I made it through the snow and ice to see Marvel’s film version of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Black Panther character.
First appearing in Fantastic Four #52, T’Challa, the Black Panther, was the first black superhero Marvel produced at a time when mainstream comics didn’t have black characters, though KIrby and Lee had already introduced a black character into their Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos title.
The film draws heavily upon Kirby’s vision of a futuristic African nation that developed entirely independent of Western influences, while the portrayal of T’Challa (played by a solid Chadwick Boseman) sticks firmly to the comics as opposed to Marvel’s film heroes jokey, wise-cracking style.So The Black Panther is a noble, stoic leader, and unusually for a Marvel film, the villain, Killmonger (a great Michael B. Jordan) actually has a background not to mention his main motivation (that Wakanda is letting the world down by not sharing it’s technologies and resources) is right, but his method to rectify this (starting a global war) is what makes him a villain.
Apart from the Kirby vision, director Ryan Cooglan heavily draws from the Don McGregor run on Black Panther in the 70’s to create one of Marvel’s best films. Though it does come with issues which mainly consist of trying to have a film with a different look and vision crammed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe which has become an impressive sausage machine pushing out hit after hit.
When the film has Jordan’s Killmonger in it, there’s a moral and intellectual heart in Black Panther; when it doesn’t then it’s a good superhero film not as bad as say, Iron Man 2 but not as average as Ant Man. Take Jordan and the moral argument his character brings, and we’re facing another Marvel film where the baddie is the same as most Marvel baddies. Black Panther manages to pull itself out of Marvel’s formula for much of it’s length, though there is a predictable, but fun, big fight at the end.
As a film it doesn’t hit a Logan, or a Dark Knight level of pushing out of the superhero ghetto but it gets close and considering that Marvel’s next film is Avengers:Infinity War, there’s not going to be much subtlety in the MCU until that film is out the way. Black Panther manages to engage once a meandering first 45 minutes or so setting things up is out the way so this isn’t one of the best films ever, but it is a very good superhero film that if possible, should be seen on a big screen.