review by oisín walsh
Black Panther is entertainment at its finest. I was engaged with the film from the opening prologue
up until the last credit rolled, as is tradition with Marvel movies. Ryan Coogler, of Fruitvale Station
and Creed fame, directs this instalment in the franchise telling the story of T’Challa (Chadwick
Boseman), The Black Panther who, following the events of Civil War and the death of his father,
returns home to ascend to the throne as king of Wakanda. Marvel efficiently introduces us to an
almost entirely new cast of characters and welcomes us into the fictional nation of Wakanda film
which charms us with its inspiring story and good humour throughout.
The narrative is formulaic but effective. T’Challa has to become King and fight off any threat to the
throne or his country. For centuries, Wakanda has kept its huge resource of vibranium (the fictional
precious metal which Captain America's shield is made out of) and benefitted greatly from it, advancing in
technology faster than any other country on the planet. The rest of the world is ignorant of how
developed this African nation is. This leads to the other pressure placed upon T’Challa: should he
protect Wakanda from the outside world and risk his people’s safety or should his countrymen reach
out a hand to those in need and improve the world? This narrative is punctuated mostly with tight
action scenes which reveal gadgetry and fighting skill at T’Challa’s disposal. Although at times the
action could appear a little chaotic, it is for the most part well executed and does not undermine the
overall fine quality of these scenes.
The new characters include T’Challa’s former lover and spy for Wakanda, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o),
and his younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) who designs the new technology which runs their home
nation powered by the seemingly endless supply of vibranium and who is dismissive of the
conservative traditions of her people. These characters are fleshed out very quickly and they appear
deeply layered and complex. This is achieved by typical and spirited brother and sister banter
between Shuri and T’Challa which will undoubtedly resonate with people with siblings. The
relationship between Nakia and T’Challa is also well managed, suggesting that despite their love for
one another they both have separate duties that keep them from fully embracing their romance.
Martin Freeman also makes a return from Civil War as Everett K. Ross, a CIA agent who co-operates
with T’Challa to protect the throne from anyone who would use its power to wage war against the
The design of Black Panther is a remarkable achievement. Wakanda is a wonderful image,
drenched in sunlight which captures the marvellous variety of colour on display in this world. Every
shot is filled with so much detail and wonder that I found my eyes darting across the screen, trying
to absorb the sheer level of detail which the designers had achieved. Wakanda appears as a world
which holds so much majesty. One cannot be surprised by the decision to keep it hidden from
invasive, destructive forces.
The villains are both tragic and hysterical. Firstly, there is Killmonger (played by Coogler favourite,
Michael B. Jordan) who seeks to usurp T’Challa’s throne and share Wakanda’s secret resources with
allies throughout the world and lead a revolution. His character is at once despicable and monstrous
but still earns our sympathy for both his past and in some respects his cause. Also, returning to the
Marvel Cinematic Universe is Andy Serkis as arms dealer Ulysses Klau. Although he is primarily
present to inject humour into the film (though the film itself is not lacking in that department) he
also acts as a link to the history of Wakanda and a harsh critic of their decision to hide their wealth of resources and knowledge to the wider world. Overall, Black Panther offers charismatic and
complex antagonists to motivate the action of the narrative.
Black Panther packs a punch. I can’t imagine anyone will leave this film feeling they weren’t at least
a little entertained. Whether you appreciate the touching story the film tells, laugh at the comedy
the characters readily deliver, are hooked on the tight action scenes or simply in awe at the beauty
of the colourful design, you will have something to enjoy in the film. Black Panther is likely going to
become some people’s standalone Marvel favourite.