Black Panther Review

Introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther returns in his first solo outing. It is also 18th feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite being ten years old and that many films under its belt, Black Panther adds new elements. This will be the first black superhero film under this franchise with a primarily black cast and black director. Monumental on many levels that cannot be understated. But how does the film actually fare?

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Black Panther picks up literally a week after the events of Civil War. T’Challa is set to become the king of his country but that does not come easily. Not only dealing with his own uncertainties as a king but from outside forced. Ulysses Klaue and the mysterious Erik “Killmonger” Stevens stand as serious threats. A question posed in the film is that is a tough for a good man for to be a good king.

This is arguably the MCU’s most political film. There is much discussion on race relations, borders, isolationism, how much nations should help others, the good of the few versus the good of the many. It doesn’t get bogged down in any of this but the film never loses this element. Just because the main character dresses as a cat, there is a very important reason as to why. It also doesn’t present any of these issues as having easy answers.

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Chadwick Boseman returns as T’Challa/Black Panther. He’s always a solid actor but unfortunately he gets lost in the shuffle. This is more due to the nature of his character. The audience does get to see many sides of him such as the stoic king, warrior, big brother, lover and even sometimes trickster. He is the anchor that everything revolves around and will be nice to see where he takes the character in further installments.

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The supporting cast is astounding. Danai Gurira as Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje oozes charisma. She does not play the generic badass. We see many sides of her that was somewhat unexpected. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakai, a spy for Wakanda and former lover of T’Challa brings a grounded element. Since she is much more world travelled than many Wakandans, she brings a different element to the film. Letitia Wright plays Shuri, the younger sister to T’Challa. The brightest mind in the MCU who starts out as support and comic relief but shows how she is much more than that.

Winston Duke as M’Baku was the biggest surprise. Based on the Man-Ape (which of course they don’t acknowledge), he could have been a generic antagonist. Instead he brings different layers to his character despite limited screen time. Forest Whitaker is solid as ever. as Zuri, the spiritual advisor in Wakanda. Daniel Kaluuya also has a small but important and poignant role as T’Challa’s best friend, W’Kabi. Kaluuya shows how great of an actor he is with just simple looks. Angela Bassett doesn’t get a ton of screen time as Queen Ramonda, but she makes the most of it with hints to a layered past. Andy Serkis returns as Klaue and you can tell he is having a blast playing the scene chewing character. Martin Freeman reprises his role as Everett Ross from Civil War and we learn a lot more about the character and his growing relationship with T’Challa.

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The standout is certainly Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger. Bringing out a realism not seen before in an MCU film. A man with justifiable anger but who has let that anger consume him. Whenever he is on the screen, you pay attention to what he says and does. The only knock is that he is introduced early on but disappears a good chunk before reappearing. This is Jordan’s third feature film with Coogler and one can’t help but think that this helped both the character and actor.

Ryan Coogler

This is director Ryan Coogler’s third feature film and he also co-wrote it. Though it is in the MCU, he does bring his own voice to the film. That really has been the standard for the MCU in Phase 3 and it has been the better for it. His first film, Fruitvale Station, was a low budget drama. His second film, Creed, had a higher budget but still kept the drama and great boxing scenes. Black Panther is the culmination as it is a high budget filled but never forgets the character moments even intermixed with the action scenes. Able to squeeze out these great moments that help the film not become too fantastical. It would be a crime if Marvel Studios did not sign Coogler up for a sequel to this.

The music within the film is fantastic. Being set in an African nation, there is of course many types of African music played throughout. One of the standout moments is the coronation scene. Then there is the soundtrack which is filled with hip hop. A less polished movie would not know how to integrate this. So instead of coming off like a bad music video, it worked effortlessly with the film.

The visual effects is where the film gets a little wonky. The introduction to Wakanda is one of the most visually breathtaking scenes in the film. But as the film goes on, the effects get less polished. The final action is the most egregious. A battle between two computer created men in cat suits. It doesn’t damn the film in any sort of major way. But it seems like they could have gone through another pass through render.

Overall, Black Panther is a great entry into the MCU. It explores a new avenue that will presumably help carry the franchise forward. The cast and crew brought their A game to the film and it shows. Nothing seemed phoned in and pride oozes through the screen that is infectious. It is a highly recommended film.

 

SCORE: 9.5/10

 

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Avengers: Infinity War Concept Art

After Phase 3, What’s Next For The MCU?

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It’s well known that after the fourth Avengers movie, things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be different. Not just in universe but also in real life. Many of the stars of the movies will no longer be contractually obligated to appear in the franchise. Who knows what story will affect these characters we have come to know for almost a decade now. Just the one thing for certain is this: change. Change is coming whether we like it or not. President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige has said that he is not even sure if the Marvel Studios films will even be categorized in phases anymore.

Back to Basics

I love the MCU but even I’ll admit that things have become overblown. Almost every movie involves the world at stake. Now with the culmination of the Thanos/Infinity Gauntlet storyline, it would be the perfect time to scale things back. With the recent successes of Logan and Deadpool, it would be foolish for Marvel Studios not to take notice. Those films were done on relatively smaller budgets and told more intimate stories that yielded both critical and financial success. Showing that not all of these movies need to have climaxes with large explosions and full of computer graphics.

More Standalone Films

 The nature of interconnected movies is the biggest draw of the MCU. But you can also see how it can be a double edged sword. This basically makes it that every film more or less to service the films that came before it and after. Just like the comic books that inspired them, not every story is connected with one another. Sometimes these heroes just get into their own adventures without it having to effect a future story and especially another hero’s films.

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The biggest out of place moment in Ant-Man was the scene where he had to steal a certain object. Who did the object belong to? Howard Stark who is currently deceased so it now belongs to Tony Stark. Where did Tony happen to have it stored? In the Avengers’ headquarters. Who just happens to find him and fight him? The Falcon. The scene was fun but it really served no real purpose other than to set up Ant-Man’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War. It has no real effect on the plot.

New Faces Take The Lead

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Robert Downey Jr. has been the face of the MCU since the first Iron Man movie in 2008. His appearances in the franchise make him one of the highest grossing actors in Hollywood. His cohorts such as Chris Evans are not that far behind him. They have effectively become too expensive especially Downey. Actors also want to do other things with their careers other than appear in these superhero movies. So now the with contracts running out after the fourth Avengers movie, it is time to phase out these older heroes in favor of new ones.

It’s no real shock that Marvel Studios started introducing new heroes such as Ant-Man at the end of Phase Two and new heroes such as Black Panther, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange at the beginning of Phase Three. There are still those upcoming such as Captain Marvel played by Brie Larson on the way. So as major and supporting heroes continually get introduced, you can see a cycle forming. Older heroes will be phased out in favor of the new ones who will eventually become the old heroes and so new ones will be introduced. This way giving the audiences something new and not exhausting them of the heroes who came before and building up anticipation.

The Future

One thing for certain about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is change. The change is coming in one way or another. Who knows what shape or form it will take? The MCU is much different now than when it sarted. Imagine how it will be in another five years. That may be scary for some but change is also necessary. I personally cannot wait to see how this film franchise/universe changes.

 

Celebrating Black Superheroes – Black Panther 

King T’Challa of Wakanda is also known as Black Panther. This is a man who wears many different hats. He is one of the smartest men in the world. Superhero. King. I first became familiar with the character sometime in the 90’s when he appeared on the Fantastic Four cartoon (voiced by Keith David). I then really became familiar with him during the early 2000’s and Christopher Priest’s seminal writing stint on the character. Priest chose an interesting route with the character as even though he was the main character, the book was told through another character’s perspective. Black Panther was reimagined as a calculating figure that not even the reader was supposed to know what he was thinking. This carried over into Geoff Johns’ stint writing The Avengers. Black Panther was treated with some unease from other Avengers particularly Iron Man due to the revelation that Panther only joined The Avengers to spy on them. However an attack on American soil from The Red Skull, a super Nazi, Black Panther is one of the few to oppose him. 
These stints showed the many sides of T’Challa. His science skills came to the forefront as he isnine to help develop a vaccine for Red Skull’s attack. How he is one of the greatest fighters in Marvel as the only way to develop a vaccine which was derived from Red Skull’s blood. His somewhat aloof and calculating demeanor proved useful when enemies would attack but it wasn’t appreciated by some of his comrades. But thay gave way to also show an honorable and loyal side to the people he has fought side by side for years. This no doubt stemmed from his Wakandan heritage. The kingdom known for its xenophobia which kept it safe for generations but led to mistrust within the world communities and finally came to a head with the dead of T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka. 

T’Challa is one of the most interesting characters in comics as he is a man pulled in a myriad of directions. Many people have compared him to Batman and while there are similarities, keen intellect and paranoia, that is a disservice to The King of Wakanda. There are few characters where you can say they are the King of one of the most advanced civilizations while also being one of the world’s greatest superheroes. That one moment can be making power plays with world leaders and then the next facing down Galactus. 

The popularity of the character has grown exponentially since the 2000’s. One of the main members of the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon and making his live action debut in Captain America: Civil War. His solo movie is set to debut in February 2018 and the character is expected to play a major part in Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel. The character also has his own solo series in the comics while being part of ensembles such as The Ultimates. 

It is a good time for The King of Wakanda. 

Top 16 Marvel Cinematic Universe Heroes 

To commemorate the 14th feature film and the eighth year of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here are my top 16 heroes: 

1. Captain America 

2. The Falcon 

3. Bucky Barnes

4. The Incredible Hulk 

5. Black Panther 

6. Daredevil 

7. Luke Cage 

8. Jessica Jones

9. Spider-Man 

10. Doctor Strange 

11. Ant-Man / Giant Man

12. Scarlet Witch

13. Thor

14. Hawkeye 

15. Ghost Rider 

16. Vision  

‘Black Panther’ Cast Revealed and It’s Excellent

The main cast of Marvel Studios’ upcoming Black Panther has been revealed. Of course we all knew that Chadwick Boseman would be reprising his role as T’Challa/Black Panther. We also knew that Michael B. Jordan had a role in the movie but it was never officially confirmed and the role was unrevealed. There were rumors about Lupita Nyong’o being cast but that was all rumor. Well it turned out to all be true with the addition of Danai Gurira to round out the four main cast members. Their roles in the movie were also revealed.

Michael B. Jordan will be playing Erik Killmonger. One of Black Panther’s longest lasting foes. Killmonger is traditionally an exile of Wakanda with a serious grudge against T’Challa. The one who abandoned him. 

Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira will be playing Nakai and Okoye, respectively. They are members of the Dora Milaje, which are the high ranking security team of Wakanda. This team is exclusively all women at that. They are important members of Black Panther mythology so it is nice to see Marvel Studios not shying away from this. There was a member shown in Captain America: Civil War but not much attention was given to it.

This will be a very important going forward in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and also superhero movies in general. This will be the first mainstream movie with a primarily non white cast. It is also one of the first mainstream superhero movies to be directed by an African American in Ryan Coogler. It is good to see they are starting with a strong base of critically acclaimed actors. We will see how the rest of the cast expands out. 

Black Panther will be released in theaters on February 16, 2018.

Post Civil War: Captain America

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

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At the end of Captain America: Civil War, Captain America is no more. Steve Rogers threw down his shield after his climatic fight with Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Stark calling Rogers out for defending Bucky Barnes, the man who killed Howard Stark. Howard Stark is the one who designed Cap’s shield and Tony called him out for his supposed hypocrisy. Rogers without hesitation dropped the shield and walked out with his friend. Next seen freeing his comrades who stood by him from their prison. Finally Rogers was last seen in Wakanda, the home of T’Challa aka The Black Panther, and trying to find a way to free Bucky from his brainwashing. So where does Steve Rogers go from here?

He makes it known to Stark in a letter that he will continue to be a hero, just not under jurisdiction. There is precedent within the comics for this. It is more common than not for Steve Rogers to quit being Captain America for a number of reasons. In the seventies, he gave up being Captain America and went by Nomad instead. If someone did not know the storyline, you would probably not know that the hero known as Nomad was Captain America. I can’t see Marvel Studios going down this route as it’s a little too different. However, there was another time where he gave up being Captain America that would probably line up more with what they plan on doing with the character.

In the 80’s, Steve Rogers once again gave up being Captain America. Instead of completely changing his identity, he instead decided to go by “The Captain” and donned a near identical costume to his Captain America one but instead being black and with a few alterations. He also gave up his shield as it is government property and donned a new one made by Tony Stark. Clearly Rogers won’t be getting a new shield made by Tony Stark. However, it now seems T’Challa is protecting Rogers and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that he would be the one to make a new shield for him. Vibranium is the life source of Wakanda and it is what Cap’s shield is made out of. This also may be a stretch but one can see Cap brandishing a black costume in honor of Black Panther.

How long will Steve Rogers continue to not be Captain America? That is yet to determined. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine that he won’t resume being Captain America in at least the second part of Avengers: Infinity War Part 2. That will be the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe through line since the first Iron Man movie. It would be a nice thing to see the original heroes joined together in their original moniker. All that is known about the future of Captain America for sure is that Steve Rogers is not the same man we first saw in Captain America: The First Avenger.