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Review: Black Panther (Bumbray's take)

Black Panther (Bumbray's take)
02.12.2018
9 10

PLOT: The newly crowned king of Wakanda, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) aka Black Panther, finds his claim to the throne challenged by an usurper, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) with a dark connection to the royal family, and a radically different philosophy.

REVIEW: Ryan Coogler’s BLACK PANTHER is the most striking entry into the Marvel canon since GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Like that film, the relationship to the Marvel Universe is maintained, but the overall focus is less on how the hero, T’Challa, fits into the pantheon, but rather his own trials and tribulations, pulling back the curtain on the staggering Wakanda.

Coogler, who also co-wrote, seems to have been given a lot of leeway by the suits at Marvel to do his own thing, and their faith in him has paid off handsomely. Infused with the same energy as CREED, Coogler once again proves he’s a master blockbuster director, with his sensibility perfectly blending into Marvel’s first person-of-color fronted flick since BLADE.

Chadwick Boseman showed a lot of promise in CIVIL WAR, and BLACK PANTHER builds on that giving him a strong arc. It picks up right where CIVIL WAR left off, with T’Challa’s father dead and him now heir to the throne. It’s explained that, in order to ascend, he has to strip himself of his Black Panther powers and submit to trial by combat with any challengers to the throne. This gives the action a distinctly different vibe, with it emphasizing mano-a-mano fights, with three of the five big set-pieces being straight-up one-on-one brawls, which to me is something the MCU has really lacked up to this point.

It gives T’Challa an interesting edge for Boseman to play, in that his hero has to really prove that he’s as much of a hero out of the costume as in it. It helps that he’s got an amazing antagonist to play off of, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, who is the most genuinely threatening villain in MCU history. Loki, as good as he was, always had that charm, while many of the others have been disposable CG monsters. Jordan is a hulking, badass mercenary who’s more than a match to T’Challa, and arguably his superior in strength and cunning. It’s always more exciting when the hero is the underdog, which is a lesson Coogler seemed to really take to heart after diving into Stallone’s Rocky universe. The guy knows what makes a compelling hero narrative.

It’s worth noting that the supporting cast is uniformly outstanding, with star-making, hopefully, recurring parts for many of the players. A lot of the buzz is coming from Letitia Wright as Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, who’s like his Q and has lots of good banter with her older brother. Danai Gurira also steals scenes as the head of Black Panther’s all-female army, the Dora Milaje, who has a nice little arc of her own when her loyalties are torn. For me, one of the most exciting characters is Lupita Nyong’o as a rebellious Dora Milaje spy, who prefers working on her own, doesn’t shave her head like the rest of them, and happens to be T’Challa’s ex. Their chemistry is great, and it’s not tough to imagine a cool spinoff with her maybe teaming up with Black Widow if the MCU wants to go that way.

Technically, this is as impeccable as anything else in the MCU, but in terms of production design and photography, its only rival is the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. The score is great too, with Ludwig Goransson’s soundtrack nicely complimented by tracks by Kendrick Lamar.

For all the grief people like me occasionally give the MCU, they deserve credit for sheer consistency. Their risks usually pay off handsomely, and BLACK PANTHER is another top-shelf franchise for them that should run for decades to come. Hopefully, Coogler stays onboard, because he’s as much of a star here as anyone in front of the camera. As far as tentpole filmmaking goes, it doesn’t get much better than this.


Source: JoBlo.com

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