Movie Review: "Black Panther" Goes Beyond Just Being A Great Marvel Movie


BLACK PANTHER 
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita N'yong'o
Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kalluyam Letitia Wright.
Winston Duke, Angela Basset, Forrest Whitaker and Andy Serkis
Black Panther Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Screebplay by Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole
    Directed by Ryan Coogler

    Reviewed by Paul & Patrick Gibbs

     Out of Four

    Ryan Coogler shook up critics and audiences with Fruitvale Station a small independent film about the last day in the life of  Oscar Grant, a black man in who was wrongfully shot by an Oakland police officer.  Coogler followed that with Creed, a movie that managed to make the Rocky franchise feel resh and relevant to today, and quite frankly made us cry our eyes out.  The only worries we had about him directing a Marvel film were 1. Is a big budget action film really the best use of this talented director of character driven stories? and 2. Would Marvel allow him the leeway to make a Ryan Coogler film, not just a safe new entry in their movie of the week club?

    The answer to both questions is a triumphant yes, and Black Panther is not only the best superhero film since Wonder Woman, it's a film with a searing social conscience that completely transcends the genre. It's also an epic fantasy that would be making you think of Lord of The Rings (in a good way) even if Bilbo Baggins and Gollum were not in it.

    Centuries ago, as five African tribes war over a meteorite made up of the alien metal vibranium, a warrior ingests a "heart-shaped herb" affected by the metal and gains superhuman abilities. Becoming the first "Black Panther", he unites the five tribes and forms the nation of Wakanda. As time passes, the Wakandans use the vibranium to develop highly-advanced technology while simultaneously isolating themselves from the rest of the world and posing as a Third World country.



    Sister and Brother reunited.
    (Images Courtesy Marvel Studios)
    In the present day, following King T'Chaka's death at the hands of Helmut Zemo in Captain America: Civil War, his son T'Challa returns to Wakanda to assume the throne. After working with Okoye (Danai Gurira), the leader of the elite warrior force theDora Milaje, to extract his ex-lover Nakia from an undercover assignment, he reunites with his mother Ramonda and younger sister Shuri (Leticia Wright) for his coronation.

    But a new challenge emerges when Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), a black market arms dealer who infiltrated Wakanda years to steal a cache of vibranium in a violent attack, resurfaces and prepares to sell a stolen Wakandan artifact to a buyer in Busan, South Korea.

    Giving away anything more would serve no purpose only cause spoilers, and let's face it, you are going to see this movie. Coogler and his cast, led by Chadwick Boseman, ignite the screen with an intensity and sense of deep introspection that stands up with anything Marvel has given us before, and surpasses most of it. It's not as funny as a Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of The Galaxy or even Iron Man, but it's not trying to be (though it does have light moments.). This is a much more visceral and brooding film, and it delves into a lot of issues about race relations, poverty and privilege that you would never expect in a comic book film, let alone done so thoughtfully.

    Fighting for power.
    (Image Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

    Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger is bar none the best villain in MCU history,  and one of the best screen villains since Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator. Boseman already stole Civil War and the first trailer for Infinity War, and does a terrific job as the lead in this film, but the cast of strong and capable women steal it from him, especially Leticia Wright and Danai Gurira, though the great Lupita Nyong'o and Angela Bassett are in fine form as well. Martin Freeman, as always, adds immensely to the film, as does the legendary Andy Serkis. But the performance that will haunt you is Jordan, who manages to surprise us again and again.

    Black Panther is so good it creates the risk of creating a Wonder Woman/Justice League effect with Infinity War, at least with critics if not with the box office. It's one of the very best blockbusters you will see this year, and is a welcome antidote to a dismal January.

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