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Black Panther: Review

The last solo outing in Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Three sees Prince T’Challa return to Wakanda in West Africa after the death of his father, King T’Chakka, in Civil War. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) dons the Panther suit and an origins story and family secrets begin to unravel.

Ryan Coogler co-wrote and directed this story of King T’Challa and teams up with his Creed star Michael B. Jordan. Here, Jordan plays villain, Erik, a.k.a. Killmonger, who is a threat to the throne and carries a deadly family secret.

Andy Serkis, of Lord of the Rings fame, plays Ulysses Klaue, the man using Erik to get his hand on more of the Vibranium he tried to steal three decades earlier under King T’Chakka’s reign. Blinded by rage and trying to live up to his father’s legacy, T’Challa sets out to capture Claue, much to the delight of his comrade, W’kabi (Rising Star BAFTA winner Daniel Kaluuya).

Forest Whitaker plays Zuri, T’Challa’s uncle and somewhat of a mentor for the Black Panther. Some of the most memorable scenes in Black Panther are the ceremonial challenges for the throne. In them we see Whitaker shine as he relays the rules of combat for the nominees of each of the five Wakandan tribes, in order for them to become King.

Wakanda is a large country in West Africa that is thriving compared to other nations thanks to the Vibranium that is being sourced from the mountains. It is not too unlike Ragnarok so one could assume that Coogler took a leaf out of Tai Waititi’s book.

The female cast are the stars of the show. Lupita N’yongo plays Nakia, a political activist and T’Challa’s love interest. Angela Bassett plays the Queen mother. The brains behind the technological advancements comes from T’Challa’s sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), a veritable M from Ian Fleming’s Bond franchise. The King’s Guard are an all female unit led by Okoye (Danai Gurira).

There are some good action sequences from the outset but the opening fight scene where T’Challa attempts to rescue Nakia, suffers from poor lighting and dodgy computer generated imagery. With that said, the rest of the movie is pretty flawless and is well paced. The casino scene where we meet Klaue did remind me of Casino Royale, but Andy Serkis saves it with his energetic performance and his bionic – and Vibranium enhanced – arm.

The sets and the technology are another highlight of the film and Shuri uses these well to both enhance and embarrass her brother. Also offering a bit of light humour to the show is M’buka, the leader of the Jabari tribe, a group of warriors who would fit in well in the Planet of the Apes franchise.

As mentioned, Black Panther is a story not too unlike Thor Ragnarok, none more so than in the post-challenge scenes where T’Challa, and later Erik, visit their ancestors in the valley. It strikes me as falling in line with Loki and Thor visiting Odin in the opening scenes of Ragnarok.

I would give Black Panther 8/10. It has a good story and there are good performances by the entire cast. What marred it for me was that it seemed to borrow ideas from other films such as Ragnarok, Casino Royale and Iron Man 3. Finally, watch out for Marvel co-creator Stan Lee’s cameo alongside Martin Freeman who takes over from Clark Gregg’s Coulson as the former pilot turned secret agent.

Black Panther is in cinemas now.

See the trailer here.

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