Marvel’s quality seems to be getting better with every new film they release. The Black Panther has set a new zenith that will probably not be eclipsed until “Infinity War” hits theaters in a few months. This film was well written, visually stunning, and acting was top-notch. It took a few liberties with the comic book character but was handled so cleverly that we hardly noticed. I may go see it again, in 3D, to get the full effect.
T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) must take over as king of Wakanda when his father dies in an explosion at U.N. headquarters (as seen in Captain America: Civil War). T’Challa is heir to a centuries old birthright to become The Black Panther following his father in a ritual that involves consuming a drink from a heart-shaped plant affected by the massive deposit of a metal called vibranium when a meteor crashed into Africa long ago. The Wakandans have used the vibranium to develop incredible technology and weapons, all the while remaining invisibly shielded from the outside world as they present the fascia of being a poor third world country.
A subplot is introduced early as in 1992, Prince N’Jobu’s son, N’Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan) wants to supplant T’Challa as king and use Wakanda’s weaponry to stage an African-American empire under his command. This man is a black ops soldier who goes by the name of Killmonger. If the plotline was followed verbatim, Killmonger would probably be a genetically enhanced warrior created by Hydra, but this angle is never fully explored. The movie deviates a bit here by stating N’Jobu, Zuri (as an adult played by Forest Whitaker), and N’Jobu’s son Erik (Jordan plays the adult version) get involved in a skirmish that interacts heavily with the rest of the story.
From there, yet another subplot carries things along as a black market arms dealer , Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) is identified as the man who stole some vibranium from Wakanda. He is wanted by the Wakandans for that theft, so T’Challa tracks him to a South Korean underground casino with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) his former lover, and special forces warrior Okoye (Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira), and a fierce fight ensues, resulting in Klaue getting away, even after a heart-pounding chase.
Another character who figures prominently is T’Challa’s 16-year old sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), whose primary duty is developing new technology for Wakanda. At one point, she refers to wounded CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) as “another broken white boy to fix”. This refers back to the post-credit scene in “Civil War” where Bucky Barnes is shown to have been taken to Wakanda to repair his battered body and mind.
The fight scenes are smartly choreographed and well-spaced in the film to allow plot and action to flow continuously. The cast includes Angela Bassett as Ramonda, T’Challa’s mother and Queen, Sebastian Stan appearing as Bucky Barnes in a post-credit scene, and Marvel boss Stan Lee, whose mandated cameo as a gambler in the casino evokes the necessary comedy angle. One post-credit scene obviously hints that Wakandan technology will be used in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. This, I repeat, may be the best Marvel movie ever.