Black Panther

RATED - (PG-13) -135-MIN-2018

             Black Panther is one of the best comic book movie adaptations by far

I thoroughly enjoyed Black Panther. Look, these comic book movies are not going away anytime soon, so the best we can hope for is that the studios who are churning out these cash cows, at least hire filmmakers who might take a different slant, and try to put their own personal stamp on it. I get it, they are supposed to be escapist fun, but after the twentieth big battle at the climax, with a large super villain shooting balls, bolts, or waves of very destructive light, it all becomes a blur, and I disconnect. I have liked several of them very much, but a majority of them seem like one big movie; one, not very different from the next.

This movie does everything right.

Black Panther, which was co-written and directed by the very talented (Ryan Coogler), is one of the best Marvel movies to date, because this young man, first and foremost, has the visual chops, but also has a gift for compelling characters and dialogue. Yes, this is a movie based on a comic book, but Coogler gets the social significance his film can touch on, while wrapped in a damn fine, crowd-pleasing action/superhero movie. Comic books often tackle serious issues, and sometimes very thoughtfully.

Based on a superhero created by (Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) in the sixties, not much before the real Black Panther's movement was born, it tells the tale of a hidden country in Africa called Wakanda, which is ruled by a King and sectioned off into several tribes. Many years ago, we are told, the Earth was hit by a meteorite which contained the super strong metal of Vibranium and landed in the country of Wakanda. The tribes were feuding and after a warrior took some of this rare metal into his body from a new flower that grew, he was transformed into a super being with heightened powers and became the new King and the Black Panther. Because of this, the balance of the tribes was formed, and the metal was incorporated into the daily lives of the Wakandans making their technology and society, years ahead of the outside world. They kept this secret by shielding their advanced city under the shroud of a rainforest.On the outside, it looked like a third world land.

Secrets are eventually found, and people can be bought, so there is trouble in the near future for Wakanda. An arms dealer, Ulysses Klaue,(an absolutely fabulous and jacked Andy Serkis) has found a source to get Vibranium out of the country and sell to the highest bidder. Klaue also has fashioned a powerful cannon, attached to his missing arm, which uses Vibranium to a devastating effect. We learned of him first in: (Avengers: Age of Ultron.) This is one nasty dude who enjoys chaos.

We also learned in the excellent (Captain America: Civil War) that the King of Wakanda: T'Chaka (John Kani) had been assassinated, and his son the Prince T'Challa (a perfectly cast Chadwick Boseman ) is now about to become new heir to the throne and has assumed the role of Black Panther once held by T'Chaka. Before heading back home for the ceremony, T'Challa and the head of his all-female warrior's force: Okoye ( a fierce and fabulous Danai Gurira ) head into the African forest to help an undercover Wakandan agent and T'Challa's love interest: Nakia (a stunning and wonderful Lupita Nyong') from a group of armed men who have captured her along with a group of woman.They have split, but still have strong feelings for each other. These two actors are great together and it is very sweet. This is the first of several  beautifully executed actions scenes.

Back home now, greeted by his still grieving mom: Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and his smartass and brilliant weapons designer sister Shuri (Letitia Wright, who is a frigging hoot) T'Challa will take part in a ceremony to be crowned king. Perched atop a beautiful waterfall, with the tribes standing on ledges above, T'Challa is stripped of his Black Panther powers by his father's trusted advisor:
Zuri ( Forest Whitaker) by drinking a liquid and then asks if anyone will challenge him for a right to the throne by doing battle. The towering: M'Baku (Winston Duke, again wonderful) who is head of the tribe who lives in the snowy mountains comes forward, pissed, because he thinks his clan has been ignored. This fight is wonderfully done and sets up other plot points later. T'Challa is victorious and is given his Pather powers back.

It is learned from Wakandan agents out in the world, that Klaue is about to sell some Vibranium to buyers in South Korea. Klaue and his partner, who goes by the name: Killmonger (a magnetic Michael B Jordan) just finished stealing some hidden in an artifact in a London museum with brutal results.

So off T'Challa, Okoye, and Nakia go to an underground gambling club in South Korea, to intercept the deal and bring back Klaue to Wakanda to face justice for the murder of some of their people. Key among them is T'Challa's good friend and head of the tribe that protects the country's border: W'Kabi ( Daniel Kaluuya from Get Out) who wants Klaue's head on a platter since he killed his parents. T'Challa promises him, he'll bring Klaue back.

At the club, T'Challa sees that the buyer is CIA agent: Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman ) who he knows from (Civil War.) Ross tells him to leave, but T'Challa wants Klaue for himself. It doesn't take long for Klaus to figure out whats going on and another absolutely fantastic action sequence ensues, followed by a high-speed chase. Ultimately, Klaue is captured and interrogated by Ross, against the wishes of T'Challa and Okoye who fear Klaue might spill the beans. He does and that's when Killmoger shows up to free Klaue and mortally injure Ross as he jumps in front of a bullet to save Nakia. Now, with no Klaue, a dying Ross, and Killmonger not too far behind, the group heads back to Wakanda for the wonderful showdown. I must also add that the scenes between Jordan and Boseman are highly charged as well. Jordan has been in all three of Coogler's films and they obviously are a great team. There is even a Game of Thrones shout out in this film, as the final battle is grand fun.

This movie is a blast. Coogler knows he has a good story, and with a fantastic cast, each character gets to shine. Also, unlike many movies like this, each one is given time for some backstory or a scene to tell us who they are and where they fit in. The original music is fitting and exhilarating in the right spots. The songs from other artists are also a huge plus, as each one augments the scene and doesn't overwhelm it. It really is beautifully presented in every way. I can't praise the director and cast enough. It is funny,(I mean really funny), and then equally sad and touching, as we learn in flashbacks, just who Killmonger is, and why he is so hellbent on getting to Wakanda. Coogler even gets to have scenes set in his hometown of Oakland for some more socially related aspects to the plot.

There is a scene in Wakanda, where Jordan is slowly walking to the throne with the camera following behind him that stood out to me. This sequence,with the music that is playing, coupled with the interesting way Coogler uses the camera to finally frame Jordan sitting down,is just so perfect it gave me the chills. This young man is one damn fine storyteller and filmmaker. I strongly recommend you see all three of his films: (Fruitvale Station, Creed, and Black Panther.)

Actually, You should see them all several times.

 


watch the trailer: