Reel Opinions


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Black Panther

Black Panther is the first great entertainment of 2018, and in my mind, is the best Marvel movie to come out in a while.  Yes, the movie has all the action and stunts you would expect, but it really has so much more on its mind.  It's a vibrant film, full of life, and with a large cast of characters who are all wonderfully developed and never once seem shortchanged or pushed to the background.  It also has a wonderful setting that we haven't seen in the movies before.  Not only that, it achieves what few superhero movies have been able to do, by giving us both a memorable hero and villain, and allows us to be engaged in their struggle.  This is a movie that fires on all cylinders.

I will admit up front, I knew little about the Black Panther character or his comics walking in, other than his previous appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (He was introduced in Captain America: Civil War.) I even walked into the film knowing little about it, as I tried my best to avoid the trailers, so it could be as fresh of an experience as possible.  I feel this is the best way to approach the film, as it holds many wonderful surprises.  Of course, this creates a problem for me the reviewer, as how do I express my thoughts on the virtues of the film without giving too much away?  I will do my best to be vague with the plot details, as director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (Creed) has made a lot of smart choices in telling the story.  One of the wisest decisions he makes is to not waste a lot of time setting up the character.  This is more of an Introduction Story, rather than an Origin Story.

It also has a lot to say about certain issues.  The characters here talk a lot about their philosophy of inclusion, and competing the notions of isolation and nationalism.  A lot of the characters are against building barriers to the outside world.  This is very relevant, as the story is largely set in the fictional African country of Wakanda.  To the outside world, Wakanda appears to be a struggling third world land filled with poverty and strife.  This is all an illusion, however, as a technological shield covers the land and hides the truth from everyone.  The truth is that Wakanda is the most technologically proficient country in the world capable of wonders in science, mechanics and medicine unheard of to the rest of the world.  This is all due to a rare mineral from outer space known as Vibranium, which the people of Wakanda use to create all their technology and weapons.  The land's true power and purpose must remain hidden to the outside world, as there are a lot of forces who have been searching for Vibranium and the power it holds, and could use it for evil purposes.

Wakanda's new King, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) takes the throne after his father is killed in a terrorist attack, an event that was depicted in the previously mentioned Civil War.  If that makes you nervous that you will have to see a lot of previous films in the Marvel Universe in order to catch up or to understand what's going on, do not worry.  This is largely a stand-alone story, and it tells you all that you need to know without drowning in backstory.  He also takes on the identity of the Black Panther, a superhero clad in an all black technological outfit that the ruler of Wakanda routinely takes on in order to protect his people.  He is aided in his fight to keep the peace by his younger sister and scientist Shuri (Letitia Wright), who acts a lot like Q in the James Bond franchise, creating new gadgets and weapons for her brother, which she proudly shows off to him in her lab before he goes out on a mission.   The other two who stand by his side are his former lover, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and the head of the military, Okoye (Danai Gurira).

This leads to one of the more unexpected and wonderful elements of Black Panther.  This is a very female-centered superhero movie.  All three of these female characters are fully fleshed out, and not only play a big part in the story, but are written with intelligence and wit.  Even T'Challa's mother (Angela Bassett) is not a passive character, and remains a strong presence throughout the film.  A lot of people praised last year's Wonder Woman movie for its female empowerment angle, but in a lot of ways, I found this film to be even stronger in that regard.  These are all supporting characters, and could have easily been pushed into the background or have simply disappeared when the plot deemed it necessary.  Instead, they stand and even fight alongside Black Panther for pretty much the entire movie.  Not only that, they are interesting, intelligent and well-written women characters who immediately grab your attention and hold onto it.  

The plot centers around a black market arms dealer named Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who managed to steal some precious Vibranium weapons years ago, and is now attempting to sell them to terrorist armies.  He has even fashioned a mechanical arm for himself, which doubles as a powerful arm cannon.  The other central villain is Erik (Michael B. Jordan, who has appeared in all of director Ryan Coogler's films, creating a wonderful working relationship), who starts the film off as one of Klaue's lackeys, but his role in the story quickly grows for reasons I will not reveal.  All I will say is that both Klaue and Erik serve as perfect antagonists for different reasons.  Klaue is a somewhat comical, but definitely dangerous individual who murders without a second thought, while Erik is seemingly more controlled and maybe a bit likable, but just as unhinged, only by anger instead of madness.  His role in the story creates a complex blend of a character we can sympathize with as well as a someone who is easy to hate for some of his actions.  He's one of the better villains to appear in a Marvel film.

It is these wonderful characters and their expertly written and developed relationships that make Black Panther one of the strongest entries in the expanding cinematic universe of Marvel Comics.  Yes, the movie can be thrilling in its action, but it is just as thrilling because we really and truly care about everyone who inhabits the story.  Nobody here is unimportant, and the movie would be lesser if one character was removed.  There are no moments here that feel like padding or filler, and nothing feels out of place or unnecessary.  This is a script that has clearly been thought out, and has been brought before the cameras by an expert team.  The performances, the visuals, the cinematography, and even the music score all create a complete experience.  Most importantly, the movie does not go flat in its final moments.  The big "epic" battle sequence is grand, not chaotic.  And the final standoff between the Black Panther and the main villain is built from much grander stakes than you would expect, and is appropriately thrilling instead of anticlimactic. 

This is probably the most ambitious project to come out of Marvel Studios.  While it follows the basic template of a superhero story, it breaks the traditional mold in so many ways.  It not only creates a great heroic character that we want to see in many sequels, but it gives him an entire world and a rich supporting cast that we want to see more of as well.  A lot of superhero introduction films are content to just give us a memorable hero.  Black Panther does so much more.  It's intelligent, a hell of a lot of fun, brilliantly planned out, and just an all around superb entertainment.

1 comments

1 Comments:

  • I've also read your B Movie Discussion Board reviews. I had no idea you reviewed Might Morphin Power Rangers The Movie until a few days ago. Although I'm a fan of the show, that film seems to be made because the show is popular.

    By Blogger Patrick Shields, at 6:53 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005
10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005
11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005
12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006
01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006
02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006
03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006
04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006
05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006
06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006
07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006
08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006
09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006
10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006
11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006
12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007
01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007
02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007
03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007
04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007
05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007
06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007
07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007
08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007
09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007
10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007
11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007
12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008
01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008
02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008
03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008
04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008
05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008
06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008
07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008
08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008
09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008
10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008
11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008
12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009
01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009
02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009
03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009
04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009
05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009
06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009
07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009
08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009
09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009
10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009
11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009
12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010
01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010
02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010
03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010
04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010
05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010
06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010
07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010
08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010
09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010
10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010
11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010
12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011
01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011
02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011
03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011
04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011
05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011
06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011
07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011
08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011
09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011
10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011
11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011
12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012
01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012
02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012
03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012
04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012
05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012
06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012
07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012
08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012
09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012
10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012
11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012
12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013
01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013
02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013
03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013
04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013
05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013
06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013
07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013
08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013
09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013
10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013
11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013
12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014
01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014
02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014
03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014
04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014
05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014
06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014
07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014
08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014
09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014
10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014
11/01/2014 - 12/01/2014
12/01/2014 - 01/01/2015
01/01/2015 - 02/01/2015
02/01/2015 - 03/01/2015
03/01/2015 - 04/01/2015
04/01/2015 - 05/01/2015
05/01/2015 - 06/01/2015
06/01/2015 - 07/01/2015
07/01/2015 - 08/01/2015
08/01/2015 - 09/01/2015
09/01/2015 - 10/01/2015
10/01/2015 - 11/01/2015
11/01/2015 - 12/01/2015
12/01/2015 - 01/01/2016
01/01/2016 - 02/01/2016
02/01/2016 - 03/01/2016
03/01/2016 - 04/01/2016
04/01/2016 - 05/01/2016
05/01/2016 - 06/01/2016
06/01/2016 - 07/01/2016
07/01/2016 - 08/01/2016
08/01/2016 - 09/01/2016
09/01/2016 - 10/01/2016
10/01/2016 - 11/01/2016
11/01/2016 - 12/01/2016
12/01/2016 - 01/01/2017
01/01/2017 - 02/01/2017
02/01/2017 - 03/01/2017
03/01/2017 - 04/01/2017
04/01/2017 - 05/01/2017
05/01/2017 - 06/01/2017
06/01/2017 - 07/01/2017
07/01/2017 - 08/01/2017
08/01/2017 - 09/01/2017
09/01/2017 - 10/01/2017
10/01/2017 - 11/01/2017
11/01/2017 - 12/01/2017
12/01/2017 - 01/01/2018
01/01/2018 - 02/01/2018
02/01/2018 - 03/01/2018
03/01/2018 - 04/01/2018
04/01/2018 - 05/01/2018
05/01/2018 - 06/01/2018
06/01/2018 - 07/01/2018
07/01/2018 - 08/01/2018
08/01/2018 - 09/01/2018
09/01/2018 - 10/01/2018
10/01/2018 - 11/01/2018
11/01/2018 - 12/01/2018
12/01/2018 - 01/01/2019

Powered by Blogger