Black Panther opens, unexpectedly in Oakland, California. What follows is a unique character, with a background, weapons and a tale with which we are not familiar. As a different super-hero from a different heritage, this is an enjoyable movie. Yet, at its heart, the Black Panther faces the same moral quandaries that all of this genre face–right vs. wrong, good vs evil. In this case, they have a valuable mineral, vibranium, that can be used for peaceful purposes, or to make weapons. The leaders of Wakanda do not want to be purveyors of weapons, so they have chosen to appear to be a third world country. Others do not share this belief. They believe that Wakanda should share its wealth to help those less fortunate. That dynamic, along with some palace intrigue, guides this film.
T’Challa’s father (T’Chaka) has been killed, and a new leader of Wakanda must be selected and given the power of the Black Panther. T’Challa is challenged by M’Baku, the leader of a rival tribe, but he eventually triumphs and spares M’Baku’s life. T’Chaka’s failure as a king was to bring arms dealer Klaue to justice. T’Challa is determined to correct this mistake, even though he must travel to South Korea to arrest him. Klaue escapes which allows a competitor to vie for the throne, a competitor that wants Wikanda to rule the world.
Chadwick Boseman is T’Challa; it seems to me that he is still trying to find his way with this new character. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, was much more comfortable in her role as T’Challa’s former lover and spy. The scene stealer is Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister and similar to Q in the James Bond movies. She provides a laugh every time we see her. In every movie there must be a CIA agent who may, or may not, be trustworthy. That role falls to Martin Freeman, who also provides some comic relief. Andy Serkis, who we see most often in an ape costume, makes a great bad guy, Klaue. Angela Bassett is T’Challa’s mother, but has little to do. Forest Whitaker is an elder and really struggles with the accent.
I am not sure I ever remember standing in a long line to get in a theater when I already had a ticket in hand. Given the pre-sales, this movie is going to make a lot of money, its $200 million budget notwithstanding. Given the hype, people are going to want to experience this new world. The question may turn out to be whether or not those Marvel Comic enthusiasts will go see it more than once. How will the foreign markets view this “new country” that makes some unfavorable references to conditions in the U.S.? Do those references alienate domestic viewers? Given the ending, where does it go from here? Overall, I found this to be a good first effort, but the 75% user rating indicates that it is not without controversy. Luckily for the Black Panther, controversy can sell tickets.