Black Panther (2018)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 2/19/18
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, cameo by Stan Lee

After losing his father in "Captain America: Civil War" (2016), prince T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) becomes the reluctant king of Wakanda. When an old enemy from the past resurfaces, the secret of Wakanda's vibranium is revealed and an outsider named Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) challenges T'Challa as a lost heir to the throne. These revelations throw Wakanda into chaos, and the various tribes start fighting among each other. With the help of CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), T'Challa and his friends must reclaim the mantle of the Black Panther and save Wakanda (and the rest of the world) from annihilation.

For better or worse, the film never deviates from the standard Marvel movie formula, which makes it feel a bit stale and overly predictable. That said, It's also one of the best MCU films to date due to its compelling characters and thoughtful writing. Excellent performances all around, with Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, and Danai Gurira being especially noteworthy. Andy Serkis is delightful as the deliriously unhinged Ulysses Klaue, but I found the casting of Martin Freeman puzzling. Were they unable to find any American actors for such a minor and undemanding role? The film looks great and the visual effects are flashy and colorful. The fight scenes are fun and exciting, although sloppy camera work and choppy editing spoil some of the fun. However, it fares much better than most Hollywood productions in this regard. Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira are fantastic as female warriors, and I was very impressed by how they were represented. The dialog is very good for the most part, although much of the humor falls flat. Still, it has some genuinely funny and touching moments.

Whether intentional or not, the film seems very timely, and its greatest achievement may be how it boldly spits in the face of everything the Trump Administration stands for. T'Challa appeals to the global community with compassion, tolerance, acceptance, wisdom, science, and unity, for that's the only way the human race will survive. Killmonger's disastrously foolish "Make Wakanda Great Again" campaign is an especially poignant reflection of the times and the world we currently live in. The film ends on a positive and optimistic note, making Wakanda a nation that we should all look up to and strive to become.