BLACK PANTHER Review: Marvel And Ryan Coogler Have Delivered A Superb Blockbuster With A Brain

The review embargo has finally lifted, which means I can share my thoughts on Marvel Studios' latest adventure. Click for my SPOILER free take on Ryan Coogler's hugely ambitious solo Black Panther movie...

It's fair to say that Black Panther comes with some lofty expectations. T'Challa may not be the first black superhero to headline his own movie, but the fact that this is a massive Marvel Studios project with a predominantly black cast is still a pretty big deal and means the world to a lot of people (not just CBM fans), which in turn means there was a lot of pressure on Marvel and director Ryan Coogler to deliver.

It's a pleasure to report, then, that deliver they have. Black Panther is f*cking awesome.

The story picks up soon after the events of Civil War, with T'Challa returning home to Wakanda in order to be crowned king. Most of his people are happy to follow their new monarch, but there are those that believe Wakanda should be sharing its resources with the rest of the world, and others that believe it's time to use the vibranium to weaponize certain parts of the world in order to kick-start a revolution. This ultimately leads to conflict with an outsider who has a stronger connection to T'Challa and his home country than anyone realizes.

Right from the get-go, Coogler's film sets out to establish itself as something a little different than what we're used to seeing in the MCU. In some ways it is very much a Marvel Studios film (in the case of the overly CGI-infused climax, to its detriment), but for the most part, Black Panther is not interested in sticking to the formula and is not shy about admitting that it has something to say. Yes, the movie does get political - but because the message is so integral to the plot and the characters' motivations, it feels organic and never comes across like it's being overly preachy.

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Of course, if we didn't care about the characters then none of that would matter, but thanks to a top-notch cast and the supporting players being given enough time to shine, that's never an issue.

Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa was a highlight of Civil War, and he continues to shine here as a noble, but fallible hero and king. Thankfully, he's given a more than adequate adversary in the form of Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who might well be Marvel's strongest villain yet. Threatening to steal the film from under both of them, though, are Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Okoye (Danai Gurira). Winston Duke also makes a big impression as M'Baku.

You may have heard that the movie takes a more serious tone than the usual Marvel fare, and while that's technically true, there is still some humor - it just isn't shoehorned in at every opportunity or during scenes that are supposed to be dramatic. This ensures that the exhilarating action sequences are allowed to play out with a bit more intensity and a sense that there are real stakes involved.
 
Slight pacing issues early on and some video game-y FX are not enough to dethrone the mighty Black Panther. Ryan Coogler's exciting, powerful and thought-provoking film stands as one of Marvel Studios' strongest entries. The King has indeed arrived.

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