This cat has nine lines
By Jason Wiese
See that star rating up there? Boy, I cannot even begin to tell you how refreshing it is to give a comic book film a rating that high again. So, once again, Marvel, I thank you for providing those who are cinephiles first and comic book readers second with content that makes us feel proud of our passion for both mediums, while also pleasing the crowd that just wants to have a good time at the movies. Of course, this time, with Black Panther, the first film led by the first black superhero in mainstream American comics history, you had a few special ingredients.
Let’s break this recipe down:
- Chadwick Boseman – the 40-year-old actor (who has experience stepping into the shoes of figures of Black History playing baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 42 and the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, in Get On Up to name just a couple) reprises the role of T’Challa, who debuted in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. After enduring said superhero vs. superhero ordeal, which he intervened into as his Vibranium-clad alter-ego, the Black Panther, following the murder of his father, T’Challa returns to his beautiful, wildly technologically advanced and hidden-from-the-rest-of-the-world African nation of Wakanda to inherit the throne as its king.
Boseman’s electrifying performance is one of a man in unflinching pursuit to make a fitting successor of the crown and uphold the cultural traditions of his proud people. Despite support from many, including his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), former lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and fierce warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira), he faces challenging criticisms, such as a feud with M’Baku (Winston Duke) of the Jabari tribe and doubts from his head of security, W’Kabi (Academy Award-nominee Daniel Kaluuya), whom T’Challa disappoints when he fails to capture Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), a longtime enemy of Wakanda. But T’Challa’s greatest challenge comes from an American-born CIA assassin named Eric Killmonger, played with an unwavering viciousness by Michael B. Jordan, essentially the DiCaprio to the director’s Scorsese… which brings us to the next ingredient –
- Ryan Coogler – being one of the best working filmmakers today, it was a no-brainer that Coogler would be the best choice to bring Black Panther’s story to the screen. Co-writing the script with The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story scribe Joe Robert Cole, Coogler attacks the material in many of the same ways that helped him to achieve a great Rocky sequel with Creed. Like Creed, Black Panther is essentially a story of a man who wants to follow in the footsteps of his father, but in his own ways and not without his aforementioned obstacles. Furthermore, Coogler also brings the same immersive brutality to the film’s beautifully shot fight sequences that made Creed’s boxing scenes unforgettable. It is a truly remarkable achievement for Coogler to have crafted an MCU film with the excitement and emotional power that Black Panther possesses glowingly. Speaking of excitement –
- Kendrick Lamar – I was honestly struggling to write this review to the level that I believe this film deserves. That was until I turned on the soundtrack, which I am currently listening to for the third time today alone. It was a much-needed solution to my problem. The Grammy-winning rap artist, along with a slew of wonderful supporting talents including Anderson .Paak, SZA and The Weeknd, pens an infectious playlist fit for a king. Associating the album with the film is not even necessary to appreciate its brilliance.
Even though it is destined to face a tsunami of competition for the title, Black Panther is the year’s first great blockbuster. The cast is flawless. The visuals are enthralling. The music is dope. It only makes me that much more excited to see Avengers: Infinity War in May because I know I will get to see T’Challa in action again. I will follow this king wherever he leads.