The new king of the hidden futuristic paradise Wakanda T’Challa, (Chadwick Boseman) faces differentiating opinions about whether it is time for Wakanda to come out into the open and help humanity and specifically the repressed black communities around the globe with it’s vast technological advancements or remain hidden to keep Wakanda safe. But T’Challa’s leadership is threatened by an outsider by the name of Killmonger (Michael B.Jordan) who brings some uncomfortable truths about T’Challa’s father’s past and a rage of wrath he intends to inflict on those around the world.
With his introduction in Captain America Civil War, director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) spares Black Panther somewhat being an origin story, digesting the history of the world and makings of the Black Panther in a fairly quick sequence. As a franchise on the wane, Coogler introduces a fresh impetus, but also for Hollywood, by creating a world rich in African culture whereby the Wakandans are the leading civilisation of the world, via the mining of the world’s strongest metal. It’s quite an emphatic statement, suggesting what could or where could Africa if it’s vital resources were not plundered via colonialism and Coogler is not shy in allowing Black Panther making these sentiments throughout the film and it’s strong for it. Whilst the world of Wakanda may aesthetically appear as a fresh outlook, I often felt let down by it. There’s little to escape the mass use of CGI and green-screen, but it often left the potential of feeling awestruck being foiled with perhaps it’s biggest crime being the cinematography just a bit bland. The plot is fairly predictable, but Marvel is all about spectacle but even here there’s a feeling like it misses the mark. Although T’Challa’s bodyguard Okoye (Danai Gurira) often steals the scenes with some slick moves with her spear, there are only two really meaty action sequences. T’Challa’s sister Shuri, (Letitia Wright) provides some wise cracking and practical jokes as the ‘Q’ to her brother, creating technological advances to his suit, is another crowd pleaser as are the rival tribe chief M’Baku (Winston Duke) and Klaue (Andy Serkis) as the carefree arms dealer. With so many characters and world building, T’Challa’s character is left to feel a bit hollow, his insecurities only portrayed via visions with his now ghost father, but the decisions he makes rarely feel those he makes actively, the majority of the time he is reacting that renders his character a little bit clawless despite his suit.
As another addition to what seems like a never ending franchise, Black Panther is okay. Being over two hours long, I was left wanting for it to deliver more, particularly from the rivalry from Black Panther and Killmonger. But as a film where the hero is not another white man and Hollywood needs to reflect the diversity of the world, it’s vital and long overdue.