I always like someone to tell me the bad news first. Give me that, so I can move on. So, for Black Panther, here it is – Black Panther is a very good movie!
That may not sound like bad news but I bought into the hype. When the critics’ commentaries started rolling in, they were stellar. Words like “masterpiece” were generously used. As much as I tried to not let that influence me, it did.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie and am excited about the potential of these characters and what they bring to the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and it is the characters that make this movie shine.
Like Nolan’s Batman movies, Black Panther has such a deep bench of interesting players, one can almost forget who has the center seat.
First among them is Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger. I maintain that every successful movie has a bad guy that you are kind of rooting for, and Jordan brings this in spades. Killmonger’s charisma spills over in every scene. Though corrupted, his agenda has a moral arc that pulls at your sympathies.
Then there is the Black Panther’s posse. One of the many enjoyable aspects of this movie is how much he relies on his team. He is not the smartest in the room, that position goes to his sister Shuri, who is much like Q from the Bond movies. She keeps T’Challa equipped with the best gadgets Wakanda has to offer.
Nor is T’Challa the greatest warrior. That title seems to fall to the captain of his guard, Okoye. She and her troops out Amazon Wonder Woman’s Amazons. I was riveted by the tension she created when wrestling with to what degree her duty to the king of Wakanda outweighed her duty to its people.
Nakia, who has T’Challa’s heart, serves as his conscience. She has left the safety and security of Wakanda to be of service to the needy in the world at large. Throughout the story, she prods the Black Panther to consider serving the whole of humanity.
Beyond that, there are a number of minor characters but none of them are throwaways. Each adds pertinent puzzle pieces to the story which provides a rich tapestry.
So you may be wondering about the lead character. Chadwick Boseman brings the gravitas of a monarch. He is the King and you never doubt it. Beyond that, he has a moral compass that does not flinch. He is the leader in whom you put your confidence. The Black Panther is similar to Captain America in that sense, but with clear differences. He is not a boy scout and he is not a soldier. He is the ruler of a nation, perhaps more comparable to King Arthur. He does not have the luxury of being an individual, he belongs to his people.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe closes its first decade and starts another, I see the Black Panther and his supporting characters being at the foundation of where they go next. This was a good start, but I suspect the best is yet to come.