It’s quite possible that Black Panther could not succeed in the way that it does without the guidance of Ryan Coogler. His unique vision lends itself perfectly to the comic character’s tale of responsibility not only to his homeland of Wakanda and its people, but also to himself.
When we last encountered T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), his father T’Chaka had just been assassinated by Baron Zemo, leaving T’Challa with not only the mantle of protector Black Panther, but also King of Wakanda. At the end of Captain America: Civil War, he returns home to his African nation – with James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) – to take up his new role as ruler.
T’Challa reunites with his mother (Angela Bassett) and sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), who also happens to spearhead the technical developments of the Wakandan nation. Wakanda (as we learned in Avengers: Age of Ultron) is home to the world’s supply of Vibranium – a ‘vibration absorbing’ element and the strongest metal on Earth. As such, the Wakandan tribes have made use of the element to improve their advanced technology, all the while hiding themselves from the outside world.
Wakanda is protected by the warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira) and her tribe of elite fighter Dora – all sworn to protect the throne. However, when word hits that Ulysses Klau (Andy Serkis) – the only man ever to have broken into Wakanda – is again on the hunt for Vibranium, the tribes and their warriors must band together to protect the secrecy of the nation.
The strength of Black Panther lies in its character building. T’Challa’s reliance on his family and his pride (sorry) are some of his most important traits as King, but the position of power tests his bonds. The women carry this film – particularly Okoye and T’Challa’s romantic interest, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) – assisting the Black Panther to decide what is right. Wakanda itself is beautifully crafted, with the futuristic tech and the African-inspired costumes building an immaculate world in which to spend a few hours.
Black Panther is a celebration of culture and colour at a time when perhaps the world needs it most. Danai Gurira is an easy standout as an inspiring, driven champion, and, without giving away too much about his role, Michael B. Jordan clearly revels in reuniting with his Creed director, Coogler.
Stellar performances from the entire cast and a killer backing track makes this one of the most important, if not necessarily the most action-packed, Marvel films to date.
In cinemas: February 15, 2018
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Michael B. Jordan
Directed by: Ryan Coogler