“Tell me how best to protect Wakanda,” says its new king, T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). His father, former king T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani), says, “Surround yourself with people you trust. You are a good man with a good heart, but it is hard for a good man to be a good king.” That’s the setup for “Black Panther,” Marvel-Disney’s newest superhero/sci-fi/adventure film.
Can T’Challa keep his throne despite challenges from Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) who seeks it for himself? Why does arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) steal an ancient Wakandian weapon from the London Museum? Will Wakanda continue to keep secret its rich store of vibrandium — lethal, other-worldly metal? For answers, see “Black Panther.”
Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan are fully-developed central characters T’Challa and Killmonger, each seeking a different future for their isolated African nation. Should it use vibrandium as a weapon, overpowering other nations, as Killmonger plots or, as T’Challa hopes, keep its advanced vibrandium technology for itself? Lupita Nyong’o is strong-willed Nakia, T’Challa’s ex-wife and activist Wakandian spy. Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright are warrior women, too: Gurira is Okoye, leader of Dora Milaje, the all-female special security force; Wright is Shuri, T’Challa’s science-nerdy sister who invents James Bond-ian weapons for her brother, adding a bit of comic relief.
Others in the large cast include Martin Freeman as CIA agent Everett Ross, T’Challa’s ally who tracks nasty arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, played by Andy Serkis. Daniel Kaluuya is W’Kabi, T’Challa’s closest friend and Angela Bassett is regal as T’Challa’s wise mother. Sterling K. Brown is N’Jobu, who knows all the family’s secrets.
“Black Panther” reimagines the superhero genre. Directed by Ryan Coogler, co-writer of its script with Joe Robert Cole, the film has a distinctive look, thanks to stunning cinematography by Rachel Morrison and vivid costumes by Ruth Carter. Their work creates a visually-realized, futuristic African nation. Characters, too, are unlike the one-dimensional comic-book movie heroes and villains we’re used to. T’Challa and Killmonger are mirror images, belonging to the same extended family, dealing with similar father-son issues. They are, as critic Odie Henderson says, “two sides of the same coin.” We understand them both. We know their family and geopolitical backstories. Their opposition is the heart of the film.
Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, and one rude gesture (that would be Shuri’s), “Black Panther” runs 134 minutes. It’s a superhero movie for all of us.
T’Challa aka “Black Panther”
Has his kingdom to be won;
Family, action, superhero —
This film’s for everyone.