Ryan Coogler's career has been off to an enviable start ever since his 2013 debut feature Fruitvale Station, where he told the true story of a 22 year-old unarmed African American named Oscar Grant who was wrongly killed by a police officer on New Year's Eve 2008. Coogler teamed with a young, budding talent named Michael B.Jordan, and the two have never parted ways ever since. Coogler went on to direct the well-received Creed, also starring Michael B. Jordan, and now they both cross paths again in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's 18th installment, Black Panther.
Many centuries ago a meteor containing Vibranium, one of the universe's strongest metals, crashed into the continent of Africa. Since then the metal has been used by the people of Wakanda to develop weapons far beyond the capabilities of any first-world countries on Earth, forcing Wakanda to hide itself from the rest of the world. The civilization's new ruler, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), also known as Black Panther, is challenged for his throne by a ruthless entity (Michael B. Jordan) who threatens the harmonious and secretive lifestyle of the Wakandi people.
In what has become a regular occurrence among the critics, Ryan Coogler's Black Panther was been immediately labeled as another whopping success for the MCU. And while this latest entry into the expansive universe is far different from any of its predecessors, both in style and structure, this refreshing and unfamiliar journey breeds its own host of shortcomings. Boasting a central theme of carving out your own legacy, T'Challa becomes tasked with valiantly claiming the throne of Wakanda immediately following his father's death. But as doubt creeps into his own mind as to whether or not he's capable of leading with the same effectiveness as the previous king, T'Challa's once undisputed rise to power quickly becomes challenged by a powerful outsider. This Lion King-esque tale aptly develops its central character well, transforming him from a skeptical "prince" into a confident king, however the film's many other complementary elements aren't nearly as effective. T'Challa's tip-toeing romance with Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and his instantaneous falling out of favor with W'Kabi (Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya) are riddled with hokiness and discontent. Moreover, CIA Agent Ross (Martin Freeman) proves a rather meaningless inclusion while the film's running-time continues to pile on in this thrill-less excursion. And where the MCU has unmistakably built a cinematic powerhouse through mind-numbing action sequences and rapid-fire humor, Black Panther remains short on laughs and bogged down by distractingly-bad CGI. Finally, to director Ryan Coogler's credit, he conjures up a memorable villain alongside his collaborative staple Michael B. Jordan, one who succeeds on the shoulders of a deep-rooted complexity that the story crafts extremely well. Yet, despite an admirable ability at building meaningful lead characters, Black Panther stands as a mawkish marathon of a journey that fails to entertain as well as it ultimately needs to.