REVIEW: BLACK PANTHER (2018)

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BLACK PANTHER (2018)

Black Panther is the latest edition to the MCU and once again Marvel comes up with a way to keep this series fresh after ten years and eighteen films. The movie opens with a brief introduction to the history of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. It tells of the fateful meteorite landing which introduced the miracle metal vibranium to the land, which transformed Wakanda into a technically advanced civilization. They’ve long kept hidden their technology from the world, though, to prevent ill use of their weaponry. Enter the newly crowned King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who is also The Black Panther, Wakanda’s protector as well as ruler. While still mourning the death of his father, T’Challa finds out a hard truth about the death of his uncle and of a cousin he didn’t know he had…a cousin known as the mercenary Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who wants to take the throne and use Wakanda’s arms technology to start a global revolution.

This sometimes stunning film is directed by Ryan Coogler from a script by he and Joe Robert Cole. Coogler has a wonderfully sumptuous visual eye and making full use of African cultural influence turns this into a film worth seeing for the sights alone. His script with Cole takes things deeper than that with a story rich in depth, not only in it’s cultural surroundings but in the political, racial and social issues effecting it’s African characters and the continent’s descendants around the world. It weaves this context into it’s action/adventure story-line very well, so it’s never preaching, but the issues are boldly there. It represents those who have a more aggressive way of dealing with these issues in it’s antagonist N’Jadaka / Killmonger and those who see a more peaceful solution in it’s hero T’Challa. It also doesn’t shy away from the fact that these differences can pit brother against brother, too. Black Panther is still also very much a superhero movie and we gets some spectacular action, some amazing gadgets and even a James Bond-ish trip to South Korea, where T’Challa meets old friend Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and old foe Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who is aligned with Killmonger. Panther is given some wonderful support in his sister Suri (Letitia Wright) who is technology savvy and is the “Q” to T’Challa’s Bond. There is king’s bodyguard Okoye (Danai Gurira) who is Wakanda’s greatest warrior, elder Zuri (Forest Whitaker) and his proud and strong mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett). The SPFX are amazing, there is a wonderfully African infused soundtrack by Ludwig Göransson and some beautifully realized dream sequences that add even more depth to a film that has spirit and heart as well as action.

Simply put this movie also has a great cast. Boseman is a perfect fit for a character that has to be ruler, hero and diplomat, as well as, simply a man. He is charming, handsome and gives the heavily burdened T’Challa a sense of humor and warmth as well. Michael B. Jordan is solid as his vengeful cousin known as Killmonger. Jordan is usually in the role of hero or nice guy and here he shows he can be a bad-ass too. N’Jadaka is a street smart killer raised in America and he brings that urban edge to his warrior with a mission. His purpose may have a bit of a noble center, but it’s his methods and ruthless execution of them are what make him a villain. Serkis is fun as Klaue, following-up his amusing part in Age of Ultron and it’s too bad his part here is almost as small. He’s a fun and eccentric bad guy. Letitia Wright is cute and energetic as T’Challa’s genius sister Suri and Danai Gurira is a blast as warrior woman, Okoye. She’s a powerhouse and deserves her own movie. Rounding out are strong characterizations from Freeman as Ross, Angela Bassett as Ramonda and Forest Whitaker as the noble Zuri. There is also a cool post credits cameo I won’t spoil.

Once again Marvel has delivered a splendid entertainment that is at once a story with it’s own heart, soul and purpose and yet fits well into the MCU game plan. There are political and racial issues weaved into T’Challa’s first solo flick and it is as energetic and exciting as it is thought provoking. Ryan Coogler is a director who has not only a brilliant visual style but can make popcorn entertainment that is also food for thought. A delightfully entertaining movie with some well appreciated heart and depth. As always, stay through the entire credits for two extra scenes.

-MonsterZero NJ

rated 3 and 1/2 black panthers.

 

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BARE BONES: FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)

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FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)

Finally caught up to this much maligned reboot and have to say that I don’t quite understand all the hate it gets. Maybe it’s because I didn’t follow the comic and am not familiar with the lore, or that I just went in with such low expectations that I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t altogether awful.

The story follows the creation of a teleportation device by nerds Sue Storm, Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom (Kate Mara, Miles Teller and Toby Kebbell) along with Reed’s friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) and Sue’s hotshot brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan). The device opens a portal to another world and when an unsanctioned trip to that world goes awry, all five are graced with drastic changes that give them unique powers. While the four returning try to cope with their new ‘gifts’ and the government tries to decide what to do with them, Victor is stranded on the alien world gaining frightening power and a heinous agenda.

Josh Trank’s interpretation is, by far, not a misunderstood classic, but it is a unique take on the superhero genre, much like his Chronicle, focusing more on how one might react to gaining unwanted abilities and how they would be viewed by paranoid and power-hungry government agencies. The fact that two of the four become outright government agents to use their powers for ‘good’ is amusing and we know that eventually some kind of threat, here Victor Von Doom, will unite them as heroes. It’s actually an interesting and non-traditional viewpoint of the superhero epic and there is little or no action till the end…which is where it really stumbles. The conflict with Doom is basically in the last 20 minutes and his reasons for wanting to literally destroy the Earth are quite convoluted. We also never get a real grasp as to what it is about the forces on this planet that imbue superpowers upon it’s visitors. The battle between the newly formed superhero group and “Dr. Doom” ends rather quickly and with little effort, leaving the film with a very anti-climactic feel by the time the credits roll. It all seems more like a 100 minute origin story than a complete movie, though had it not bombed, it might have been interesting to see these four on a complete adventure. Oh, well. Cast were all fine though some of the CGI FX range from excellent to mediocre. Underwhelming…yes…completely awful…not really.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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