MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Ryan Coogler. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan.
I simply stand in awe of Black Panther.
Ryan Coogler’s entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is so much more than a superhero movie. Although the action in Black Panther picks up after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, this is a film that can be enjoyed on its own merits.
It is a film that celebrates African culture with a surprising expansiveness. It is a story about royalty, political alliances, and conflict that is Shakespearian in nature. It is an adventure movie that at times mimics a James Bond picture, with amazing inventions and complicated supervillains. It is also a thoughtful reimagining of Black History in which the imaginary country of Wakanda is an advanced (and hidden) civilization living in isolationist mode; America is the country in need.
Young King T’Challa (Boseman) ascends to the throne after the death of his father, King T’Chaka (John Kani). He is advised by his mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and benefits from the technical wizardry of his sister Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) and female sidekicks Nakia (an ex-girlfriend) (Lupita Nyong’o) and Okoye (Danai Gurira).
Becoming Black Panther is no easy feat; it requires a ritual rebirth. Both T’Challa and his archenemy Killmonger (the great Michael B. Jordan in his third film with Ryan Coogler following 2013’s Fruitvale Station and 2015’s Creed) share some of the same family history but choose to go in different directions.
While most of the main characters are persons of color, the film’s two white characters are Ulysses Klaue, a black-market arms dealer (Andy Serkis, in a rare non-motion capture role) and Everett Ross, a sympathetic CIA agent (Martin Freeman). The female characters are major players in the drama, strong leaders and valiant warriors. There is no romantic subplot getting in the way of the action.
While the CGI action scenes are the weakest part of this movie, even those are quite entertaining. The film is a visual feast, with amazing and beautiful costumes, fast cars and space ships, dark tragedy and light moments of humor. Black Panther is the very best kind of family film, with different things to say to each generation, and a positive antidote to the bigotry, hatred and small-mindedness of imperialism and human subjugation.
I do not for a minute expect future Marvel films to approach the grandeur and wonder of Black Panther (the last post-credits sequence promises a return to business as usual), but why should they? This is one of the best films of 2018 and likely to become a true film classic. It really is that good, and you should make every effort to see it soon.
Five halos: An exciting adventure filled with much to think about, including a positive worldview.
Two pitchforks: Mild swearing; double-crossing and deception.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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