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Marvel's BLACK PANTHER (2018) (Read 1394 times)
Mar 10th, 2018 at 3:22pm

L.A. Connection   Offline
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BLACK PANTHER - Setting aside what it represents for the moment, let's just say that Ryan Coogler's BLACK PANTHER is a good solid superhero movie. Just like WONDER WOMAN last year, that should be first and foremost the most important thing to consider.

What sets PANTHER apart from most superhero origin movies is that it is largely content with 'just' being an origin story. Ever since SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE set the template, most first movies in a franchise begin with the background tale in the first half, and then proceed to the title character's first adventure. Save for a brief epilogue (and the now de rigeur Marvel credits sequence bits (two, here)), PANTHER ends with Chadwick Boseman's T'Chala fully earning the right to his moniker. No second act.

For the most part, the strategy works. Writer-Director Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole have concocted an original enough tale (based on the works of Jack Kirby and a cameo-ing Stan Lee, of course) to keep this a backstory-only adventure. Even though there is a bit of sci-fi to spark the story (a meteorite with a magic metal substance called vibranium), this plays out almost like a tribal sword and sandal tale full of magic kingdoms (Wakanda) and god-like leaders. And, of course, there are the usual warring factions. Bringing the legend to the present day involves a seemingly unrelated theft of a Wakandan weapon in a British museum. The robbery is carried off by a cheeky villain named Klaue (Andy Serkis) and Killmonger (Coogler fave Michael B. Jordan). Getting the weapon back involves international intrigue which includes the involvement of an American spy Ross (Martin Freeman). Family secrets are revealed, battles fought including double-crosses before all is settled.

The spins on the usual origin story work for the most part, although there are some points where the pacing sags, and the story-line gets a bit murky. Placing the ancient Wakanda in the context of the modern world gets a bit awkward at times with some cringe-worthy dialogue and even a character flipping the bird. It's not that some of these intrusions of modernism wouldn't intrude on their world, but, it's sometimes an uneasy mix with all the somber respect for past rituals and a certain reverence to mysticism. The acting is solid with stalwarts like Angela Bassett and Forrest Whitaker on hand to add gravitas. The production design and special effects work are solid with some intriguing twists in keeping with the story's more offbeat themes. The music isn't bad, but, one thing the D.C. films have over the Marvel universe are the scores. It's as Marvel purposely doesn't want the soundtracks to compete with their 'vision'.

BLACK PANTHER's success - both critical and commercial - is worth noting. Even more so, because the actual movie earns that respect. And, the sight of the all those warrior kings and, especially, queens is sight to behold on the big screen.
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