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Black Panther

Hello MoFo’s! I have been away from this site for far too long. Truth be told a combination of my crappy work schedule, real life duties, and trying desperately to have a social life outside of work; I have neglected this community. So I need to try and stay active on the site more, lest this be a instance of something I “used to” do. And what better time to try and get my presence on the site rolling again then with a review of the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther! Like every Marvel movie I am excited about the release. But this one has some interesting back story to it. Long ago in the 90’s Wesley Snipes was trying like hell to get a Black Panther movie made. The film was in production hell and it never got off the ground. This made him shift focus and regroup, and that led to the creation of the Blade movie in 1998. Which in turn was the trail blazer for the Comic Book Movie Boom, which led the MCU. So this movie has been a long time coming. And with the promises of seeing Wakanda along with a story revolving around Black Panther himself; led to what I felt would be a story that mixed the high tech super science gadgetry of Iron Man with the possibility for a scenery and world setting more akin to Thor’s Asgard. So yeah, I was pumped! But like anything in life, the Internet has a way of trying to ruin things for me. Unfortunately, this film was released in 2018, in the midst of a movement of professional victimhood where EVERYTHING has to tie in to some kind of social political issue. And the web and the Media decided this film just has to be a part of it. Given that the Black Panther has a predominantly Black cast and a Black director, the much-anticipated film is being looked at in two lights. One end is on the right side of the spectrum, specifically the anti-PC side of things (of which I generally see eye to eye). The primary concern is that this film would be so latched on to identity politics that they feel that they will forgo making a good film in preference to making a ham-fisted political statement in the name of diversity quotas. And if the film turns out to be mediocre, the film would pull a Ghostbusters (2016) and scream foul and claim some kind of “ism” at anyone who says it sucks. While the more liberal side of things announces the film as an unquestionable MASTERPIECE! A revolutionary film that will win Oscar gold! And given that of all places Rotten Tomatoes has become ground zeros for this next batch of insanity, it is not exactly a farfetched concern. Black Panther gets an early 100% Certified Fresh Rotten Tomatoes score, then one guy gives it a rotten score, the internet FREAKED. Leading to quite possibly the stupidest click bait headline of the year when Bleeding Cool News prints a story saying “Donald Trump’s America Ruins Black Panther’s 100% Rotten Tomato Score.” Which blows my mind since the first negative review of the flick was given by an Irish film critic. When the hell did “Trump’s America” annex Ireland? In between the internet hysteria (and because this is Disney and I was already disappointed by the Last Jedi), I admit I was a tad concerned. Would this be a ham fisted political dud? These were questions I asked before going into the theater. And you know what? F**K THIS E-DRAMA BULL$HIT! Black Panther was awesome! Want to know more? Well grab you vibranium as we check out Black Panther!

We begin the film with a quick history lesson of Wakanda for non-Marvel fanboys. A vibranium meteorite crashes into a mountain in Africa. Vibranium being the strongest metal know to man because Adamantium does no exist in the MCU. Tribes gather around and discover the vibranium. The Wakandans use this new material to create new and ground breaking technology. However do to concerns about outsides trying to exploit or conquer Wakanda and their new natural resource, they isolated themselves from the outside world.

And after a brief stop in 90’s Oakland (more on that in a moment), we see in the present day T’Challa (aka Black Panther and Chadwick Bosman) and General of the Wakandan Dora Milaje Okoye (Danai Gurira) on a mission to get one of their operatives Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) from her current assignment. An assignment where Nakia is set to take out some Boko Haram style kidnappers in Nigeria. They eliminate the bad guys and whisk her back to Wakanda for T’Challa’s coronation. Leading to another action scene where T’Challa assumes the throne in ritualistic combat from the gorilla themed Jabari. Which actually made me giggle a bit. Not because of the movie itself mind you. The combat scene is really cool. For those not from Dallas, Jabari was the name of a gorilla at the Dallas Zoo. Jabari got out of his enclosure one day, ran amok, and was Harambe before Harambe was a meme. That amusing piece of trivia aside, T’Challa assumes the throne and spares the Jabari tribal leader M’Baku. Because I guess his comic book name of Man-Ape was problematic. But all is not well in Wakanda as the man who murdered his father Klaue (aka Klaw the not quite Master of Sound in this picture) is alive and is trying to sell vibranium that was stolen from a London Museum. This leads to a showdown in South Korea. Because why not. Marvel shoots a lot in these countries. During this time we introduce the main villain of the film Erik Killmonger. A highly trained and very educated mercenary. As it turns out later in the movie, Erik Killmonger has his own ties to and plans for Wakanda. This leads to T’Challa not only having to stop Killmonger from killing him, but he must stop Wakanda from being torn apart from within. Which leads to a very large final fight in the isolated African nation.

Again, I loved this movie! Another great notch in the belt of the Marvel Cinematic Universe! So what is great about the flick? First off, the casting choices were great. Again Marvel selected another great actor to helm their film. Chadwick Bosman brings the necessary regal and kingly aspects of T’Challa. But he is not big headed and arrogant. T’Challa is not Thor. He is much more tutored in the way of being a good King thanks to the teachings of his father T’Chaka. And he has enough of a vulnerable side thanks to an attraction to Nakia and a few spirit visions with his father. And last but not least he is able to pull off quite a few bad as fight scenes to establish Black Panther as one of the best hand to hand fighters in the MCU (and Marvel period). His supporting cast is equally good. Okoye is the stern and proud defender of her beloved Wakanda, but can on a few occasions act as a second mother figure to T’Challa. T’Challa’s kid sister Shuri is the technical wizard and gear smith. And Nakia is more of the Ying to T’Challa’s yang. T’Challa while king seeks to be a good ruler to Wakanda with his only concern being the Wakandan people, Nakia loves her country seeks to help the outside world as well. Hence why she goes outside Wakanda to right wrongs on her own, and also wants to export Vibranium to help other nations. Points of views which buck the isolationist politics of Wakanda.

But by far the supporting cast member I was most happy to see be good, was Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger. Marvel has this problem of getting GREAT actors to be their villains, only to give DULL or GENERIC performances. The best MCU villains are the standouts like Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, James Spader’s Ultron, and Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Other performances are good like Robert Redford’ Alexander Pierce, Cate Blanchett’s Hela, and Kurt Russell’s Ego. Others are just plan lame (looking at you Maleketh). Thankfully Killmonger is one of the stronger Marvel villains. While I would not put him in the Loki and Vulture tier of enjoyability, he does stand with those two villains as being a much more developed villain. A villain with (dare I say it) some sympathy and depth?

Erik Killmonger is the son of N’Jobu, a Wakandan prince, T’Chaka’s brother, and uncle to T’Challa. On an undercover assignment in Oakland (why Oakland I have no idea). T’Chaka discovers that N’Jobu has become radicalized and wants to share Wakanda’s technology with the Black Power movement to over throw the governments. N’Jobu used Klaue to steal vibranium from Wakanda violating the trust between him and T’Challa. This revelation is due to the fact that N’Jobu was spied on by Zuri (who grows up to be Forest Whitaker). And after this confrontation leads to T’Chaka having to kill his own brother. Killmonger finds his father dead in his Oakland apartment and swears revenge. This leads to Killmonger wanting to assume Wakanda’s throne by ritualistic combat and carry on where his father left off with arming Black people to over throw the world’s governments.

And while this easily makes him a villain, they give Michael B Jordan a few scenes where they portray him as something other then what you expect from a comic book villain. Love for a father, and even a kind of sort of bonding moment with T’Challa at the very end of the movie.

Aside from the characters, the scenery is FANTASTIC! I got exactly what I wanted. A high tech advanced society which let the creators imagine new and exciting sets and back drops for the movie. From the lush “remote” border scenery, to the almost space age urban metropolis, to the rich and detailed mountain mine complete with subway system. And the costumes! If this film does not get the Oscar for costume design I officially call BS!

So yeah this film was great! But unfortunately for some, it is not perfect. While the setting and characters are new and exciting, the plot is pretty predictable. Maybe it is because that I know enough about the mythos of Black Panther I knew enough of which story lines they would pull from. Or maybe it is because I have seen T’Challa in the Avenger’s Infinity War trailer with millions of other people on the planet. Given the fact I know the ultimate outcome I was able to guess where the movie would go after key moments that are supposed to be suspenseful. Also while Killmonger is a great villain, Klaue on the other hand (pun not intended) while cool to see him with his sonic gun appendage, is ultimately a footnote in the movie where he essentially gets killed allowing Killmonger to take his corpse to Wakanda to gain entry and an audience with the High Court.

As for the E-Drama political concerns? Outside of one moment where Shuri calls CIA agent Ross (Martin Freeman) a “colonizer” there really is not a whole lot of political content. Because this is film is made by Marvel Studios and not Marvel Comics. We get a line or two about boarder security, refugees, and a final line about “one tribe” but that is about it. Now it is Hollywood and I am sure it is not an accident these buzzwards where slipped into the flick. If you do not like these references however, they can easily be ignored since there is SO much more else in this film to enjoy. I guess if someone REALLY wanted to find a heavy political narrative some one could find one, but it would ultimately lead to Killmonger wanting an ethno-state. Think Malcom X meets Richard Spencer. OR and this is me talking crazy maybe… you can look at the film as it is supposed to be. A comic book movie. And a really good one at that.

In the end: Black Panther is a very good Marvel movie. It is not a masterpiece, and probably won’t be the next Dark Knight or Avengers. But it will be seen as one of the better Marvel movies alongside Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Iron Man. Don’t let e-drama get you down, this movie is badass! See it!