Friday, August 31, 2018

Movie #476: Black Panther

Black Panther is a Marvel Cinematic Universe film directed by Ryan Coogler, and starring Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman, and Winston Duke.

We first met T'Challa (Boseman) in Captain America: Civil War, and Black Panther picks up more or less right after, following a scene set in 1992 where King T'Chaka (John Kani) confronts his brother N'Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) about some stolen vibranium. T'Chaka has just died, and T'Challa returns home, collects his ex and current spy for Wakanda Nakia (Nyong'o) and general Okoye (Danai Gurira) and is crowned king. He endures a challenge from M'Baku (Duke), the leader of the Jabari mountain tribe, but wins and visits the spirit world and talks to his father. All is well.

And then Klaue (Serkis) pops up on their radar; remember this guy stole a bunch of vibranium (a plot point in Avengers: Age of Ultron). Now he's back raiding a museum is a mysterious and angry fellow named Eric (Jordan). After a shootout in Korea and picking up a wounded Everett Ross (Freeman), they fall back to Wakanda, where Eric, having shot Klaue, finds them...he's the son of N'Jobu and an American woman, and is therefore T'Challa's cousin and has a claim to the throne.

So, none of this should be news since everyone has seen this fucking amazing film. I'm a white guy from Ohio, I'm not remotely qualified to talk about the racial issues in play, except to say that it should be a game-changer to have a superhero movie with a nearly all-black cast that makes this kind of bank. I will say, though, that it struck when rewatching this movie that it's what Thor wanted to be - Shakespeare-level family drama (I'll give Brannagh a break, since Thor was what, the fourth MCU movie? But still).

Black Panther not only gives us a whole host of amazing supporting characters (Nakia and Okoye, but also M'Baku, and Letitia Wright as Shuri was fantastic, too) but a superhero that is rich and powerful but adds in the gravitas of being the leader of a nation. And, of course. Jordan's portrayal of Eric "Killmonger" brings us easily one of the best villains in the MCU; he's sympathetic, but IMO you still have to root for T'Challa.

I am really, really hoping that Marvel doesn't screw this up in the sequel, which is uncharacteristically grouchy of me to say, but I'm not sanguine about their handling of shit after the James Gunn debacle. But I want more from all of these characters and definitely from Coogler.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Night Watch