Susan Granger’s review of “Black Panther” (Marvel Studios/Buena Vista-Disney)
Exactly a decade after “Iron Man” launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a powerful, new superhero has arrived – and he’s sensational!
The warrior T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is the Prince/protector of the fantastical African nation of Wakanda, an isolated, secretive kingdom that’s rich with Vibranium – the mythic ‘alien’ metal that comprises Captain America’s shield. This invaluable resource has enabled incredible technological advances including magnetic transfers, superconductors, and spaceships.
Following the death of his father in a terrorist attack, noble T’Challa must fight M’Baku (Winston Duke), the leader of the rival Jabari tribe, to claim his heritage.
Then there’s the threat posed by predatory arms dealer/thief Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), whom T’Challa intercepts in South Korea, aided by a CIA operative (Martin Freeman).
Eventually, the fight for Vibranium has T’Challa facing off with villainous Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), a swaggering former Navy SEAL from Oakland, CA. whose father was Wakandan.
Plus, there’s T’Challa’s best friend W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) and his mentor, the spiritual leader Zuri (Forest Whitaker), hiding a secret of his own.
The formidable female characters are T’Challa’s love interest, the beautiful War Dog spy Nakia (Lupito Nyong’o); his feisty little sister/gadgets guru, Shari (Letitia Wright); Queen Mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett); and Okoya (Danai Guyira), leader of his Dora Milaja security team.
Written with insightful wit by Joe Robert Cole (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”) and director Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station,” “Creed”), its complex plot delves into familiar themes like revenge v. justice, duty v. conscience and why identity matters.
Kudos to cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Oscar-nominated for “Mudbound”) for creating a visual feast.
The first African-American superhero to appear in American comics, Black Panther was created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Fantastic Four No. 52. Historical footnote: Black Panther appeared three months before the Black Panther Party formed during the Civil Rights Movement.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Black Panther” pounces with an exciting, exhilarating 8, an ambitious, socially relevant, Afro-futurist origin story.