For the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a rarity for film in general, Black Panther is dominating theaters worldwide with an African hero at the head of the charge. Bringing together a remarkable cast, a thrilling storyline, and a cultural representation unlike any other, the MCU has added another layer to it’s already vast universe of characters and locations, giving us more to look forward to as we head into the May release of Avengers: Infinity War.
The storyline takes place a week after the events in Captain America: Civil War, where T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is about to be named king of Wakanda following his father’s death at the hands of a terrorist attack at the United Nations. As T’Challa balances being both King to his people with the Black Panther, he is forced to face the demons of his late father’s past after his throne is challenged by Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), forcing T’Challa to fight for his kingdom and mantle as protector of Wakanda.
After already playing the character in Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman shines once again, this time as the lead of his own film. Boseman is able to perfectly portray a man who must step into a position he doesn’t find himself ready for yet. But ultimately T’Challa is able to prove to himself and the people of Wakanda that he is ready for that responsibility. As Marvel prepares itself for what’s to come after Avengers: Infinity War, it seems clear that Boseman’s T’Challa will play an integral role to MCU going forward as leader of the most technologically advanced nation on Earth.
There is no shortage in great supporting characters in this movie, but the standout performance is Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger. Jordan instantly puts himself in the upper echelon of Marvel villains as his character’s motivations are extremely personal, which makes it hard not to sympathize with his character’s point of view as an adversary to T’Challa’s Black Panther mantle. Having worked with director Ryan Coogler on all of his previous movies before this, Jordan and Coogler have become a major director/actor duo to keep an eye on in the future as their chemistry together has proven to work time and time and again.
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the oustanding performances of Leticia Wright as Princess Shuri and Danai Guererra as Okoye, leader of the Dora Milaje, an all female special forces group that serves as T’Challa’s personal bodyguards. Forrest Whittaker and Angela Bassett play more minor supporting roles with not much to do, but were still enjoyable to watch on screen. Andy Serkis reprises his role of Ulysses Klaue from Avengers: Age of Ultron and is one of the most fun characters in the movie to watch as his actions are naturally unpredictable.
Overall, Black Panther is a world-wide phenomenon that breaks new ground in it’s storytelling, characterization, and cultural relevance. Ryan Coogler has brought a new flavor to the MCU, showing the world a unique representation of a culture that is not often depicted in big budget films like this. This worldwide success paves the way for a new generation of MCU characters to make an impact like never before.