At the risk of offending every comic book geek across the globe, the truth is, Black Panther (Marvel Studios) is a self-indulgent, formulaic, overly long origin story that is a declawed disappointment. Borrowing liberally from “Wonder Woman”, “The Lion King” and the James Bond series, “Black Panther” is surprisingly unoriginal and toothless.
“Black Panther” begins in Oakland, California in 1992 with the death of deceitful African prince N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) who stole some of the valuable and potentially deadly metal vibranium which can only be found in his fictional African nation homeland of Wakanda. The prince’s young half-American son is left fatherless, setting the stage for the film’s central revenge story.
Years later, following the death of king T’Chaka (John Kani), and after winning a ritual battle, prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is crowned king and assumes the mantle of Black Panther. Among his duties are keeping his kingdom, and its precious vibranium stockpile safe from harm.
However, the theft of an ancient Wakandan vibranium-made weapon from a museum in Britain, by South African psycho Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and his military-trained accomplice Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) mean that T’Challa, his great love Nakia (Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o) and his warrior general Okoye (Danai Gurira), must leave the safety of Wakanda for the outside world. They venture to Busan, South Korea for a showdown with Klaue. It’s there that T’Challa first encounters Killmonger and see that he wears a royal ring, similar to his own, on a gold chain around his neck.
To say anymore would spoil the one great twist in “Black Panther”. Suffice to say that once it’s revealed, it’s dragged out in a series lengthy and violent battles and chases.
In a concerted effort to find something nice to say about “Black Panther”, it’s not unreasonable to point out the way that supporting cast members are the ones who actually the best part of the movie. Two in particular – Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s brilliant and wickedly funny whiz-kid sister Shuri and Winston Duke as antagonist turned comrade M’Baku – walk away with every scene in which they appear. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda and Forrest Whitaker as shaman Zuri and “Get Out” Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya as T’Challa’s fickle second-in-command W’Kabi. Also, the special effects are rather run-of-the-mill.
Do you know what might be the worst part about “Black Panther”? That director Ryan Coogler, the man behind the acclaimed films “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed” (both of which starred Jordan) would get involved with such a franchise. Rating: C-