At last, a comic book film adaptation that doesn't leave me supremely restless!
Three years ago, filmmaker Ryan Coogler pumped a thunderbolt of vitality into the flailing Rocky franchise with his gangbusters Creed. Now, he has done the same for the middling Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther, while hardly a perfect picture, is handily the most satisfying film to sport the Marvel name.
The film finds T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning home to the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda, following the death of his father, King T'Chaka. T'Challa assumes the throne but soon finds his place as king threatened by the entrance of the reckless N'Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan), a black-ops soldier with ties to Wakanda who is out for vengeance and determined to send the nation into a world war.
Boseman and Jordan may earn top billing but it's really the women of Black Panther who tend to steal the show.
There's Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o as undercover spy Nakia, the former love of T'Challa's life; Danai Gurira as Okoye, the badass leader of Wakanda's all-female special forces crew; Letitia Wright, a wise-cracking delight as Shuri, T'Challa's innovative sister; and, of course, the incomparable Angela Bassett, wonderful (per usual) as Ramonda, queen mother of Wakanda.
This is one hell of an ensemble all around, which also includes Andy Serkis, gobbling up every shred of scenery as a black market arms dealer, and Martin Freeman, a tad more subdued as a CIA agent. There's also an amusing cameo from the one and only Stan Lee himself.
Coogler does a fine job orchestrating the picture's countless action sequences and the film looks divine, with cinematography by Oscar nominee Rachel Morrison and vibrant costumes designed by Oscar nominee Ruth E. Carter.
Black Panther may not be as emotionally involving as something like Creed or riveting as some of the past Batman films but, in an era when comic book movies are by-the-numbers as can be, fresh off the assembly line with scant inventiveness to be found, this one stands out as one of the finest in its genre. It is richly deserving of the praise and $$$ it has amassed and Coogler is a true superstar behind the camera.