By Adam Ray Palmer
It’s another year, and that means another Marvel movie falls off the production line. This time around, it’s the African king Black Panther who gets an outing.
Directed by Ryan Coogler; Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o and Daniel Kaluuya.
Present day Wakanda, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is preparing for his coronation day, which includes a potential ‘fighting challenge’ for the crown from any of Wakanda's five tribes, as well as a sacred ceremony in which he officially becomes the nation's Black Panther.
When T'Challa eventually takes the throne, his first job of protecting Wakanda is against notorious arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who has stolen a vibranium artefact from the British Museum to sell it; thus, meaning putting Wakanda at risk of invasion for its vibranium. Klaue's mysterious young ally (Michael B. Jordan) complicates the mission of retrieving the artefact as he has his own agenda. The mystery man is a former SEAL who has a very personal score to settle with T'Challa and the Wakandans.
Black Panther isn’t like your usual Marvel film. There’s so much depth to it that we haven’t come to expect from previous Marvel outfits. There have been emotional glimpses before with Winter’s Solider and Civil War, but they rely heavily on humour. There’s certainly comic quips here, usually thanks to the plucky Shuri (T’Challa’s younger sister) or mountain-tribe leader M'Baku (Winston Duke) who have a few one-liners to boot. Largely, the depth comes from the characters and their chemistry, bouncing off the masterful script crafted by Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole.
The killer strength to the screenplay benefits from the strong women on show. T’Challa surrounds himself with powerful females: Gurira's spear-wielding Okoye, Nyong'o’s Nakia, his mother Ramonda (Bassett), and his genius scientist sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) with each of them contributing key influences on the story. In particular, Wright the astute comic relief, and Nyong'o offering a romance link.
Overall, Black Panther is Marvel drama like none before it. The direction, slick script and commanding performances deliver a decent, finessed product for Coogler. This is very much a great audition to what a 007 movie would like look under Ryan’s wing, it’s like Marvel’s James Bond film with gadgets galore and multiple henchmen. Ultimately, it’s a worthy addition to the back catalogue for the superhero studio. It’s a history maker with so many female leads and the first African superhero. It’s a movie to celebrate, and it thoroughly deserves its success.
Cineroom’s rating: 3.5 stars
Black Panther is out now worldwide – certificate 12A