Tropic Sprockets / Black Panther
By Ian Brockway
Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) scores big for Marvel with his epic of the superhero genre, “Black Panther.” The film is as layered as any conventional drama. Though a comic book story it is textured with apprehension, humor and spirit. The film may feel like a comic book, but that is not to say it is paper thin; this story unfolds like a novel. It also an analysis about what it means to be a leader, where it counts, as a person caring, empathetic and emotionally strong. Whether you call it an adventure story or a family drama of sorts, there is no dispute that it is also pure matinee entertainment.
Though there are several sub-plots, the film mainly concerns T’Challa/ Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and his leadership of Wakanda where all is not Paradise. A cousin of T’Challa’s feels that he got a raw deal (and he did). The cousin Erik (Michael B. Jordan) steals the life giving metal known as vibranium in a quest to become king and presumably, achieve world domination.
What starts as a battle of good vs. evil transforms into a dysfunctional family nail biter. Add a savvy visual style, pointed one-liners that are actually funny, and thrilling action sequences, and you don’t have just an escapist film, but something more lasting: a rich cinematic experience.
This is a comic book film about Africa as a continent and a culture that treats all elements African as treasure. This is a real place with a great history and in a sense there is nothing “comic book” about it.
Lupita Nyong’o co stars as Nakia, Panther’s love interest, and the maestro of movie magic Andy Serkis has a fine outing as the mercenary Ulysses Klaue.
This superhero film was a long time in coming and it makes a fine counterpoint to the waspy superhero incarnations of the 195Os. It truly celebrates itself and African culture, yet it is not self-conscious. It possesses a definite sense of place, but it does so not out of duty, but out of joy. The combat scenes alone rival anything from “Iron Man.”
“Black Panther” isn’t just a comic book film or a sci-fi film about Africa, but also a great movie. Black Panther is not just a hero to his people, but a hero for all of us. Panther’s values are universal, no less or more American than the legendary Captain Steve Rogers.
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