“Black Panther” delivers triumphant standalone Marvel film
By Alexandra Lachine, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Director Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” is defiant, unapologetic and triumphant. For a film to carry the weight of historical importance on its shoulders but never treat it like a burden is a form of art, as “Black Panther” is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film starring a black superhero, with people of color behind the camera as well.
“Black Panther” is a lively entertaining, riveting film, packed with raw action from opening to end credits, both following and rising above its Marvel and historical mission. The culture so beautifully captured by the film is something that is also never wavered from, as traditional Wakandan customs, dress and language are all meticulously captured across each second.
The film begins in 1992 Oakland, Calif. with a visit to an apartment from the king of Wakanda, King T’Chaka (John Kani), setting the plot in motion. Fast forward to a bittersweet present-day ritual as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is being traditionally coronated as king of Wakanda following the death of his father in a terrorist attack seen in “Captain America: Civil War”.
Built upon a stockpile of vibranium, the African nation of Wakanda is everything the world has been deceived into believing it isn’t in terms of its advancements. The people of Wakanda have built futuristic cities that still honor tribal customs front and center. This balance between tribal tradition and innovation co-existing across every medium of Wakandan life, flawlessly translated from comic to film, from the vibranium suit and power of the Black Panther to the trains that run through the city. “Black Panther” intricately and vibrantly captures the details of this cultural way of life.
Having seen more of the world, King T’Challa begins to think beyond his nation’s isolationist policies. His love-interest Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) believes their nation should use their knowledge and resources to help the disenfranchised beyond their borders, while T’Challa takes a more cautious stance.
[Text Wrapping Break]One of the most vital ways that “Black Panther” revolutionizes the MCU is by accurately showcasing that women are essential to Wakandan life. General Okoye (Danai Gurira) is the valiant lead warrior of the Dora Milaje, defending T’Challa’s throne, while his younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), a brilliant scientist, shows that the nation’s men and women can be equally revolutionary in their intelligence and innovation. Her laboratory lair is displayed in the film as something so finely detailed, yet which she knows down to the very last vibranium fiber.
Keeping with the tradition of heroism is the foil of such. Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), schemes on Wakanda’s use of vibranium to trigger a dangerous revolution — and he is willing to kill their king to trigger it. Killmonger’s motives develop a raw, satisfying and contemporary storyline without any easy answers that superhero movies too often give away.
As beacons of justice, the good leaders become vexed by their roles in the world, with King T’Challa even saying, “The wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers.” This plays into the various underlying yet relevant political themes that Coogler sews through the entire storyline.
As an MCU superhero film, “Black Panther” has no shortage of enormous, chaotic CGI-created battles that Coogler manages to master fight and battle scenes so that individual characters can be front and center in their own moments of intense conflict.
With a couple exceptions, the action takes place entirely in Wakanda, tying the film directly to the MCU without being beholden to it. For a movie with people in high-tech suits that must face off against one another, it is surprisingly impactful and realistic. Characters die in very realistic ways that are too often theatrically manipulated in movies like these.
“Black Panther” is not simply good because people of color drive the storyline. This coupled with the story of Wakanda’s guardian Black Panther and heroic action combine for a uniquely iconic film that had yet to be done.
Black Panther will join the others on May 4 in “Avengers: Infinity War”. But for now, the heroic courage and devotion of King T’Challa are to be admired in the flourishing dominion he must protect.