Black Panther (2018)
Marvel’s Black Panther may be my new favorite superhero movie. Writer-director Ryan Coogler, the celebrated filmmaker behind Fruitvale Station and Creed, blends modern sensibility, superhuman magic, and cultural diversity within this stellar action film. Growing from the momentum of T’Challa’s introduction in Captain America: Civil War, the newly crowned king faces tribal rivalries and the introduction of an interloper again threatening the Vibranium supply on which Wakanda stands. With the expected action packed story, Black Panther is the most beautifully constructed of Marvel’s movies.
Chadwick Boseman tore through Civil War in scene stealing splendor. Aside from chasing down his father’s killer, he is greeted in homecoming by instability encroaching in the form of Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), a brazen American mercenary taken aim at centuries of enslavement by powerful societies unwilling to help. Jordan is most comfortable in Coogler’s hands, this being their third exceptional collaboration. His intensity is built into his entire form, bulky muscle scarred with murderous reminders. “I’ve waited my whole life for this. The world’s going to start over. I’MA BURN IT ALL!” He’s dead set on taking his phoenix out of the rubble, but his single-minded pursuit of his goals ignores the certain doom in his actions. The reaction from the powerful party, the wealth and prosperity of Wakanda and King T’Challa, imbued with the powers of the Black Panther, has the option to see that anger and determine their part in the resolution.
Sorry for the vagaries, spoilers are so tempting in talking about it. What I will gladly squeal about is the design for the film. Ruth Carter’s costumes are a splendid mix of color, culture, and functionality. She permits grandeur in the Dora Milaje’s armor, ceremony and splendor in all of Angela Bassett’s queenly apparel, and Boseman’s non-Panther deserve a clothing line. The city of Wakanda and its technological heart are beautiful and functional. You’ve entered a secret city and the design makes you want to book travel. Every piece of the film feels as artistically considered as Coogler’s previous films. Rachel Morrison, current nominee for Mudbound, was vital in capturing the vibrancy. Between a violet spirit realm, waterfall ceremonial spots, or within remotely piloted cars, she solidifies a rapid film.
This movie adds two of the best counterpoints for T’Challa. A general for the Dora Milaje, Danai Gurira (Michonne from The Walking Dead) provides a no nonsense guard with a lively spirit. Fiercely devoted to the Wakandan throne, her look at her own wig speaks enough of her sardonic humor. Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri, a leading technology officer for Wakanda, is full of nonsense and brilliance. Tough and ready to defend as hard as she mocks, her lively younger sister grounds the royal family. Paired with Lupita Nyong’o, the trio are the true heroes of the film. T’Challa is given enough stress for any king, but his sisters in saving the world have risen about their non-Panther status. They are heroes of their own volition. Black Panther is the hero we need right now.