The first black superhero in mainstream American comics, Marvel’s Black Panther came with an African pedigree: in real life he’s the ancestral king of a small, impoverished sub-Saharan nation that conceals a secret empire, the whole operation empowered by an asteroid from outer space.
That premise provides most of the fun in this big-screen adaptation, particularly in the form of the Dora Milaje, the king’s security team, who are badass women with shaved heads, neck rings, and flaming-red uniforms. Chadwick Boseman is appropriately noble and dull as the title character, and director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) brings along the compelling Michael B. Jordan, his frequent collaborator, to play the Panther’s philosophical antagonist.
As in the recent Warner Bros./DC Comics outing Wonder Woman, the identity politics provide a fresh spin to the genre’s increasingly tedious narrative formula (like the fake climax three quarters through, which has you looking for your coat before you realize there’s a half hour to go). With Lupita Nyongo, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, and welcome cameos from Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker.