SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV):
4 out of 5 Stars
Director: Ryan Coogler
Writers: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole, Stan Lee (characters), Jack Kirby (characters)
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rated: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture
Synopsis: Following the death of his father, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to Wakanda, a technologically advanced civilization hidden from the rest of the world, to become his people’s king. Mistakes made by his father make the transition anything but peaceful.
Review: It would be inaccurate to describe “Black Panther” as the first comic book film to feature a black man as the headline character. There have been a handful of superhero films with black leads over the years. The most prominent is probably the "Blade" franchise, a Marvel trilogy starring Wesley Snipes as the legendary vampire hunter that was released between 1998-2004. The "Blade" films, along with the "X-Men" series, paved the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
That’s just bookkeeping. Anyone trying to argue that “Black Panther” isn’t a revolutionary film for the comic book genre isn’t paying attention.
The pressure on director/writer Ryan Coogler (“Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”) and his team of filmmakers to make an undeniably good film was immense. Thankfully, Coogler has delivered a film that is wildly enjoyable experience that comfortably sits among the better superhero films to be released in the last 20 years.
The movie strays from the overused end-of-the-world storyline for something far more self-contained. That’s not to say that the events don’t have dramatic ramifications that will reverberate in “Avengers: Infinity War,” but its focus is on Wakanda, the country’s traditions and the role that its people and technology should play in world politics. In a way, the bulk of the film is like the first act of “Wonder Woman,” but whereas that film saw our hero leaving her remote island to enter a world more familiar to its audience, “Black Panther” stays in the unseen and unexplored place. Our hero doesn’t travel to find conflict, it comes to him.
“Black Panther” feels grounded in the same way that “Iron Man” did in 2008. It takes on contemporary themes and ideologies and builds a timely narrative around them. You can get lost in the comic book action if you prefer, but the deeper meaning is there for those who want their entertainment to come with some social commentary.
Some might complain that film doesn’t pander to them, that the issues presented are experiences that don’t directly belong to them. I’ve always approached art to explore places that otherwise would be unknown to me. While I do love it when I can directly connect with a film on a deeply personal level, I am equally intrigued by cinematic experiences that allow me to see the world from a completely different perspective. Just because a film isn’t specifically about me, my race or my gender, it doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have anything to offer me.
The performances are all quite good, but Danai Gurira’s performance as Okoye is easily my favorite.
My only issues with the film are related to with how it is structured, particularly when dealing with the flashbacks, and the use of a cliched plot device towards the end. Neither of these blemishes come close to derailing the film.
Make sure to sit through the credits, there are two very important scenes that you won’t want to miss.