THE DENIZENS of fictional African nation Wakanda fairly beam with pride, and in exploring themes of family, duty, and honor, director/ co-writer Ryan Coogler has infused Black Panther with what can rightly be described as an epic positivity. Picking up after the events of Captain America: Civil War, the story centers on the transition of power as T’challa (Chadwick Boseman) assumes the throne of his isolated, yet prosperous and technically advanced, kingdom. T’challa, a brave, wise, and concerned leader with a deep appreciation for the traditions of his ancestors, is the latest to don the mantle of Black Panther, a super-powered and well-equipped protector of the people. But the sins of his pop return and he must soon confront Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), that rare nemesis with a real point-of-view. The consequences of that challenge could incite war across the entire planet.
All that drama, of course, comes at a price: The pacing is a little slower than some other Marvel movies, and there’s less action. The chases and battles are solid, but it’s the nobility of the subtext that elevates Black Panther beyond its comic book roots.
The color palette throughout is extraordinary, and the nighttime scenes look extremely dark, so I’m grateful for the implementation of high dynamic range on this 4K Ultra HD disc. It’s available here in Dolby Vision, but even the HDR10 version I watched brings considerably more punch and nuance to the 2.39:1 image than was evident in the accompanying 1080p Blu-ray disc. The picture, which was digitally captured, shows no flaws other than that it’s so sharp that the seams of the visual effects risk exposure.
Black Panther packs a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, but I demo’d the Truehd 7.1 at its core for this review. Same as with the Blu-ray version’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, I immediately needed to adjust the volume well above my usual reference level. When I did I was treated to an enjoyable ride, with lots of bass to reinforce the mystical qualities of both the ubiquitous alien metal vibranium and the fantastical weapons.
The audio commentary by Coogler and his production designer is joined by four featurettes, four deleted scenes (curiously in reverse order), and more, but the highlight is a roundtable with Black Panther writers past and present.