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Inside Wakanda: Black Panther
The isolated African nation of Wakanda has chosen to live in isolation for a reason. The five tribes who live there have, for millennia, protected an asset exclusive to their land called vibranium, the strongest metal known to man. It is prevalent in their land as a result of a meteorite that had hit there. This metal also produces an herb that serves as a source of strength to its chief warrior, known as the Black Panther. Many men have assumed that title, including King T'Chaka (John Kani), who once held the title of Black Panther. On T'Chaka's death, his son, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), prepares for the formal transfer of power. However, the Jabari tribal leader M'Baku (Winston Duke) challenges T'Challa for the leadership, which leads to a battle that T'Challa wins. Their main contact to the outside comes through their war dogs, such as Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), who assist other nations with their struggles.
The Wakandans are so protective of their vibranium, they follow any leads they receive when a smuggler named Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) has made off with some of the metal and artifacts. Another person interested in the vibranium and other things Wakandan is Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), the American-born son of a war dog and former black ops soldier. Klaue and Stevens team up to steal an artifact from a London museum. They arrange to sell it to CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), and T'Challa and Nakia follow the trail in their special air craft to South Korea. A gunfight erupts, leaving Ross badly wounded. The Wakandans take Ross home, where T'Challa's sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) has worked on the technology to aid Ross. Meanwhile, Klaue helps Stevens gain access to Wakanda, where the young warrior challenges T'Challa for power. Alliances get tested when Stevens apparently wins.
The kingdom of Wakanda is one of the best additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the technology they use, such as operating their rail system with vibranium, Wakandans might make Tony Stark as envious as Agent Ross is grateful. Yet, the Wakandans also have a deep devotion to their traditions, which have been a part of their land for as long as the Black Panther has. They know about the outside world, but seldom do they venture from their land. Black Panther director and co-writer Ryan Coogler brings audiences a balance of old and new, presenting scores of intriguing characters, including Okoye (Dania Gurira), head of an all-female band of warriors from the border tribe, and Zuri (Forest Whitaker), a religious elder and adviser who keeps a big secret from T'Challa. Coogler shows a nation at a turning point, where the Wakandans have to change their balance between progress and tradition when Stevens finds his way there.
Boseman, Jordan, and Nyong'o lead a top-notch cast. Introduced as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, Boseman, in this role, comes to realize that the world has come to Wakanda'a door, and that he can do better for his people by accepting a more active role in it. Boseman shows the qualities of a man whose life would one day culminate in his leadership. He has plenty of advisers and support, including his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and his security chief W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya). Jordan, whose character earned the nickname Killmonger, presents a man with a grudge that began in childhood. He has learned how to divide and conquer, and lays out his plans following his match with T'Challa. Killmonger's approach, unlike T'Challa's, is radical in a negative way. Nyong'o shows a devoted war dog as Nakia, in spite of her onetime personal connection to T'Challa. In her opening scene, she is recalled from her mission as she helps her allies gain the upper hand in their fight. Stan Lee makes his cameo as a casino gambler, while Sebastian Stan makes a quick appearance as Bucky Barnes.
Black Panther is the best MCU film since The Avengers. It takes a look at a place where civilization exists in a much different form. Wakanda is a land that is both ancient and modern at the same time, as its people take pride in both tradition and technology. Their strongest warrior wears the uniform of the ever-vigilant Black Panther. King T'Challa honors the heritage as his responsibilities expand. However, he has a different eye for the future than the men who led before him. The king wants the world to benefit from their knowledge, and wants others to learn more about their nation.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Black Panther four stars. The reign of King T'Challa has begun.