Black superheroes have reached the screen before, but seeing the collective weight of Marvel/Disney thrown behind a blockbuster like “Black Panther” still feels like a cultural watershed, one that the movie exuberantly embraces. Boasting perhaps the strongest supporting characters yet among Marvel titles, director Ryan Coogler’s visually dynamic film should transform a lesser-known comic-book hero into a household name.
Although they hail from rival companies, there are several parallels to DC’s best movie, “Wonder Woman,” beyond an under-represented group belatedly receiving its super-heroic due. In both instances, the title character is presented in a stand-alone origin story, after having been rather hastily introduced elsewhere — in this case, among the dozen combatants in “Captain America: Civil War.”
Related: Rotten Tomatoes condemns plan to flood ‘Black Panther’ with negative reviews Like Wonder Woman, moreover, the Black Panther/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the leader of the fictional African nation Wakanda, is not only super, but royalty, about to ascend the throne that he has inherited from his father.
Becoming king, however, brings its share of challenges — top among them determining Wakanda’s proper role in the wider world, and facing a threat in the form of Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, who starred in Coogler’s “Rocky” sequel, “Creed”), a villain with an intricate back story of his own.