BLACK PANTHER (2018)
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Sterling K. Brown, Florence Kasumba, John Kani, Isaach de Bankolé, Connie Chuene, Sydelle Noel, Nabiyah Be, David S. Lee, Dorothy Steel, Denzel Whitaker and Stan Lee.
Screenplay by Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole.
Directed by Ryan Coogler.
Distributed Walt Disney Pictures. 134 minutes. Rated PG-13.
An interesting thing, while the Marvel Cinematic Universe keeps getting broader and more formulaic, some of the films are getting looser and more fun. Particularly some of the second-tier characters of the world – Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and now Black Panther, have turned out to be heroes of some of the best films in the series. Marvel/Disney have also taken more chances with directors and screenwriters, giving films a bit more character than you would expect from part of such a huge business enterprise. (Just the fact that they let Taika Waititi write and direct Thor: Ragnarok gives you hope after the overstuffed bloatedness of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War.)
Black Panther also had them look outside the box to sign up a writer/director, and it was a huge score. Ryan Coogler had only one small acclaimed indie called Fruitvale Station under his belt before he successfully rebooted the Rocky series a couple of years ago with Creed. Now, Black Panther proves Coogler to be a story-teller to be watched as he essentially introduces this fascinating new hero. (Black Panther briefly appeared in Civil War, but he was barely given anything to do. Plus, Coogler handling this film has the added benefit of bringing along his Fruitvale and Creed star Michael B. Jordan to play one of the most interesting and ambiguous villains in the recent Marvel Universe. Yes, this guy is bloodthirsty and evil, but he does have a pretty good reason to have a chip on his shoulder.
One of the great things about Black Panther is that it is a completely self-contained origin story. It isn’t a political look at infighting amongst superheroes. (Though, the film does have some very sharp political jibes which are rather subtly, but still pointedly, critical of the current political climate of the world.) Black Panther isn’t just an all-star game. It’s not slowed down by awkward drop-ins by other heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well, naturally, Marvel creator Stan Lee shows up for his traditional one-line cameo scene here, but that is hardly important to the storyline. Also, without giving away any spoilers, one character from another Marvel series shows up during the second of the two bonus scenes during the credits, but it is not a big-name hero, just a supporting character.
Black Panther has a much bigger agenda, introducing a character and a whole world into the Marvel Universe. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), aka The Black Panther, is the king of a Shangri-la-like mythical African nation called Wakanda. Wakanda is seen from the outside world as being a poor third-world planet. However, because the nation is situated over an ancient asteroid made up of an extremely powerful alien metal called vibranium. Through the vibranium, the small country has created a futuristic wonderland of science and technology, one which is cloaked from the real world. The Black Panther is the latest of a series of Kings who have protected the land. Wakanda has always been stridently neutral in world affairs, but as world politics intrude, and an international criminal steals some vibranium, T’Challa has to wade into international politics, both as King and as superhero.
I’m not going to tell you any more about the storyline, because this is one of those stories that you should really experience without knowing too much.
However, I will tell you this much. Black Panther leaps right up into the pantheon of the best Marvel films ever. It’s going to be a smash hit, and it totally deserves it.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 15, 2018.