‘Black Panther’ is a Profound Marvel [Review]
Proving that a comic book movie adaptation can be just as entertaining as it is timely, and just as action-packed as it is resonant with cultural commentary on the state of the world and America’s place in it, Black Panther is much more than your average Marvel superhero spectacle.
Reprising his role of T’Challa after being introduced in Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman is calm, quiet, and cool as can be. After witnessing the tragic murder of his father, the king of the mysterious African nation of Wakanda, Prince T’Challa ascends as the new king of his visually stunning homeland, which is revealed to viewers to be the most technologically advanced country on Earth, though it has kept this fact secret for centuries.
Wakanda’s high tech futuristic advances are thanks to an unending supply of the strongest metal in the galaxy, vibranium. It’s the same unbreakable substance that Captain America’s shield is made of, and the Wakandans have infused it into their entire way of life, from flying cars to their brightly colored clothes.
Boseman may be king, but it’s the women who truly rule Wakanda, as T’Challa’s personal guards are a fierce squad of bald badass female warriors, lead by The Walking Dead‘s Danai Gurira, who kicks more ass as Okoye than she ever has as Michonne.
Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, a righteous rebel who is headstrong and fearless in her belief that the Wakandans should be sharing their technology and skills with the rest of the world to help liberate the oppressed, and she’s T’Challa’s love interest.
T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, is a tech wizard that would probably make Tony Stark’s head spin. She’s a funny delight to watch as her sibling chemistry with Boseman is pitch perfect.
Daniel Kaluuya and Winston Duke add winning turns as opposing Wakandan tribe leaders, while Forest Whitaker brings an elder weight as the wise priest-like Zuri, an old friend of T’Challa’s father, and the great Angela Bassett is the royal anchor as T’Challa’s mother.
Andy Serkis is back as the greedy mercenary Ulysses Klaue, last seen having his arm ripped off in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and The Hobbit‘s Bilbo Baggins himself, Martin Freeman reprises his Civil War role as Everett Ross, who proves to be an invaluable ally of T’Challa.
Michael B. Jordan, reuniting with his Creed director Ryan Coogler, is the best kind of villain, one that you can understand and even sympathize with, essentially an African-American trying desperately to connect to his ancestral heritage after a lifetime of fighting just to survive on the merciless streets, where he was left as child to fend for himself. He eventually found his niche in the U.S. military, where he racked up so many kills he earned the nickname “Killmonger”.
When Jordon’s Killmonger comes home to challenge T’Challa for the throne, what follows is both inevitable and riveting.
When the final showdown happens, it is an emotional climax to an epic tale where everyone has made mistakes along the way and each are doing what they truly believe is right.
While the plot hits all the familiar beats we have come to expect from superhero origin stories by now, it never feels generic, and the story that unfolds is anything but empty, embedding elements of the real life struggles of all African-Americans seamlessly into the narrative.
Black Panther does more than show that men and women of color can be heroes, but rather presents an all together new ideal to strive for, one where they are not just a vital part of the team but the leaders steering humanity toward a better future.
Official Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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Black Panther (rated PG13) is now playing locally at RC Theatres in Kill Devil Hills.