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Dan's Review: "Black Panther" a modern Shakespearean epic

Feb 16, 2018 08:08PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther - © 2018 Marvel Studios/Disney.

Black Panther (Marvel Studios/Disney)

Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture.
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Florence Kasumba and John Kani.

Written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, based on the comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Directed by Ryan Coogler.

GRADE: A-

REVIEW:

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand, you might be having trouble keeping up, especially now that the next Avengers movie is about to drop in theaters this spring. There will be an estimated 75 characters in that film, including one of the newest Avengers, Black Panther, who was unveiled in Captain America: Civil War. Long overdue, Black Panther makes its mark in the MCU this weekend.

It’s the story of Prince/King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) the ruler of the fictional African country of Wakanda. T’Challa assumed leadership when his father, King T’Chaka (John Kani) was killed during a terrorist attack in CA:CW. Before official coronation, T’Challa must undergo the rite of accepting a challenge for the throne from anyone with royal blood. The challenge rite is administered by Zuri (Forrest Whitaker), the elder tribesman. T’Challa  succeeds in winning over M’Baku (Winston Duke) and assumes the throne. Meanwhile, Wakandans have tracked the evil arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) to South Korea, where he intends to sell some of the rare metal “Vibranium” to undercover CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman). T’Challa, his ex-girlfriend Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and General Okoye (Dania Guria) break up the exchange and capture Klaue, only to see him stolen from custody by Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who happens to be a long, lost American cousin of T’Challa who grew up to be a bloodthirsty special ops soldier bent on getting revenge on “colonizers” who have subjected the people of Africa to so many injustices. Killmonger’s aim is to use the Wakandan Vibranium and their advanced technology to rule the world. Killmonger kills Klaue and brings his body back to Wakanda, where he challenges T’Challa for the throne. T’Challa is thought to be killed in the battle, and Killmonger takes over as king plotting world rule. Meanwhile, Nakia, T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) and T’Challa’s mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) plan a coup by appealing to M’Baku’s tribe, who found T’Challa floating down a river, barely alive after being thrown over a waterfall by Killmonger during the last challenge. T’Challa’s family resuscitates him, and they head back to face Killmonger, who has recruited Okoye’s husband W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) and his warriors to defend his ill-obtained throne. I great battle follows, with predictable results.

Black Panther is a very good film, because it draws upon the human struggles of power and how best to use it.  It has a very Shakespearean tone to it, with all kinds of family struggles, deceit, betrayal and tough choices. Boseman is perfect in the role of T’Challa/Black Panther, exhibiting grace, moral judgment and leadership. The struggle between seeking revenge and seeking a greater good is central to Black Panther’s theme, as the talented cast, spot on storytelling and Ryan Coogler’s expert direction does a fantastic job of conveying this truth.

The action scenes and special effects are on par with other Marvel films, and even though you already know how things will turn out (having seen Black Panther in the next Avengers trailer), you can still enjoy the ride.

Some have made hay over the racial implications of the movie, but I’m not buying any of it. Black Panther’s tale is universal, and people of all walks of life will look beyond contemporary culture wars to see a movie that speaks truth, and eschews any stereotypes that prompt so much conflict in our society. We can all take a few lessons from Wakanda, and hope for a much better world.


Black Panther Trailer

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