Written by Mark Beresford
“This never gets old” is the sentiment given by T’Challa early in Black Panther when we first get to enter Wakanda, and it’s a sentiment that applies to so much of this movie.
Now on the cusp of Infinity War, we’re at almost twenty MCU movies, and they’re still managing to keep things fresh.
Marvel isn’t scared of changing it up a little (Ragnarok), but Black Panther has achieved this in a very different way.
The central point for Black Panther, King T’Challa and Wakanda, in its comic history has been the use of racial issues and the divide and this movie speaks from the same voice.
The unified vision and dedication of director Ryan Coogler alongside the entire cast, crew and even studio give an approach to the topical social and cultural issue with a passion that it ingrains itself into the film throughout. Every scene within Wakanda has a spilling over of not only the amazingly detailed and immersive world that explodes with vibrancies at every turn, but the presentation of pride within the Wakandan culture and its subtlety to display in the background of each scene. Even going so far as to create not just the imaginary tribal uniforms and designs, but even the carefully curated street outfits.
Each character drives home the same feeling, be it the conflicted thoughts of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa as he decides between standing with tradition or helping make a difference, the faultless Danai Gurira, who’s Okoye is undoubtedly the most bad arse MCU character in existence, or the scene-stealing Letitia Wright as Princess Shuri.
When you are capable of saying that performances from Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Martin Freeman have to be considered the weakest in comparison to the precision casting, then you’re generally onto a winner. Nothing quite personifies that vision as much as Michael B. Jordan’s stellar portrayal of Erik Killmonger, however. Whilst presented as almost throwaway dialogue throughout a conversation, the powerful social injustice commentary with which Jordan builds Killmonger around not only takes by absolute surprise but creates the most compelling antagonist of any previous Marvel film.
The passion of Jordan in these moments shakes an instant sympathy for his characters cause despite his callous actions, the engaging chemistry, especially when paired with the rising royalty of Boseman is something the MCU has tried to capture in the past and thankfully it succeeds unquestionably here.
From the beginning of the movie, Black Panther feels incredibly free-flowing, playing out like an eight-issue comic run with subtle bookending that doesn’t hinder its ability to pull from Civil War nor does it hamper the stories eventual run forward.
The emotionally weighted storyline sits perfectly amongst the ensemble and not only feels like another fresh turn of the comic book movie genre but actually feels as unique, enjoyable and significant as that very first viewing of Iron Man back in 2008.
If Kevin Feige was banking on Black Panther to be the lynchpin of whatever future Marvel Cinema is about to enter into, then he has a lot to be thankful for in what has been delivered.
Black Panther is in cinemas February 15.