Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Release Date: February 16, 2018
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o
It's hard to believe that nearly ten years have passed since the release of Iron Man, which marked the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but here we are. After making his debut in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa, aka the Black Panther, has finally gotten a film of his own, the eighteenth entry in the MCU - let that sink in for a moment - that proves, once again, that this massive, groundbreaking franchise is far from running out of steam after all these years.
At this point, it's almost impossible to not be aware of the hype that has surrounded this movie, especially in recent months as its arrival has drawn closer. Compared to last year's releases - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok - Black Panther is facing a wave of expectations as something more than just another high note in the MCU; it's a cultural event, and an important one to be celebrated at that. And though the Ryan Coogler-directed film makes some missteps, which I'll get into in a bit, I personally couldn't be happier to say that Black Panther is a winner, through and through, setting up a solo franchise with a massive, tantalizing future ahead of it that never sacrifices making itself a solid piece of entertainment in the process of doing so.
Black Panther isn't a film about chasing Infinity Stones. It's not a film about fighting aliens and robots and saving the world. It's not a film where anyone cares about what the Avengers are up to. This is a film about a boy becoming a man, a man becoming a king, and a king finding not just who he wants to become but his place, and the place of his own people, in a much larger world. It's a tale of family, of the line between holding dear to tradition or letting go to embrace a future, and of sins of the past coming home to roost. It's a film that picks up only a week after the events of Civil War to keep putting T'Challa through the fire so that he can become who he is destined to be, both as a leader of Wakanda and as a permanent fixture in the world he's now irrevocably a part of it.
As you'll remember from Civil War, T'Challa's father King T'Chaka (John Kani) was killed early in the film, his death thrusting upon T'Challa a mountain of responsibility that only pushed him down a path of vengeance, but by the end of it, he learned to not let that narrow-minded focus consume him, a lesson that colors in his actions throughout Black Panther. His ascendancy to the throne is not a straight path, however, as he's challenged by forces internal and external, and the meat of the film's narrative is devoted to T'Challa fighting for and proving both to himself and to the people of Wakanda that he truly deserves to be their king.
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