Black Panther arrives freighted with the highest of expectations. Here’s the Marvel movie even non-Marvel fans are prepared to root for, the rare black superhero film, one boasting not only an almost all-black cast but helmed by a black director as well. The stakes are higher, here, than just the fate of the Marvel Universe: What if it sucks? What if it flops? What would that mean for the future of diversity studio tent poles?
Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa makes for a compelling lead, but the film belongs to the incredible roster of female talent. There’s Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), T’Challa’s confidante and most-trusted spy, Okoye (Danai Gurira), the leader of his private team of all-female bodyguards, the Dora Milaje, Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s 16-year-old tech whiz sister, and Ramonda (Angela Bassett), his most regal mother. It might be called Black Panther, but make no mistake – the film belongs to these competent, intelligent, brave women.
Technically, this is as impeccable as anything else in the MCU, but in terms of production design and photography, its only rival is the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. The score is great too, with Ludwig Goransson’s soundtrack nicely complimented by tracks by Kendrick Lamar.
For all the grief people like me occasionally give the MCU, they deserve credit for sheer consistency. Their risks usually pay off handsomely, and BLACK PANTHER is another top-shelf franchise for them that should run for decades to come. Hopefully, Coogler stays onboard, because he’s as much of a star here as anyone in front of the camera. As far as tent-pole filmmaking goes, it doesn’t get much better than this.