The beginning of the movie is also the end because everything is now. We start with the history of Wakanda, the land the Black Panther is sworn to protect. T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is his given name and following his father’s recent death, he is also King of Wakanda. Wakanda is a bright and futuristic place, hidden though advanced technology in order to protect its people and traditions. Wakanda was never colonized and everyone works to keep it that way.
In Wakanda they have an element called vibranium. It can’t be found in any other place on earth. Wakandans make everything from clothes to weapons out of it. The element allows for extremely advanced technology which makes it priceless. If the rest of the world were to find out about it, they’d surely come looking for trouble.
Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is the villain and he already knows about Wakanda. He knows about the vibranium too except he doesn’t want to hide it away from the rest of the world. He wants to give it to the overlooked, the powerless. He wants to hand power to his community so they can rise up. Killmonger wants to help them re-write their history. He wants to see what the world would be like if the power balance were to be flipped completely. ‘Black Panther’ is both T’achalla and Killmonger’s story. Not only that, it’s the story of a land where women are just as powerful as men, they’re scientists and warriors and royalty. They’re women, but otherwise no different and boy what a difference that makes. Society there is light years ahead of anything the rest of the world has ever seen. Wakanda is evidence of something better, proof that the exceptional exists, and who couldn’t use a little bit of that at a time like this?
Chadwick Boseman is perfect as T’Challa, the consummate leader. He creates a noble hero in every aspect and tempers that nobility with enough humility to make him infinitely relatable. Not only is he the Black Panther and the King of Wakanda, he’s also a guy grappling with life and getting winded. Boseman gives us a Black Panther who doesn’t yet feel prepared. He’s a little lost trying to balance great personal loss with immense responsibility. He’s all of us but so much better than us, and you don’t resent him for one second. That’s all thanks to Boseman.
While this is surely Boseman and Lupita Nyong'o's show, Michael B. Jordan is undeniable. He's the multidimensional villain we’ve all been whining for since forever. Yeah, Eric Killmonger has rage issues. He too has suffered greatly and his motives aren’t all bad. He may not be 100% noble in his pursuits but his intentions are mostly good. Expect to be left wondering how to deal with so many conflicting emotions during a particularly well executed and visually striking fight scene because it’s going to happen. Jordan creates a villain that easily captures full attention whenever he’s around, which is especially impressive in a movie chock full of memorable performances.
Letitia Wright as Shuri is the other standout. I think the rest of the world has agreed on that, right? She brings us a young woman that’s bright, forward thinking and playfully aggressive. She’s exactly the kind of witty woman you want developing all your cool super hero technology. Wright is a hilarious scene-stealer. Her performance coupled with that of the rest of the stellar cast, including Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett and Sterling K. Brown, is what truly brings the story of Wakanda to life. They’re a big part of what makes it a place you too want to see for yourself. If your heart isn’t breaking during that final sunset in Wakanda, you probably don’t have one and you should work on that.
Ryan Coogler knocked this one clear out of the park, as he tends to do. The attention to detail in every aspect of the movie-making process really comes through. There’s no escaping the draw of Wakanda’s warm colors, rich textures and futuristic shine. And, did you notice how good that CGI is? The stuff was flawless and measured, no over dependence on cartoonish fight scenes or action sequences to propel the story forward. Coogler (with the help of many hugely talented folks) has put together a uniquely extraordinary story that you’ll no doubt have to revisit multiple times to fully appreciate.