This is not your typical superhero movie. Yes, it has all the elements of one, and is part of the Marvel Universe, but it’s a movie that’s completely stand a lone. If you’re like me and haven’t seen every single Marvel film or read all the comics up to this point, you can still understand and thoroughly enjoy the movie.
I’m not a huge Marvel fan in general, but this film didn’t feel like a Marvel film. It was just on a different level. The technical effort put in showed in every frame, and Ryan Coogler’s directing was brilliant. The relationship between T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and his sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) completely stole the show and I was cracking up every time they were on the screen together. General Okoye (Danai Gurira) is ferocious and graceful and fierce as the general of the Dora Milaje, the special warriors that protect the throne, and Nakia, T’Challa’s ex, a humanitarian/spy, (Lupita Nyong’o) brings heart to the film by asking questions that brings Wakanda out of it’s comfortable cocoon by trying to help others in need. Ramonda (Angela Bassett), brings heart to the film as T’Challa’s mother, who’s grieving the recent loss of her husband, T’Challa’s father T’Chaka.
Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman round out the phenomenal cast and Andy steals every scene he’s in as Ulysses Klaue, the villain who’s trying to steal Wakanda’s energy source, Vibranium, to use for nefarious purposes. Don’t forget about Erik Killmonger, who lives up to his moniker in every way, played by Michael B. Jordan, who’s the ultimate villain in the film.
Chadwick Boseman gives a standout performance as T’Challa, the king of Wakanda. After ascending to the throne when his father is killed, he has to decide what kind of king he’s going to be: if he’s going to follow Wakandian traditions of playing a third world country while being one of the most powerful in the world, or is he going to allow them to use the power and technology of Vibranium to help those in need around the world. Initially, he’s reluctant, wanting to protect his people and what they’ve built. As events unfold however, his point of view is challenged at every turn.
The relationships in this film are what make it so different from most Marvel films. You feel the connection they have with each other immediately. You buy them, and they don’t feel manufactured or forced. From T’Challa’s family to his relationship with his warriors and people. What I loved about the film is every character is important, and they don’t feel like they’re just their to serve another character. They have their own stories and personalities and beliefs that drive their actions in the movie.
Representation is a big part of this movie. I’m not going into the political aspect of the film, but the social issues brought up are issues that face every culture. For example, a main question throughout the movie is how many tragedies do you have to accept before striking out and helping the world around you, despite the possible consequences for your own people? That’s a question that faced America during the World Wars, and T’Challa struggles with throughout the movie.
The women are driving forces in this movie. Every single woman in the film is unique, and has a strong personality and motives for what they do. Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, is a technological genius that makes Tony Stark look like a kindergartner putting together lego kits. She’s very modern, and doesn’t like being confined to traditional standards.
General Okoye’s character’s driving force is duty to the throne, not the person. She’s put to the test when she’s challenged by that very belief late in the film. She has to decide whether to give blind loyalty to the throne or stand up for what’s right.
Nakia is a spy, and spends her life trying to save the oppressed, whether it’s women being sold into slavery or boy soldiers who where forced into service. She and Okoye are fiercely independent and are loyal to the throne, but when events take place and she has to make a choice, she chooses loyalty to a person rather than a throne.
Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is the villain in the movie, but he’s not a villain just because he wants to be. He’s extremely smart, and has the background and training to prove it. He joined the US Army to learn their strategies so when his time came to act, he’d actually use their own strategies against them. He has a very personal reason for what he’s doing, and you legitimately understand and emphasize with him for the path he chose, even if you don’t agree with it.
The visual effects on the film are grade A and don’t look like a typical Marvel film. Disney and Marvel weren’t afraid to spend money on this show and you see it in every frame of the film, from Rachel Morrison’s cinematography, to the costumes, the action sequences, and the music are all on a different level.
I have to point out that the women are just as physical and strong as the men, and the men lean on them tremendously, accepting them for who they are. There’s a scene when T’Challa, Okoye, and Nakia are hunting Klaue (Andy Serkis) and Okoye is wearing a wig. She says she can’t wait to get rid of it; that’s its disgraceful. During the fight, she whips it off her head and throws it at an opponent as a diversion. As the fight ensues Nakia takes off her heels and is fighting barefoot throughout the scene. As a woman, seeing her take those heels off and fight barefoot is completely relatable. That scene is about taking society’s expectations and breaking through them, a statement that many women are trying to express in their own ways right now. The fact that you have a car scene where two women are driving and a woman is fighting as an equal to her male counterpart is something you hardly ever see in film.
All in all, I’d give this movie a 10/10. Go see this film in the theater, in IMAX if possible. You won’t be sorry.