Thursday, February 15, 2018

'Black Panther' Aims High as Marvel's Next Hero

Black Panther (Marvel Studios)

 MOVIE REVIEW 

Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan and
T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) (Marvel Studios)
For the uninitiated, the character of Black Panther may seem like a new idea, but he’s been around the comic book pages since he first appeared in a Fantastic Four adventure in 1966. His first appearance in the modern Marvel cinematic universe was in Captain America: Civil War where T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) witnesses the death of his father (the King of Wakanda) due to a terrorist attack. He became the Black Panther to seek revenge of those who killed his father. In the new movie, T’Challa comes home to sit on the throne as Wakanda’s new king and we soon learn more about where he came from.

To the outside world, Wakanda is a small tribal community in Africa, but what they don’t see is what is lying underneath. Surrounded by a rich source of vibranium, a huge, modern world has been cloaked, “hiding in plain sight.” The country prides itself on not accepting donations or resources from others and keeps a low profile. In reality though, Wakanda could offer so much more to the world at large.


Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman)
and Okoye (Danai Gurira) (Marvel Studios)
T’Challa is only home for a few minutes before he comes face to face with his former girlfriend, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) who serves her country by acting as a spy and risking her life for others. Then the man, who can’t wait to be king, hardly has time to put his crown on before he is challenged by an old enemy (Erik Killmonger played by Michael B. Jordan) seeking revenge (as one does) which has the potential of disrupting everything he holds dear. This includes his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) who just so happens to be a wizard of technology and has made some adjustments to the Panther’s costume. T’Challa is protected by Okoye (Danai Gurira) who heads the all-female Wakandan Special Forces unit. You don’t want to mess with her.

Black Panther also stars Martin Freeman (as Everett K. Ross, a CIA agent), Daniel Kaluuya (as W’kabi, head of security for the Border Tribe), Winston Duke (as M’Baku, leader of the Jabari tribe) and Forest Whitaker (as Zuri, the spiritual leader of Wakanda).

Black Panther is different from all other Marvel Studios movies. The most obvious difference is the predominately African-American casting, but this is more than a “black” movie. Unlike other Marvel movies, this one doesn’t feature a single cameo of any other superhero with the exception of Ayo (Florence Kasumba) who first appeared in Captain America: Civil War and Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Oh, and some guy named Stan Lee.

Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and Everett K. Ross
(Martin Freeman) (Marvel Studios)
Unlike the jokey tone that envelopes many Marvel movies, this one has a more serious tone, similar to the first two Thor movies, but because this one is based on earth with humans instead of gods on another planet, this one feels more grounded. The film has a strong social commentary about doing good for others even if it poses a risk to you. It also gives equal time to action sequences and meaningful dialogue.

Black Panther is a beautiful movie and not just because of the actors. It may be a surprise to learn that many of the Wakanda scenes were actually filmed within a sound stage in Georgia. The impressive sets include Shuri’s research laboratory, the regal tribal council room and the man-made Warrior Falls. You’d never know that this place doesn’t exist in real life! Others were shot on location including Busan, South Korea.

Black Panther certainly blends in the Marvel world of superheroes, but it also stands out and in some ways, rises above other Marvel character films. Even non-superhero movie fans will enjoy this fun ride.

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