Director – Ryan Coogler
Cast – Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forewst Whitaker, Andy Serkis
‘Black Panther’ has the unenviable task of being the precursor to Marvel’s massive comic book film event scheduled later this year in ‘The Avengers – Infinity War’. But writer & director Ryan Coogler is no stranger to taking on big responsibilities, proving his mettle with ‘Creed’ – a spin-off/ sequel to the ‘Rocky’ series. In ‘Black Panther’, Coogler proves he is more than up for the challenge, evident by his robust screenplay that showcases a deep list of fascinating personas, making each of them stand out in their own unique ways.
Most prominently, he gives us not one but two strong antagonists. Andy Serkis lets loose as Ulysses Klaue, being as maniacal as he can get without motion capture – a welcome change for the talented actor who isn’t seen too often on camera. Besides Klaue, Killmonger presents a case for the best bad guy to come out of the Marvel stable (tying in closely with Loki). Bringing pathos to the character, Michael B. Jordan makes him menacing and powerful. But this is Black Panther’s platform to shine, and Chadwick Boseman makes it count. He plays T’Challa as a firm yet gracious ruler, with enough vulnerability to bring us a regal, affable and even relatable king. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) is one of the many strong women in this film; layered and more than able to pack a powerful punch. While most of the film’s tonality is somewhat more somber than Marvel’s recent outings, there’s ample humour at appropriate moments courtesy T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright). In fact, Coogler ensures that the female cast is loaded with enough wit and grit to be scene-stealers.
The intricacies of African culture are beautifully captured and showcased in a whole new light as vibrant costumes and set design merge with high-quality CGI spectacle. Coogler adds another layer to the tale by taking on an intriguing issue of the role global superpowers play in the real world. Inspiring and empowering in equal measure, ‘Black Panther’ is a richer & deeper experience than most comic book fare. Most importantly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will definitely benefit from the presence of King T’Challa and his kingdom of Wakanda well down the line.