- July 1966: Debuting in "Fantastic Four Vol. 1" Issue 52, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the first mainstream black superhero, the Black Panther.
- Early 90s: Wesley Snipes, who would go on to portray a different Marvel superhero, first mentioned his intention to work on a Black Panther.
- 2005: Black Panther was announced to be one of ten films developed by Marvel and distributed by Paramount Pictures.
- October 2014: Marvel Studios Head Kevin Feige announced Black Panther starring Chadwick Boseman in the title role would be part of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- May 2016: Captain America: Civil War marks the first appearance of Black Panther in the MCU.
- January 2018: Marvel Studios Black Panther sets record for more pre-sale tickets sold for an MCU film.
- February 16th, 2018: The King Arrives!
A film over 25 years in the making based on one of the most groundbreaking characters in comic history and does it live up to the hype? YES!
To be honest, I never knew much about Black Panther from the comics, as I was not much of a Marvel kid. But when this film was announced in 2014, it really caught my interest. Black Panther, just as Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Ant-Man, was outside the "known" Marvel titles I had ever glanced through at my local comic shop, but at this point, we're all aware that Kevin and his brain trust at Marvel Studios know how to make not just a superhero movie but a good movie! When Prince T'Challa first appeared in Captain America: Civil War, right away you could tell there was more to this character than just a prince in an amazing suit from the country of Wakanda, home of the mystical metal Vibranium.
This film opens with a history of Wakanda and its protector Black Panther presented in a very unique way that really grabs you and never lets you go. The rest of the film does a bit of a time hop, first introducing you to a young King T'Chaka in 1992 who has to venture to Oakland, California to try and find who is responsible for the theft of Vibranium (for more on this theft see Avengers: Age of Ultron), then moving forward to one week after Captain America: Civil War. So, just as with most of the Earthbound MCU films, it establishes its place in the overall timeline very well. However, unlike most of the other MCU films, this one does not have much in the way of being tied to the other films. Yes, it references Civil War and Klaw was in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but this feels less connected than even Doctor Strange — but not in a bad way as it stands very well on its own.
Director Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole, does an amazing job not only showcasing the character, action, and comedy but also made what I call a "new mythology" in the history and people of Wakanda. He voice in this film is perfect as it makes you feel like this is indeed a superhero film but is also grounded present-day Africa with such beauty and traditions mixed with this strange country that is far more advanced than the rest of the world.
Black Panther/King T'Challa Chadwick Boseman plays the perfect everyman when needed and plays the perfect king when called for. Michel B. Jordan as Killmonger really shines as a villain you feel for — he fights for what he believes in even if it may not be the best for the rest of the Wakanda Nation. The rest of the cast from Martin Freeman to Forest Whitaker do an amazing job making you feel you have been transported to the amazing country on Wakanda in all its beauty. But if I had to say what stood out for me the most in this film, it would be the three leading ladies.
In the past, Marvel films have been criticized for the lack of a strong female. Well this film changes all of that. It's hard to say that the ladies outshine the leading man, but it is almost true. Each of these characters brings something special to the film.
Okoye, portryed by Danai Gueiea of "The Walking Dead" fame, is the general of the Wakandan army and by far one of the strongest females both in action and just presence on screen in any film, not just a Marvel film. If she is not part of a huge epic battle in a upcoming Avengers film, someone should be fired.
Nakia, played by Disney's new go-to actress Lupita Nyong'o, acts as a love interest, right hand woman, and conscience for King T'Challa. A Wakandan spy, Nakia is part of a larger group imbedded across the globe to observe and report back to the king if there was ever a 007 role this is it and Lupita plays it as smoothly as Sean Connery ever could.
Shuri, King T'Challa's little sister is played by Letitia Wright and really steals the entire film. She is not only the brains behind the tech of Wakanda, she is also the perfect comedic foil. There is not a scene that she appears in that she didn't make me laugh, from dropping one liners here and there to showing her big brother he is number one in one of my favorite scenes in the film. Letitia really did stand out in this jam packed cast and, in my opinion, if there is ever a need for a new Iron Man, they have already cast the perfect person for it!
Black Panther in a word is PERFECTION. After 17 films, I have come to expect a good mix of action and comedy from the MCU, but this is the perfect mix of the two. When asked what I thought of the film my immediate response has been, "best action of any of the Marvel films." This is not space aliens taking on the Avengers for two hours, this is fights and battles that rival those of Rocky and Lord of the Rings. The entire cast performs this film as if it were not just a "superhero film" but a Shakespearean play. Plus, one of the best parts of the film is the uncridited character of Wakanda. Its beauty and richness spell out how the amazing magic place will play a bigger role in the future of the MCU.
I give this film a easy 5 out of 5 and I will be one of the first in line when it is released on February 16th, 2018 to see it again.