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‘Black Panther’ is an epic tale, but only a very good movie

February 15, 2018

As more people start seeing “Black Panther,” a lot of hyperbolic words/statements are sure to follow. “Revolutionary” will be bandied about, along with “iconic,” “transcendent,” and “phenomenal.”

 

Here’s one I’d like to add to the equation: “good.” Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say “very good.”

Black Panther/T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” (Photo by Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2018)

“Black Panther” picks up shortly after the events of “Captain America: Civil War.” Following the death of his father, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has returned home to Wakanda to (presumably) take over his throne and assume the Black Panther mantle.

 

With his family – mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) – and friends – Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Zuri (Forest Whitaker) – by his side, T’Challa is ready for both … along with making sure Wakanda’s supply of Vibranium, their advanced technology, and their people are safe from the outside world.

 

It is to be a time of peace and transition in the small African country.

 

That peace, however, comes to a screeching halt when wanted terrorist Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) reappears trying to sell stolen Vibranium to a foreign government. This transaction also allows an outsider, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), to make his way to Wakanda and challenges T’Challa for not only his throne, but for control over Wakanda’s role in the outside world going forward.

T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” (Photo by Matt Kennedy ©Marvel Studios 2018)

“Black Panther” is filled with solid action and interesting characters, and the story feels much more grandiose than previous Marvel films.

 

The main problem for me is that, very much like Hawkeye, Doctor Strange, Vision, Iron Fist, and countless other Marvel superheroes, Black Panther is a character that I just don’t care about. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad character, just not one I’m as interested in as other people, which makes it harder to connect with the film.

 

There are, however, two characters that I developed more interest for each and every time they were on screen.

 

The first is Shuri – the king’s younger sister and head of Wakanda’s technological developments. Part of Shuri’s allure is the fact that she’s the one with the gadgets and cool tech toys, which is always awesome. The other – and much larger – part of it comes directly from Letitia Wright. Shuri is obviously the smartest person in the room (probably any room for that matter). But rather than coming across as the obnoxious know-it-all (*cough* Tony Stark), Shuri’s semi-bratty but mostly playful nature makes her incredibly entertaining and likeable.

T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) in Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” (©Marvel Studios 2018)

The second character of note is Killmonger. Honestly, I didn’t know Michael B. Jordan was capable of playing a villain. But here he is giving life to this cocksure killer who’s allowed his hatred and bitterness to blind him and turn him into the monster he claims to want to eliminate. There’s conflict there, and you’re conflicted in your intertwining feelings or respect and hatred. The sign of a good villainous performance.

 

In terms of the story crafted by writer/director Ryan Coogler, I was entertained pretty much from beginning to end, minus some slow dialogue-heavy moments mid-film. I wouldn’t call it mind-blowing, but it certainly felt bigger and grander than its Marvel predecessors, and its theme of everyone coming together as one, and shining a light on persons of color are certainly topical (when most other Marvel movies certainly aren’t).

Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba) in Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” (Photo by Matt Kenned ©Marvel Studios 2018)

 

The one thing people will rave about that I don’t quite understand is how the fictitious Wakanda looks like an actual place you could visit, despite it not actually existing. Sure, it’s beautiful, but it’s not something we haven’t seen out of Marvel before with Asgard (“Thor”) and Ego’s home (“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”). Those places also looked real places you could go, but they were no more or less breathtaking than Wakanda.

 

Overall, I enjoyed the film, but I didn’t love it. That, however, is based more on my disinterest in the character than the quality of the product, which is quite good.

 

★★★1/2 of ★★★★★