Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther represents a milestone in Marvel film history, taking in over $200 million domestically in its first three days of release and a staggering $704 million worldwide after just two weeks in theaters. The record-breaking effort is a first for a superhero film starring a black cast proving that diversity is not only a positive thing, but can be very lucrative as well. In an industry where money talks, Black Panther is speaking volumes.

Black Panther stands apart from other paint-by-numbers superhero fare, in its wholly original interpretation of one of Marvel’s most popular comic book heroes first brought to life by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Starting with Wakanda, the fictional African nation impresses – a lush, green utopia with its brilliant waterfalls and rolling hills. It is a fantastic mythological oasis where nature meets technology and the historic blends with the new.

Smartly penned by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, Black Panther is both sprawling and expansive, packed with breathtaking action sequences while still maintaining a texture and depth that smooths out any rough edges.

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Wakanda is where we find Black Panther, or T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), ascending to the throne after the death of his father. Powered by vibranium, a metal that has been used in technological advances, Wakanda thrives, setting the strong nation apart from surrounding foes. Black Panther’s superhuman abilities come from a heart-shaped herb derived from vibranium. A monarchic structure, Wakanda is nevertheless ruled as a democracy.

And while we learn of T’Challa’s past, there are villains in the present he must vanquish. Enter Ulysses Klaue (a brilliant Andy Serkis), an underground arms dealer whose right hand man is former black ops soldier Erik Killimonger (Michael B. Jordan). Returning to Wakanda with a claim to the throne and battling T’Challa in an epic showdown, Killimonger’s plan is to sell Wakandan weapons to operators around the globe. Jordan is the perfect counterpoint to Boseman as Killimonger, a charismatic and imposing presence that commands attention.

It is impossible to talk about the successes of T’Challa without the dynamic women that surround him including the Dora Milaje (female warriors – Danai Gurira deserves high praise here). With a strong mother (a regal Angela Bassett), a spunky and resourceful sister (a noteworthy Letitia Wright) and a spy who has returned home to fight (Lupita Nyong’o in fine and compelling form), the women of Black Panther are a vital part of the story. Their three-dimensional scripting and portrayals make the case for more substantial female characters in leading and supporting roles in the superhero genre.

Boseman as Black Panther gives an understated, yet effective performance, justifying his central role as the new face of the Marvel universe.


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