
Black Panther can’t be considered an origin story but it does give greater insight on what makes the powerful T’Challa tick. The beauty of his home, for example, is breathtaking and that wonder is impressively illustrated throughout. The scenery, music and overall immersiveness should wrap up viewers’ imagination while they experience the magic in cinema. Disneynature has provided several wonderful and beautiful documentaries over the past several years, it seems as though some of that inspiration has fed into this project.
Director Ryan Coogler is tasked with bringing a powerful story to light and, also bringing with it, an experience rich in a culture not really focused on in other MCU movies. In that respect, Black Panther will be judged on more than any of its predecessors have had to endure. That’s a lot of pressure. Coogler handles these tasks head-on and delivers on the difficult challenges. I will say that the plot’s ebb and flow runs eerily close that of the most recent he directed, Creed (2015). Things play out just as they would in a “Rocky” movie. Even so, it’s a fun time.
There are so many talented actors that are featured in this work. Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis all bring top-notch performances and that isn’t even the entire list of people you will know. Black Panther is fully stocked on the “actors you will know” front.
Other critics are already shouting praises from the rooftops for Black Panther so expectations are growing by the minute. I will throw in a bit of caution before rushing out to see this movie (which you should definitely do). This feature feels the least like a traditional MCU movie and some will not know how to reconcile those feelings. Others may feel obligated to love it due to all of its praise. I say go see this movie because it’s fun, entertaining and beautiful to watch. Everything else will fall where it’s supposed to. As always (always, ALWAYS), please stay until the very end if you’re interested mid and post-credits sequences. See it in theaters starting Thursday evening, February 15th.