Sunday, May 13, 2018
Video review: "Black Panther"
I thoroughly enjoyed “Black Panther,” though I was mystified by the nigh-orgiastic fervor with which others received it. If I were to rank the entire Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) flicks from top to bottom, I’d put this one about square in the middle.
It’s a beautiful-looking film filled with action and dominated by a lordly, charismatic central figure. Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa, recently anointed king of Wakanda, and also the beneficiary of a super-suit and mystical potion that turn him into the titular hero, protector of the kingdom.
But the main villain doesn’t make much of an impact. Michael B. Jordan plays Erik Kilmonger, an American special forces mercenary with a very personal connection to Wakanda. I’m a big fan of Jordan’s talents, but the script gives him little more to do than strut and spew ‘hood bravado, which stands in such stark contrast to the lilting, graceful accents of T’Challa and his subjects.
To the rest of the world, Wakanda is another backward little African nation, shrouded in poverty and isolated mystery. In reality, they’re the most technology advanced nation on Earth. Letitia Wright plays Shuri, the king’s kid sister and brilliant chief scientist.
Danai Gurira is Okoye, leader of the royal elite guard, who are all bald-headed, badass women. Daniel Kaluuya is W’Kabi, T’Challa’s oldest friend and ally, while Winston Duke plays a tribal rival. Martin Freeman is the token white, a Western spy who mostly just gets in the way.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the script with Joe Robert Cole, “Black Panther” is an exciting spectacle with some very familiar heroic story arcs. There’s an understandable amount of excitement about having such an audacious launch to a superhero franchise featuring an African-American protagonist.
Though, as I keep having to remind people, the superhero movie craze really got started 20 years ago with “Blade.” I’ll still take the first film of that franchise over that of “Panther.”
Bonus features are quite princely. They include a director’s introduction, roundtable discussion of the script, deleted scenes, gag reel, feature-length audio commentary track by Coogler, an overview of the first 10years of the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU), as well as four making-of mini-documentaries touching on various aspects of production.