The first black superhero in mainstream American comics, Marvel's Black Panther came with an African pedigree: in real life he's the ancestral king of a small, impoverished sub-Saharan nation that conceals a secret empire, the whole operation empowered by an asteroid from outer space. That premise provides most of the fun in this big-screen adaptation, particularly in the form of the Dora Milaje, the king's security team, who are badass women with shaved heads, neck rings, and flaming-red uniforms. Chadwick Boseman is appropriately noble and dull as the title character, and director Ryan Coogler (Creed
, Fruitvale Station
) brings along the compelling Michael B. Jordan, his frequent collaborator, to play the Panther's philosophical antagonist. As in the recent Warner Bros./DC Comics outing Wonder Woman
, the identity politics provide a fresh spin to the genre's increasingly tedious narrative formula (like the fake climax three quarters through, which has you looking for your coat before you realize there's a half hour to go). With Lupita Nyongo, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, and welcome cameos from Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker.