By Madeline Miller
The newest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe turns the world as fans know it on its head, but “Black Panther”is not just for Marvel enthusiasts. It is for everyone.
The main character T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, was introduced in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” “Black Panther” is set approximately a week after the events of Civil War, beginning with T’Challa returning home to his home country of Wakanda, an isolated paradise nation in Africa.
Despite the impact of the greater cinematic universe Marvel Studios has produced, the movie is able to stand on its own as an independent story.
The most immediately apparent success of “Black Panther”lies in its stunning visuals. Sweeping shots of the picturesque and futuristic Wakanda pull viewers into the world easily.
The film also deals deftly with themes of imperialism, freedom, isolationism and patriotism, mainly through one of its greatest strengths: The villain. Played by Michael B. Jordan, Killmonger is the first Marvel cinematic villain to be truly sympathetic. He seeks to right the wrongs against his people, his family and himself. He is the most successful villain so far in that his goals become a key for the main characters to change themselves. Even if other characters do not agree with his methods, his efforts hold strong motivation and create tangible progress for the world he seeks to change.
Leading lady Danai Gurira as General Okoye of the all-female special forces, Dora Milaje steals the show with her humor as often as her strength and dedication. Lupita N’yongo’s Nakia doubles as a skilled spy and a caring humanitarian. Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross provides comic relief and a vessel for those not quite as immersed in the world, although those viewers are likely to be few and far between.
The true stand-out character of “Black Panther,” however, is T’Challa’s 16-year-old sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. Officially dubbed the smartest character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shuri develops fantastic technology and performs miraculous healings with the help of her nation’s abundance of vibranium, a super powered metal only found in Wakanda. Shuri’s inventions touch just about every aspect of the story, and she does it all with a wardrobe that any 16-year-old girlwould envy.
The other costumes are stunningly designed and meticulously crafted after the traditional clothing of actual African tribes. The score is supportive and thematic, playing with African instruments as well as Western.
The film does fall flat on visual effects in some areas, with rhinoceroses that belong in video games and a well-designed but small,underwhelming city.
Overall, Black Panther has continued the recent tradition set by “Spider-man: Homecoming”and “Thor: Ragnarok.”It builds a stand-alone story full of heart and compelling character development, but it also connects to and has greater implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large, especially with “Avengers: Infinity War”looming ever closer on the horizon.It is an enjoyable, ground-breaking movie for those of all backgrounds.
Just make sure to stick around after the credits for the two bonus scenes.