BLACK PANTHER is a beast! Big, bold, BEAUTIFUL, and badass. Co-writer and Director Ryan Coogler (FRUITVALE STATION, CREED) is three for three, and I have a gut feeling these numbers will always match — the man can tell a good story, an essential element for a film of this caliber. This is one of the BLACK PANTHER's strengths -- it's a compelling story of loss, suffering, and discovery (and kicking ass). The VFX folks always do a fantastic job at making Marvel movies look slick and uber-cool, but as we learned with superior letdowns like IRON MAN 2, or DC’s JUSTICE LEAGUE, a good story is a vital lifeline in making it a true success. (OK, and a good villain and a perfected Super digitally-absent mustache, too.)
Aside from being a lot of fun and action-packed, BLACK PANTHER is culturally significant, as in it dips into fascinating Northeastern African culture, specifically the culture of the fictional Wakanda, where T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman -- GET ON UP, 42 ) and his people reside. Most superhero movies take (a majority) of running time on American soil. It's still stunning, but I would rather see a bunch of big fights happen on foreign land with breathtaking waterfalls and locations I’ve never seen before, than at an airport parking lot. BLACK PANTHER is in a world we've never seen before. It's beautiful. Experiencing Wakandan life stimulate the senses with its rich and delicious colors used through fashion, cultivation, and customs. We learn a lot about Wakanda, but are still left with wonder and discovery.
Michael B. Jordan literally slays it as the film's antagonist, Killmonger. He can strike fear, rage, and hope one moment, and be quite vulnerable the next. Acting! I would love to see a prequel about his voyage to his introduction in BLACK PANTHER. I'm confident it's quite a gripping journey.
Other standouts: Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) as T'Challa's protector and patriotic soldier, General. I'm trying not to overuse this noun to describe this movie too much, but this my party and I'll cry if I want to: General is a badass. Then there's Shuri (Letitia Wright — Black Mirror), T'Challa's sister takes a cue from James Bond's Q as the creator of all of Black Panther's slack-jawing gadgets. She's funny, she's smart, and she will kick your ass if you mess with her brother. Lupita Nyong'o (12 YEARS A SLAVE) has a cool role of Nakia, someone important and faithful to T'Challa. She's beautiful, smart, and will also kick your ass if you mess with T'Challa.
You see the trend up there? T'Challas' team is full of women who kick a lot of ass. Coogler didn't do this as a gimmick; he did this because women do kick a lot of ass. If there is a damsel in distress in this movie, it's Black Panther. These three ladies are his saviors. Perhaps this is the Justice League we need.
The film, yes, is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it's self-contained and, aside from a few specific jokes, you don't need to see any other Marvel film to keep up with the movie. This film is about Black Panther's beginnings and the start of a marvelous franchise.