Thursday, June 20, 2019

Black Panther: The First African Superhero Comes to the Big Screen!

REEL REVIEWS

 

 

The Black Panther is a Marvel Comics superhero created back in 1966 by famed comic creators: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. While not the first African character to appear in comic books, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s creation went on to become the first ever African Superhero to appear in mainstream American comics. It’s been 52 years since making his big debut, and this beloved superhero is finally getting his own movie, a film I can confirm without any doubt was worth the wait!

“Black Panther” takes place after events of “Captain America: Civil War.” Deep within the continent of Africa exists a nation known as Wakanda, a technologically advanced civilization that’s been hidden from the world for centuries—ruled and protected by its king: the Black Panther. After the death of his father T’Chaka (John Kani), the previous King of Wakanda, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) must now assume the throne and mantle of the Black Panther.

 

 

The safety of Wakanda becomes threatened, however, when a black market arms dealer known as Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) attempts to sell stolen Wakandan material to the outside world. With the secrets of his nation at risk, T’Challa hunts down the nefarious criminal to apprehend him for his crimes. The Black Panther’s mission takes a dark turn, however, when T’Challa learns that Klaue is simply the henchman serving an even greater threat—a black ops soldier who calls himself Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). While Klaue is in it for the money, Killmonger only has one goal in mind: to take T’Challa’s throne and assume control of Wakanda. The film also features appearances from Martin Freeman, Forest Whitaker, Danai Gurira, and even Daniel Kaluuya.

“Black Panther” is one of the main reasons I love Marvel movies so much. They can take ideas from comic books that cynics would find ludicrous, and rework them fluently into a movie made for the big screen. Though some of the credit for that should be awarded to the film’s writer and director, Ryan Coogler, who readers may recognize from his previous films: “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed.”

There are three things that “Black Panther” gets right, and they are: Action, Politicization, and Characters. Every Marvel movie has its own style of action depending on the plot and main superhero(s) abilities. For example, Iron Man fights his foes with his technology and scientific know-how, while Captain America fights with his strength and wit. The title hero for “Black Panther” is sort of a combination of the two—utilizing his technologically advanced suit and super strength to take on his enemies. Which leads to some impressive and intense fights for the character—from battling guerrilla soldiers in the jungles of Africa, to highspeed chases through South Korea. And in a franchise that’s featured superheroes battle spaceships, giant monsters, robots, and Nazis, it’s refreshing to see a superhero movie with a high-speed car chase in it.

This is also the first Marvel movie I’ve seen that touches upon elements of civil rights and poverty. Though fictitious, the movie asks interesting questions involving Wakanda, the issues in Africa, and problems facing individuals of African origin in the rest of the world. And without chancing spoilers, the movie does a phenomenal job of debating this issue. Now, one could make the argument that the “X-Men” movies were the first Marvel-related series that dealt with political issues involving intolerance, subjugation, and bigotry, but those films are not canon in the Marvel Studios filmography because they were produced by 20th Century Fox. Not only that, but the “X-Men” movies usually teeter between a PG-13 and R rating, while the ones produced by Marvel Studios stick to a strict PG-13 only. So even when “Black Panther” touches upon sensitive elements, it doesn’t get too heavy-handed for younger viewers to handle.

Then there’s the characters; this review could go on for pages about the various characters in the “Black Panther,” so instead, I’m going to keep it short and talk about the main hero and villain: T’Challa and Killmonger. If there’s one thing I especially enjoyed about this movie, it was the relationship between these two. Their association isn’t some long-standing rivalry or old friends turned enemies type of relationship. What connects them are their goals and ideals. Both want the throne, but both have different ideas on how their kingdom should be ruled. T’Challa questions whether Wakanda should remain hidden, or use what they know to aid the world. While Killmonger believes Wakanda should become a dominating force for the African people only and use their advanced civilization to wreak havoc upon a world that wronged their race. And instead of just saying that the hero is right and the villain is wrong, the film balances both arguments by showing the pros and cons of both characters viewpoints.

Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan completely own the audience’s attention when either of them is on screen. While Chadwick Boseman was a perfect choice for the Black Panther, and he’s an absolute treasure in the film, it’s Michael B. Jordan who nearly steals the show for his portrayal of Killmonger. Through Jordan’s acting, and Ryan Coogler’s directing, what could’ve been a one-dimensional, cartoon villain, is turned into a humanized and almost tragic character. Sure, I wanted T’Challa to succeed and stop his adversary, but a part of me still felt for the villain; because while I disagree with his methods and goals, I understood his reasoning.

“Black Panther” is rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action violence. This is the must-see superhero movie that we needed. I admit that I never was a hardcore fan of the Black Panther comics or character before seeing this film, but now that’s all changed because this movie’s got everything a great superhero film needs—great action, astounding effects, and memorable characters. Which is why I’m proud to award “Black Panther,” the first African superhero movie, an 8.5 out of 10.

Marco Island resident and avid moviegoer, Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a bachelor’s degree in science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. In his four years at Lynn, Matthew managed to achieve Magna Cum Laude status, earn three publications in the Lynn University magazine, make a short documentary featured in the university’s Film Festival, and created a radio PSA that was later broadcasted overseas.

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