During President’s Day I saw an afternoon showing of Black Panther, which may be the biggest game changer in the Marvel-verse since the Winter Soldier.

Consider the turn-out for the 2 PM showing at a theater in Reno: nearly sold-out with an excellent mix of young and old movie fans, and some African-Americans.
They were all very pleased with an excellent movie that presents a new type of hero, a king who is also a warrior. It was also the story of a decision that would affect millions many years later, and how T’Challa, the new Wakandan king, faces the consequences. In fact, a recent article in Deadline hints it may stay in theaters until the Avengers arrive in the spring.

Chadwick Boseman has been very successful in biographies of Jackie Robinson and James Brown, but he is just great as T’Challa. His new role as King has been thrust upon him from the events of Captain America Civil War, and he doesn’t have much time to settle into the job. He has to protect his people and the secret of its futuristic technology based on vibranium. It’s a very special metal everyone wants, especially a mercenary named Ulysses Klaue. While Andy Serkis has been popular portraying virtual characters in the Planet of the Apes trilogy and the Lord of the Rings, he makes one really bad villain. He’s pretty dangerous with a literal hand-gun.

The main story, though, actually starts in an Oakland apartment where a shocking betrayal takes place. From this emerges Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, played with menace and style by Michael B. Jordan. He’s connected with Klaue because they want to sell a piece of vibranium that Erik steals from a British museum.
Eric soon makes a bid to take over Wakanda, leading to an amazing battle at the end. Erik says he wants to help the Black race rise up, with the help of Wakandan technology. Even some Wakandans think that’s a good idea, but it’s too drastic for some.

Aside from T’Challa, the movie is filled with fantastic characters. First off is Okoye (Danai Gurira), who leads the royal guard the Dora Milaje. These soldiers would give Wonder Woman and her fellow Amazons a run for their money. There’s also Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), a spy who thinks maybe Wakanda should abandon its isolationist attitude. She is also a very skilled warrior.  Shuri, the tech genius played by Letitia Wright, could be the breakout star in this movie.  Shuri is T’Challa’s younger sister and a tech genius whose expertise is mind-blowing. Name anyone else who can remotely drive a car from 6000 miles away.

It’s very impressive how they recreate Wakanda, disguised as a third-world nation thanks to a fake hologram. It hides an incredible civilization with advanced tech, all based on vibranium. It also shows how much the nation wants to keep the miracle metal a secret, aware it may change their way of life too much if the world knew.

Another surprise is Martin Freeman as CIA agent Everett Ross. He starts out getting in the way of T’Challa’s efforts to capture Klaw, setting up this incredible fight scene at a hidden casino in South Korea..

Here’s another video that shows how director Ryan Coogler broke down that scene.

Anyway, Ross gets injured and a surprising look at what Wakanda is really like. Of course, Nakia is worried Ross knows too much, until he plays a key role in stopping Erik’s plans.

Daniel  Kaluuya also appears as W’Kabi, who wants Klaue to be brought to justice. When Erik comes to Wakanda, though, W’Kabi makes a regrettable decision.

As with other Marvel movies, there are the post-credit scenes. One shows T’Challa making a key speech, and the other shows someone who wakes up from a long nap.  Stan Lee also makes his appearance, a little earlier than most Marvel movies.

Black Panther not only shows that African-American characters can lead a good blockbuster with a good story, female characters can also make a major presence. It’s no wonder some people think a Black Panther sequel should emphasize Okoye, Shuri (maybe as Black Panther II) and Nakia.
Their king, though, will join the Avengers in their battle against Thanos in Infinity War coming up in May.

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