Blu-Ray Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Film Writer
Having received a larger-than-life introduction in the Marvel Universe’s Captain America: Civil War, it was a foregone conclusion that Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa/Black Panther would get his own star vehicle shortly afterwards.
Indeed, the tale of a conscience-laden regent faced with turmoil both on a personal and on a kingdom’s level, proved to be a richly populated tale of tradition, folklore and advanced technology the likes of which hadn’t yet been seen, even by Asgardian standards.
Long Live the King?
The clash of heroes (re: Civil War) has ended, and T’Challa has returned to his native Wakanda to be crowned King, following the death of his father (see previous films); coronation is at hand, and the task of bringing the tribes together for the sake of unity and harmony.
But hark! A past misdeed by the late T’Chaka (John Kani) results in a vendetta against the Wakandan nation by an exiled expatriate-turned mercenary named Erik Stevens, aka Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who allies himself with Enemy No. 1 Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis, reprising the role from Avengers: Age of Ultron). Together, the ruthless pair conspire to divide and conquer, allowing Killmonger a chance to usurp the throne.
T’Challa isn’t alone in the fight, however, as he is joined by past love Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), genius tech wiz kid sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), fearless General Okoye (The Walking Dead‘s Gurira) his wise Queen Mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and outsider/CIA operative Everett Ross (Martin Freeman, reprising his role from Civil War.)
Can the King retain his throne? Can Wakanda finally capture the thieving Klaue after decades of hunting and searching? Is the modern world ready for the technological advances of Wakandan society?
As with the other eighteen or so films in the cinematic Marvel-verse, Black Panther benefits from stunning visuals, an original storyline that doesn’t so much rely on extraneous crossovers or cameos, and includes kinetic and robust fight scenes, indicative of the hand-to-hand style the Panther uses in his battles.
Chadwick Boseman continues to exude an easy air of authority and wisdom, without coming off as arrogant or vain, the true blood of a genuine hero archetype.
The dialogue is cleverly peppered with the use of Xhosa and Nigerian dialects so to show the nature of a fictitious yet genuine-sounding Wakandan heritage on the African continent. This approach lends the film an air of realism, despite the context’s fantastical origin. Unlike other Marvel tales set in space, in Asgard or some microverse, we are made to believe that Wakanda could exist, given its complexity and details onscreen.
Actress Letitia Wright is a real scene-stealer as T’Challa’s kid sister Shuri, a brilliant inventor and tech wizard whose ability to harness Vibranium-based tech towards helpful crime-fighting designs make her a formidable ally, much like Q is to James Bond in that franchise. Wright infuses the role with spunk and proper humor, a healing and welcome balm compared to the more violent chapters of the film.
Michael B. Jordan fares decently as the heel of this piece, but his character doesn’t feel as fleshed out as it could have been, though not for lack of trying. Serkis has too much fun revisiting Klaue, a cynical bit of comic relief interspersed with delicious villainy.
The rest of the cast embodies the other virtuous qualities expected of heroes, with bodyguard Okoye showing duty and loyalty above personal choice, Queen Mother Ramanda exuding wisdom (as does Forest Whitaker as an elder statesman), while T’Challa’s former love Nakia displays selflessness and integrity.
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