The MCU continues to grow as each year passes; we now approach its ten year anniversary with Iron Man hitting cinemas as far back as May 2008, and with each year since more and more heroes have hit the big screen to renowned success and widespread acclaim. Yet another example arrives in the form of Black Panther - far from the most well known hero to the general public, but one whose opening box office takings would make you assume quite the opposite.
The story branches away from the meat of the MCU narrative, taking us into the fictional nation of Wakanda, home to a number of supernatural tribes powered by the rich material known as Vibranium. Using said material to devise advanced technology, the Wakandans segment themselves from the main world, their actions directed by the Black Panther leader. Said role is soon assumed by newest king T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) - who then finds himself on a quest to prevent Vibranium from falling into the wrong hands following the malevolent actions of vengeful soldier N'Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan).
It's a narrative with a lot of depth and branches to it, so summing it up is quite difficult - those who haven't read the comic books may find themselves a little confused at times, though it does its best to establish characters and their motivations in the best possible way, blending such development with a number of entertaining, beautifully filmed set pieces. Black Panther adopts a rich, stylishly dark visual style that makes its briskly paced fight scenes superb to watch, and certainly leads to a lot of absorbing tension during its more atmospheric moments. Thankfully this isn't just a mindless blend of action, however; the film does its best to develop a cast of strong characters and mix them into the suitably complex story. The traditions of the Wakandan tribes are nicely captured without becoming too excessive, helping to establish the world around us as we head through each phase of the plot.
What I also found equally enjoyable about Black Panther is how it's almost entirely absent of any scene that contributes to building the MCU franchise and little more. Many recent films in the franchise that I've admittedly still enjoyed have had their fair share of forgettable moments that, again, simply exist to just merge other characters in the series together - Black Panther lacks such stuff, making it a well focused and consistently engaging story that doesn't branch away at any point to simply build the franchise around it and awkwardly link it into other MCU flicks. All these perks, coupled with some excellent performances, notably Boseman and Jordan in their lead opposing roles, make for a gripping superhero hit from start to finish; sure, the story, fab as it is, may be a little puzzling at times, and perhaps some moments do drag, but we're still left with a fine entry to the MCU that even non comic book fans can enjoy.