One villain is a giggling monster, chortlingly evil—Serkis gives a great nasty yet logical reason for shooting a fleeing man in the back. Jordan’s Killmonger has well-written reasons for his grudge. T’Challa’s beguiling bratty sister (a delightful Letitia Wright) is also the movie’s brilliant weapons and cybernetics expert. Coogler decides that T’Challa can be king, hero and spy all at once, and he’s right. The production design and costumes are dazzling, a pan-African symphony of masks, gowns, scarification and headdresses; you rarely get this level of visual density in a film that’s this much fun.
It’s not going too far to suggest that Coogler is restaging the debate between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X as a superhero adventure. If there’s such a thing as a healing fantasy, this may be it: What might have Africa been, if so much hadn’t been stolen from her and her people? Something as remarkable as Wakanda?