From 2017-2020, I reviewed every live-action movie based on a superhero comic book, including all of the late great Chadwick Boseman’s appearances as the Black Panther. Some snippets from them….
With all that, however, the heart and soul of this movie isn’t the guy whose movie it is, nor is it the “special guest star” who gets second billing. Yes, the Iron Man-Captain America fight is the spine of the film, but the theme is truly seen, not in Rogers or Stark, but in Prince T’Challa. Because in the end he sees that the endless cycle of vengeance accomplishes nothing except adding to the body count. It’s destroyed Zemo, it’s destroyed the Avengers, and he won’t let it destroy him. When it matters, T’Challa is a hero.
And then there are the bits in Wakanda, which continue beautifully from Black Panther—which had only just wrapped when this movie was filmed, so it involved a certain amount of retrofitting. But man, it works, from the Jabari war chant to Shuri completely owning Stark and Banner in science with one sentence to Okoye’s “why is everyone around me so stupid?” expression that Danai Gurira does so well to every single bit with T’Challa’s regal performance. I love that the defense on Earth is left to Wakanda, and I get fucking chills every single damn time I watch the “Yibambe!” sequence. Wakanda forever, goddammit.
Chadwick Boseman was the heart and soul of Civil War as T’Challa, and he’s even better here when given the lead. What’s especially nice is that he finally breaks the Marvel hero template, and it’s long overdue. While there are minor variations, pretty much every male Marvel protagonist is a snarky dude—Tony Stark’s snark is leavened by narcissistic arrogance, ditto Stephen Strange’s, Steve Rogers’s is leavened by earnestness, Nick Fury’s by badassitude, Peter Parker’s by youthful jibber-jabber, Scott Lang’s by his being totally out of his depth most of the time, Peter Quill’s and Rocket’s by the pain of their pasts, and so on.
But T’Challa isn’t snarky! He’s dignified and reserved and noble and it’s such a welcome fucking change. He’s not stiff, either—he lets his guard down with Shuri, as the pair of them devolve into sibling banter every time they’re together—but the snark is reserved for other characters for whom it’s a better fit.