IR Film Review: BLACK PANTHER [Marvel Studios/Disney]
The anticipation of “Black Panther” because of its overarching tendencies but also its groundbreaking perceptions as different from most of the Marvel or superhero universe makes it a fusion of many different ideas that transcend race, country as well as politics. This is not an urban film. It is a journey of a King and that is the throughline that sticks through without conforming to happy endings or decisions per se of right and wrong. Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa who after the events of the last Avengers has a weight on his shoulders because of the death of his father but also a mantle to claim. The aspect that Ryan Coogler integrates, as he did in Fruitvale Station and then Creed, is a sense of real world consequence despite a heightened world that Black Panther exists in. Enter Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger who has a identity that balances both fury, consequence and real world issues. It is Jordan’s rage and intention that ups the ante in the movie. Certain sequences like certain massive war sequences sometimes get in the way, as they do with the Avenger movies but it is the smaller scale elements like the challenge scenes, especially with the depth given by Forest Whitaker that give the scenes more weight.
The women in many essences come off both as more powerful, instinctive and at many times with a sense of humor, especially in some of the South Korean scenes which are among the best in the movie. The swagger in those scenes placing some of these characters including T’Challa’s sister Shuri (played by Letitia White) as a technological wiz to give Q a run for his money, have a sense of style and pacing that keeps everything moving. The very few white characters in this movie are played up for laughs and overacting to good effect. One of the ironies is that both characters played by Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis were on paradoxical sides of The Hobbit as Bilbo Baggins and Gollum. Serkis is refreshing to see away from his mo cap aspects but his accents and facial contortions bely what a great actor he is. Another texture that the screenplay brings to bear beyond the underlying motivations of Erik which are relevant and true are the different perceptions of the both the secrecy, the pride and the politics of the different tribes of Wakanda which ultimately like many movies before exists in elements of trust and purpose for a greater good.
By Tim Wassberg