After months of anticipation (well... decades if you consider the character was first introduced in the comics in 1966), "Black Panther" finally arrives in theaters on Feb. 16. Coming off the heels of the widely successful "Thor: Ragnarok," the concern by some was if the film could meet lofty expectations, both at the box office and in the eyes of rabid fans.
It does... and more.
Chadwick Boseman resumes the role of Prince... soon to be anointed King... T'Challa who we first met in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War." Boseman was a standout in that film, standing toe to toe — and in some cases besting — established Marvel heroes like Captain America and Iron Man. But could Boseman carry a tent-pole Marvel film on his shoulders? He can. He does.
Without giving away much in the way of spoilers, the story revolves around a decades-old family betrayal and the chickens that come home to roost as a result. It helps that the villain of the piece, Eric Killmonger portrayed by Michael B. Jordan, is a tragic figure given a sympathetic back story that goes a long way toward explaining his actions in the film.
If there's one true revelation in the film it may be Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia. How could an Oscar winner be a revelation you may ask? Well, Nyong'o serves not only as primary love interest, but she's a card-carrying bad ass. Nakia is no damsel in distress, nor are any of the fighters that make up T'Challa's female military force led by "The Walking Dead" star Danai Gurira. Nyong'o has picked her parts sparingly since her Oscar win in 2013's "12 Years a Slave." Not counting her turn as a performance capture-CGI character in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," it's a delight to see her cut loose and kick butt.
Helmed by "Creed" and "Fruitvale Station" director Ryan Coogler, the story also veers into a real-world message. T'Challa struggles with keeping Wakanda and its technological marvels hidden away from the rest of the real world or sharing those treasures and facing the challenges that come with that decision. One of the two post-credit scenes takes a not-too-subtle jab at real-world politics and the dangers of remaining hidden behind a wall.
Story plot aside, the cultural impact of the film cannot be overstated. "Black Panther" isn't just the latest in the long line of Marvel films. Panther is the black super hero leading a nearly all-black cast that spans multiple generations. Represented are the old guard (Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker) current red carpet favorites (Jordan, Nyong'o, Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling Brown) and relative newcomers (Letitia Wright and Winston Duke) who somehow manage to steal nearly every scene they appear in.
Advance sales for the film set a new record for Fandango as the top seller among Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in the first 24 hours, topping “Captain America: Civil War.” So it's likely we haven't seen the last of King T'Challa.