Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Believe the hype. “Black Panther,”
from director/screenwriter Ryan Coogler (“Creed” and “Fruitvale Station”)
is one of the most extraordinary, masterful and exciting superhero movies from the Marvel Comics Cinematic Universe.
It’s grand in so many ways and not just because of its hefty $200 million production budget. However, Coogler deftly put all that money to good use and made a sprawling, magnificent, eye-popping afro-centric world unlike anything you’ve seen before.
The moving and realistic narrative that Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole (TV’s “American Crime Story”) have created for “Black Panther” almost makes you forget its comic book origins.
The Black Panther character made its debut in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s marvelous, comic book world in 1966 (“Fantastic Four”). The Black Panther reappeared in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” But, that was just a tease for audiences and a harbinger of greater things to come.
And the greatness of “Black Panther”—the 18th movie from Marvel--can’t be overstated. It is truly something to behold thanks to a remarkable and predominately African-American cast led by Chadwick Boseman who stars in the titular role.
Boseman, received critical acclaim portraying James Brown in the 2014 biopic “Get on Up” and as baseball star Jackie Robinson in “42.” He also played Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in last year’s drama, “Marshall.” But, “Black Panther” is by far shaping up to be Boseman’s biggest and perhaps most significant role yet.
“Black Panther” is already poised to make history. Pre-sales for the movie were through the roof and early predictions have “Black Panther” shattering box office records with a weekend haul of nearly $170 million. Black and green is beautiful.
Marvel and Disney studios didn’t want critics to reveal too many details of this amazing story so that viewers will enjoy and appreciate its surprising twists and clever turns. Believe me, you will. I won’t dare spoil those for you. You’ll be so locked in from the opening frame and flashback sequence-- which is a real doozy and features “This is Us” star Sterling K. Brown--to the last word uttered.
“Black Panther” is set in the fictional nation of Wakanda. It’s the most technologically advanced place on the planet. The people there have reaped the benefits of its precious and bountiful commodity; the mineral vibranium. It has magical powers and has been used throughout their land for good and wholesome purposes.
After his father King T' Chaka (John Kani, “Captain America: Civil War”) is assassinated, T’Challa (Boseman) becomes the new ruler of Wakanda.
It’s a power position T’Challa’s not sure he’s ready for. His mother Ramonda, (Angela Bassett, TV’s “9-1-1”), the Queen Mother of Wakanda, assures and encourages her son that this is his time and it’s what his father would have wanted.
Even T’Challa’s princess, teen sister, Shuri (a fabulous Letitia Wright, TV’s “Dr. Who” and “Humans”), a scientific designer of new technology for the country, is thrilled that her brother will lead the nation and is supportive in every way. So is his best friend, confidant and border security leader, W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”).
Although T’Challa rules Wakanda with his intellect and courage, he gets his enormous powers from a heart-shaped herb that is nurtured by Wakanda’s spiritual leader Zuri (Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, TV’s “Empire”).
T’Challa is proud of Wakanda and its accomplishments. Yet, being a ruler comes with a price and T’Challa is soon faced with his biggest challenge yet.
Wakanda’s freedom is threatened when a ruthless, South-African arms dealer and gangster named Ulysses Klaue (a terrific Andy Serkis, “War for the Planet of the Apes”) and a black-ops soldier Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, “Creed”) plan to overthrow T’Challa and get their hands on the vibranium for self-serving purposes.
It’s not going to be easy. Not only does T’Challa have super powers, but a fierce, all-female group of warriors. The (Dora Milaje) are led by highly trained bodyguard, Okoye (Danai Gurira, TV’s “The Walking Dead”).
Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”), proves much more than just T’Challa’s love interest. They all mean business when they are forced to defend their honor.
“Black Panther’s” social, gender and political dynamics add as much to this superhero tale as the colored tapestry that cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Oscar nominee for “Mudbound”) and production designer Hannah Beachler richly captures.
With “Black Panther,” Coogler has flipped the script on the superhero genre and eschews the formulaic clichés and stereotypes. Women aren’t simply showcased as eye candy, but rather powerful, strong, smart, nurturing characters. This is an exceptional movie in every way.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:40 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Take A Peek At This Trailer For "BLACK PANTHER"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.