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Friday
Feb162018

A MARVELOUS SHAKEUP // A FILM REVIEW OF "BLACK PANTHER"

BY MATEO MORENO

The Marvel Cinematic Universe have created a cinematic empire. Each film becomes a bigger event than the next and have all challenged each other to get bigger and more fantastical. But one thing that haven't always challenged each other on is depth. Now that's not to say that I haven't been a fan of the Marvel films; I most certainly have. But along with all of its success, Marvel has had a bit of "sameness" to their films. The forgettable villian challenges the team and they win in the end. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR started to shake things up and now we have the real shakeup with BLACK PANTHER, the most grounded, powerful and surprising Marvel film to date.

 

Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa, the son of King T'Chaka who recently passed during the events in Civil War. Now T'Challa ascends to the throne, as King of Wakanda, the fictional African nation that on the surface seems like a third world country but is actually a booming futuristic society that is completely powered by Vibranium, a rare meteoric ore with energy-manipulating capabilities. T'Challa is also The Black Panther, the warrior from Wakanda who's suit is also powered by Vibranium. He accepts the throne and his place in the world, but two thieves have other plans. Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) is an underground arms dealer with a fancy suped up arm and Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) is a man with a killer of a past and a lot of scars on his body to prove it. They both seemingly have the same plan to invade Wakanda, but when Killmonger's true plan is revealed it deepens the story and sets it off in a thrilling way.

 

Killmonger is brutal; he kills without remorse and believes the end justifies the means. But he also has a strong and very important message; that the balance of justice for the black community must be addressed. He has felt nothing but pain his entire life and seen the pain that racism has played and he wants no more of it. He's waited for this moment and he will take it no matter the cost. And that's where the story gets tricky. Wakanda is a vibrant African nation who has taken care of their people and thrived with the use of Vibranium. But they have also left the rest of the world in the dark, essentially ignoring the cries of the fallen. So that's the spin; the bad guy is fighting for a just idea and the good guys aren't completely good. It's a moral quandary that makes for a wondrous twist into the Marvel Universe. This is a film that challenges not only how our favorite Superhero franchise is built but also how we look at heroes and villains in film. 

 

The cast is extraordinary. Chadwick Boseman gives a powered and stoic performance as our newly minted King and questioning hero. It's a tough role to play; to be both regal, grounded, and still charming and fun. He's the opposite of some of the motor mouthed Marvel heroes and he excels at every turn. Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger is hands down the best villain the Marvel Universe has brought on the screen (Sorry Loki). The character is layered, troubled, and full of confliction. And Jordan's performance is pure fire. He makes you question who is in the right and who isn't. His performance is electrifying.

 

Also of note is the fact that the female characters are all very well drawn: Lupita Nyong'o is no simple love interest. She's a badass warrior spy on her own who's calling is to help those who need help the most. She's not about to sit in a kitchen and wait for her man to come home. Danai Gurira (giving another powerhouse performance that's very different from The Walking Dead) is a thrilling presence as well. Powerful and funny, her Wakanda warrior is smart and aware of everything around her. She will question anything that seems out of line and Gurira gives her a sparkling soul. And as T'Challa's younger scientist sister Letitia Wright is hilarious, full of charm, and ready to jump into battle as well as tech up her older brother’s suit. No one simply stands around here. Also having a hellava good time is motion capture artist Andy Serkis, who's much less serious but a blast to watch.

 

Ryan Coogler's world of Wakanda is brilliant storytelling and one that will actually change the universe in a moral and ethical way. This is a film that speaks on so many levels, levels beyond just this franchise. It's the first big action blockbuster that truly feels important. And if feels that way because it is.

 

MATEO'S GRADE:  A

SCREENPLAY BY Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole BASED ON THE CHARACTERS CREATED BY Stan Lee and Jack Kirby DIRECTED BY Ryan Coogler STARRING Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis.

 

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