For thousands of years, five African tribes have warred over vibranium discovered in a meteorite. One warrior gains superpower from ingesting plants altered by the rare metal and unites all the tribes but the Jabari. In the hidden kingdom of Wakanda, despite developing advanced technology, they keep themselves safe from colonial exploitation by pretending to be a poor and backward third-world country. In 1992, King T’Chaka of Wakanda discovers that his Brother N’Jobu is helping black-market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) to steal virbranium-based weapons. T’Chaka was assassinated in Captain America: Civil War and his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) becomes king and the protector of the realm Black Panther. The leader of the Jabari tribe M’Baku (Winston Duke) challenges him in ritual combat and is defeated.
When Klaue and his henchman Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) steal a Wakandan artifact containing vibranium from a London Museum and plan to sell it to undercover CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) in South Korea, Klaue is caught by T’Challa and released into Ross’ custody. Klaue tells Ross that Wakanda is in fact technologically advanced, Erik attacks and escapes with Klaue, wounding Ross in the process. T’Challa takes Ross to Wakanda, where their technology can save his life.
Erik Stevens, allegedly a U.S. Black Ops soldier calling himself Killmonger, is in fact a Wakandan Royal and claims the throne. He defeats T’Challa and hurls him over a waterfall, takes the Black Panther herb, and plans to spread Wakandan weapons throughout the world. Like every megalomaniac villain his goal is to make everyone free under his total control. T’Challa’s supporters flee to the Jabari tribe, hidden in the mountains, for help. They find that the Jabari have found T-Challa, who is in a coma. With the herb, he is cured of his injuries and returns to fight Killmonger, who has equal powers and his own Black Panther suit.
T’Challa is supported by his young sister (Letitia Wright) who is head of technology, his former lover and spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), head of the Dora Milase all-female special forces royal bodyguard (Okoye Gurira) who is wonderful in this movie, by CIA-guy Ross remotely flying a Wakandan drone-ship, T’Challa’s best friend and Head of Security W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), Queen Mother Ramunda (Angela Bassett), and elder stateman Zuri (Forest Whitaker). Trevor Noah was the voice of the AI piloting the drone-ship. Killmonger, defeated and wounded, refuses to be healed, preferring to die a free man than live in prison. T’Challa opens Wakanda to the world.
Director Brian Coogler was inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writing of the Black Panther comic, as well as the art of Jack Kirby, Brian Stelfreeze, and Christopher Priest. The battles are astonishing, the high-tech car-chase in South Korea exciting, the female warriors glorious, and the whole movie is gorgeous. Like the Thor movies, set design is a character in the movie. I imagine the word Afro-futuristic existed before this movie, but this must be its finest example. The art of many African countries appeared in the costumes, as well as bits of Issey Miyake, Yves Saint Laurent, and Donna Karen. There were 700 costumes in the film. The chase-scene was made up of sequences from Bullitt, Drive, and French Connection. For the music, composer Ludwig Goransson went to Africa to study its music and instruments. It rated 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and is the only superhero movie to be nominated for the best picture Oscar. There is in fact a real-life mineral called Coltan that pretty much exists only in Congo, but I’m sorry to say it’s no good for superhero weapons and shields.