Chadwick Boseman Lupita Nyong’o Angela Bassett Letitia Wright Danai Gurira
Michael B. Jordan Andy Serkis Sterling K. Brown Martin Freeman Daniel Kaluuya
Talk about a rising star; writer/director Ryan Coogler has made big splashes in just a few years with his award-nominated and winning Fruitvale Station (2013) and Creed (2015), and now stands to earn much high praise for Black Panther. He is lauded for delivering productions with all of the elements of notable films—entertainment, fantasy, emotionality, and meaning while weaving in topical issues of race, gender, and government.
All of those qualities emerge in Black Panther, a mythologically-informed story about destiny, heirdom, sibling rivalry, and legacy. But current politically sensitive issues are present as well, such as state protectionism vs. participation in world affairs, treason vs. loyalty, and methods for achieving power/respect in the world.
T’Challa (Boseman) is the heir-apparent for the kingship (in the form of Black Panther) of Wakanda, a fictional country somewhere in Africa, notable for its natural resource metal of vibranium, which allows the country to develop uncommon technological achievements, while passing themselves off as a third world country (a protectionist endeavor). Then the intrigue begins, when Wakandan prince N’Jobu (Brown) decides that Wakanda should share its knowledge to be of service to the rest of the world, which is further complicated by the surprise appearance of an American rival (Jordan) to the Wakanda throne who is accompanied by a notorious arms dealer (Serkis). Battles ensue, which test the loyalty of some and throw T’Challa’s right to the throne in doubt.
Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther exemplifies a strong leader from a distinct culture who eschews war and is committed to truth and right. Michael B. Jordan exemplifies a worthy opponent who, brought up in the American way of thinking, is convinced that power/might is the only way to assure that “good” things happen. I particularly loved the strong women surrounding the Black Panther, who represented loving, civic-minded mother (Bassett), technologically savvy sister Shura (Wright), trusted secret service head Okoye (Gurira), and cagy spy and love interest Nakia (Nyong’o). It’s so refreshing to see women in traditionally male roles, especially Nakia exerting a humanitarian voice and Shura a technology guru.
Boseman as the Black Panther effortlessly keeps real the fine lines between statesman, warrior and pacifist. Michael B. Jordan chews up his role as the African American brought up in the U.S. with a historic heritage he doesn’t quite understand. Daniel Kaluuya is ever subtle but strong in his role as W’Kabi, torn between two different regimes. Andy Serkis—long overdue for an acting award—plays a deliciously evil arms dealer. Martin Freeman of the Hobbit’s Bilgo Baggins fame is extraordinary as an American CIA agent (excellent casting!). And, finally, Forest Whitaker ably plays the reverential priest Zuri who must swear in new kings of Wakanda.
This is certainly a film that can be viewed numerous times for its complexities of plot and message and its performances by the principal players.
Black male and female superheroes abound in this unusual action movie touching on race, destiny, thrones, and legacy, making an exciting addition to the action/fantasy genre.