The MCU’s timeline here is a little murky, as there’s numerous films that immediately follow on from Captain America: Civil War, but if you opt to go with the version of the timeline put forward by Disney, Black Panther is the next Phase Three film.
After being introduced in Civil War, the titular hero returns to his native Wakanda following the death of his father in order to be crowned as the new king. Behind the scenes, a Black Panther film had been in the making since the 1990s, and after going through various planned iterations, it finally got made as part of the MCU – something which undoubtedly made far more impact and allowed for the necessary scope to achieve the character’s full potential.
Black Panther is, from its very first scene, effortlessly cool. It’s filled with sleek sci-fi visuals that make its action exciting and aesthetically distinct from other MCU entries, even if it is a little CG-heavy. It also features an exceptional cast, with Chadwick Boseman reprising the titular role alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis. There is some outstanding acting, particularly from Boseman and Jordan, and this allows for the film’s central themes to hit that much harder as they’re given much more emotional weight.
In stark contrast to Civil War, Black Panther is a relentlessly enjoyable film. Its action-driven plot doesn’t ever detract from its story, which is narratively sound and emotionally resonant, but it’s all so gorgeously crafted that its even enjoyable just for its remarkable design and production values. I don’t want to harp too much on its cultural significance, but it incorporates elements of traditional African cultures with modern superhero and sci-fi movies to make something truly and beautifully unique.
Black Panther isn’t entirely an origin story, but it does follow T’Challa’s transition from a sheltered prince to hero and king, and it establishes Wakanda’s importance to the wider MCU – something which had previously been hinted at but not directly explored. The film does all of this over the natural course of its story, and with a little clever writing and direction, it feels authentic.
It’s a well-paced film, with its more emotional aspects evenly spaced and its narrative developing naturally alongside the powerful performance of Boseman. There’s a magic to Black Panther that’s undeniably magnetic, and its present in practically every single aspect of the film, from its soundtrack to its supporting cast to the attention to detail in its set design.
My only real criticism was the abundance of CGI on display. It works as a solid depiction of the advanced Wakandan society, but it’s extensive, and it becomes a little tedious as the film wears on. It never ruins the film’s entertainment value, but it’s impossible to ignore, and towards the film’s final act it was becoming a little distracting.
However, Black Panther goes to a lot of places that the MCU hadn’t gone to before – both literally and figuratively. It grapples with some pretty serious themes without ever feeling heavy-handed, and it’s able to inject a little comic relief into proceedings, too. Black Panther is evidence of exactly where Marvel’s formula works, with Ryan Coogler’s direction guiding it through some potentially tricky waters and coming out glowing.
It’s hard to find anything about Black Panther that isn’t overall enjoyable. It’s not without its flaws, but as a superhero film, an action film, and a sci-fi film, it hits its mark and leaves a lasting impression.
Summary: A film stuffed with symbolism, emotion, and hard-hitting sci-fi action, Black Panther is one of the MCU’s finest entries.
Highlights: T’Challa’s journey over the course of the film – and Boseman’s exceptional talent in bringing it to life – is the stand-out point for me personally.