Creating a land and origin story all its own, Marvel's BLACK PANTHER is a multi-layered, unexpectedly rich stand alone film that also weaves perfectly into the Marvel universe.
While 90% of the film takes place present day in the hidden land of Wakanda, the film opens in 1992 Oakland, setting up a network of extended family and spies that will echo in the present day story.
T'Challa (the excellent Chadwick Boseman of "42" and "Get On Up") is prepared to become the king of Wakanda, assuming the powers of the throne and Black Panther.
As he takes the reins, a nefarious arms trader named Klaue (Andy Serkis) steals vibranium, the life's blood of Wakanda's technologically advanced hidden city and powers.
Klaue is working with a lethal former special ops man named Erik Killmonger, whose driven to discover Wakanda's secrets. Killmonger is excellently played by Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Fruitvale Station).
The film weaves a tale rich in the tradition of the five tribes of Wakanda, drenched in the politics of the hidden land and its relation to the outside world, while entertaining the Marvel audience with the action and intrigue we've all come to expect.
A showdown between many sides in a casino and the car chase that follows is a highlight, as is the final battle in the fields of Wakanda.
The supporting cast is huge and exceptional, including Lupita Nyongo'o as Nakia, Martin Freeman as CIA man Ross whose finally forced to take a side, the ageless Angela Bassett as T'Challa's mother, Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us) in a pivotal role in the Oakland scenes and Winston Duke as M'Baku, the leader of the fifth Wakanda tribe.
Writer/Director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) does a brilliant job elevating the material into a rich family drama/action film/political thriller mashup that entertains on many levels.
Visually, every bit of its $200 million budget is there to enjoy. Wakanda is so different than any other land we've visited with Marvel. The costumes and sets are stunning.
While there are grand scale battles, more of the fighting is hand-to-hand combat. In combination with the characters that Coogler and this incredible cast have created, it makes the stakes higher and all the outcomes aren't what you expect.
By the closing moments of the film, you realize the world in which all these Marvel films take place in has been changed by the events that take place in Wakanda.
For my money, that will only improve the next Avengers tale when it hits theatres this May.
Breaking box office records this weekend as it continues to roll out, BLACK PANTHER deserves all the accolades it's getting.
Riding the strong acting and action of leads Boseman and Jordan, it gets a A-.
Stay through the credits for two teaser sequences, one funny and one intriguing.