The latest from Marvel is an absolute blast – a wild, giddy, colourful thrill ride which gives superhero Black Panther a fabulous standalone film, having been introduced so effectively in Captain America: Civil War.
The story takes place mostly in the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda – a secret world of highly advanced technology, thanks to their supply of vibranium, an incredibly powerful and versatile metal. Having lost his father, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) succeeds to the throne of Wakanda, and inherits the title and mystical powers of the Black Panther. But T’Challa faces an immediate challenge from Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and the mysterious Killmonger (Michael B Jordan).
The cast, which also features Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya and Martin Freeman, are all excellent. The screenplay does a good job of making us actually care about the characters, and Creed director Ryan Coogler stages the thrilling action scenes with great aplomb, making great use of his Jules Verne-esque visuals in Wakanda, as well as the occasional non-Wakandan locations (for example, one jaw dropping car chase in South Korea). It goes without saying the special effects are terrific.
There are some interesting themes and subtexts – a wealthy nation’s responsibility to the less well off (neatly inverting concerns about western responsibilities to the Third World), learning to be true to your own ideals as a leader, the folly of self-appointed revolutionaries wishing to mete out punishment for colonialism – and obviously this is culturally significant as the first major superhero film with an almost all black cast. That said, nothing feels preachy, and the most important thing to be delivered – a first-rate superhero movie – is achieved with great success.