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.

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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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Black Panther Teaser Trailer Reaction

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.

 

‘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 – Black Panther

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SPOILERS AHEAD

After Captain America: Civil War the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a completely different landscape. Going forward it is clear that T’Challa aka Black Panther is being poised as a major player in the future to come. By the end of movie, T’Challa has returned to his home country of Wakanda, now as the king. However he has not returned alone but is instead harboring fugitives James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes aka The Winter Soldier and possibly Steve Rogers aka Captain America. Believing his father was killed by the former HYDRA assassin and hunting him throughout, he learned the truth by the end and wants to make amends for his part in the cycle of revenge that was going on in the movie. Now he is looking for a way to cure Barnes of his mind tampering. Rogers even warns him that if and when word gets out that T’Challa is harboring Barnes then forces will come after him. T’Challa simply says, “They will try.”

This leaves Black Panther in a precarious state with many questions attached to him now. Is he harboring all of the Avengers who were anti registration? The beginning of the movie had a conversation with his father and Black Widow where it was said that he is not much of a politician. He seemed to be in favor of the registration but not exactly the politics behind it. This falls in line with the stance that Steve Rogers had throughout the film. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that he is giving sanctuary to the Avengers who are now considered fugitives. He was only helping Stark because it fell in line with his agenda to capture Bucky. He was very cordial and seemed to have a respect/admiration for Captain America in their first conversation.

What sort of forces will be coming after the new King of Wakanda? In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ulysses Klaue was introduced. The two characters have a very bad history in the comics as Klaw (as he is known in the comics) was the one who actually killed T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father. In the movie Klaue was someone who had a history with the people of Wakanda, even being literally branded a thief because of his theft of a large amount of vibranium. Supplemental materials for the movie revealed that his family lineage has crossed path with T’Challa’s lineage as well. Will this carry over into the Black Panther solo movie? It was due to his Klaue’s theft that brought Wakanda out of hiding and more into the spotlight. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if Klaue felt that this new shakeup would be an ample opportunity to strike. There may be other forces as well as Helmut Zemo who was the main villain of Captain America: Civil War is still out there and was the one who actually killed T’Chaka and T’Challa stopped him from killing himself. There may also be other forces who may come for Bucky as the history of the former assassin is still shrouded in mystery and he may have a lot of enemies or opportunists.

All that can be known for sure is that the future of The King of Wakanda is going to be one filled with strife. Will he be able to handle the pressure that comes with being a king? It is clear that he is not going to be the same king that his father was. There are also the case of his superheroics as he is now intimately involved with the Avengers. Will Black Panther be the one to unite the the fractured Avengers? There are many questions that come with the future of Black Panther. The answers will all certainly be exciting.

Captain America: Civil War Review

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Captain America: Civil War is both a sequel to 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Solider as well as 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film picks up about a year after the end of the latter movie. The film picks up with the current Avengers and a disastrous mission that puts the team under the microscope. Tony Stark is faced with his conscious after his actions in Age of Ultron are called into question. This eventually leads to the Sokovia Accords which requires all heroes to sign under a UN legislation and if not, be considered criminals. Captain America is against it while Iron Man is for it and a schism is formed. Things are further complicated by the return of Captain America’s old friend, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier and an enigmatic figure, Zemo.

First things first, this is a Captain America movie. It is his actions that drive the plot of the movie. Chris Evans shines once again in his role as Steve Rogers/Captain America. It is easy to see where his characters stands as his previous interactions with government have been less than desirable. He is a character who stands firm in his beliefs and when those beliefs conflict with others, he is still willing to listen and give the benefit of a doubt. This drives his effort in helping Bucky who is a wanted man. There are different sides to Cap shown here as though he is usually shown as the altruistic member of the Avengers, he is no saint. There were times where it was easy to see where people’s frustrations with him came from.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man takes his iconic role in a different path. As someone who has never been a fan of the quippy Stark that has become so prevalent, it was interesting to see a Stark who was much more morose. He still had his one liners and quips but there was a pain to the character that was there from his first scene. Guilt is what’s driving Stark now but he is still a Stark who acts first without really thinking about the consequences for later. There were times where I surprised myself by agreeing with Stark. The film provides a good balance between the two points as neither is in the right or the wrong.

Many of the other Avengers and other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters have parts to play, some smaller than others. Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch probably gets the most. It is her actions which kick off the events in the movie. It is a definite improvement over her role in Age of Ultron as we learn what makes Wanda tick and where her future will take her. Scarlet Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow takes a somewhat backseat in this movie compared to her roles previously. Widow is conflicted as she sides with Stark, who she is not a fan of, on the state of registration while opposing Cap, who she has come to respect and care for. Anthony Mackie returns as Sam Wilson/The Falcon who and shows why he is an Avenger. His loyalty to Cap is steadfast and it extends to his fellow Avengers. His subtle competition with Bucky as who is Cap’s best friend brings a levity to the movie.

The other Avengers and MCU heroes play less of a role. Jeremy Renner returns as Clint Barton/Hawkeye and probably gets the short end of the stick. He is not in that many scenes but does make the most of them. He shows why he is the most personable and his everyman qualities play an important part later between a conversation between he and Stark. Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine fares a bit better. He gets a few more scenes but the scenes he does have do shine. There is an especially poignant moment between him and Stark that really conveys a friendship and love that never came across in the Iron Man movies. Ant-Man and Spider-Man are the two who gets the least scenes and could be considered glorified cameos at best. Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man returns from his solo movie and is a welcome addition. His character is just happy to be along for the ride while still hinting at his anti-establishment characteristics. He brings about one of the more standout moments in the movie. Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is in the same boat as Ant-Man. He is a teenage superhero who is happy to be along (and brought along under suspicious circumstances). He brings out the youth in Spider-Man such as his nonstop talking during battle but also showing just how dangerous Spider-Man can be. His character was a delight and it is only a bright future for this iteration of the character.

The two wild cards in the movie are The Winter Soldier and Black Panther. Sebastian Stan returns as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier and is now something of a combination of the friendly Bucky from the first Captain America movie and the cold blooded killer from The Winter Soldier. Stan conveys a man who is at best a man wanting to figure out his past but also a man who is at his worst a dangerous killer. His scenes with Evans shine as you are reminded of the friendship between the two and can understand why Cap is going the distance for him. Chadwick Boseman debuts as T’Challa/Black Panther. He is a new character whose origin is touched upon but you know what this man is all about. He is royalty and carries it through his actions. He is nobility and is serious when he needs to be but there is an affability to him when he needs to be. This is someone who is on par with Captain America when it comes to physicality and it shows every time he is on screen. The future is bright for his character.

When it comes to conflict, it stems from two sources. One of them being Thaddeus Ross aka General “Thunderbolt” Ross who was last seen eight years ago in “The Incredible Hulk”. He is now Secretary of State and is the main person pushing for the registration. Though he claims to be on the side of the Avengers, anyone familiar with the character and his last appearance knows that all may not be so simple with him. There is also Daniel Bruhl who plays Helmut Zemo. Zemo is a mysterious character and the less said about him the better. Zemo is not a showy type of role especially for a villain. At first I thought Zemo wasn’t that effective of a villain but on more thought, Zemo was actually a good villain and one with sympathetic reasons for doing what he does. Bruhl was a perfect actor to cast in this type of role.

The movie finds a great balance between plot, character development and action. The film never gets too bogged down in plot and exposition. It also never suffers from too much action either. There were only a few issues that I found with the plot where I found myself losing track of the characters’ motivations. Zemo’s plot is especially shaky when thinking about it too hard. The action scenes are phenomenal especially the confrontation between the two teams at the airport. This comes in the second act and the final action scene wisely takes a step back and makes it more intimate. This intimate final action scene is a good mix of plot and action and really highlights why this movie shines. The movie never loses track of why these characters are doing what they are doing.

Overall, Captain America: Civil War is a triumph. A movie that on paper with its many characters and heady themes could be easily pegged as destined to fail. Though there are a few bumps on the road, the ride was great and one that I will gladly take again. This movie not only a must see for comic book movie fans or superhero movie fans. This movie is a must see for movie fans.

Score: 10/10

 

Ryan Coogler Is Directing “Black Panther” and It’s A Great Thing

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In 2018, Marvel Studios will release “Black Panther” the studio’s first feature film to feature a non white actor. There have been many rumors as to who might be directing the film. There were talks about Ava DuVernay, director of the critically acclaimed “Selma” directing the film. She eventually pulled out due to what she felt were creative differences. Then there were talks about F. Gary Gray directing the film. Gray was in the running to direct, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” but pulled out so that he could focus on “Straight Outta Compton”. Once that film was released and was a critical and commercial success, his name shot straight to the top of people’s list to direct “Black Panther”. He also made a lot more sense as he was proven to be able to handle big studio projects before and was not new to an action movie. Eventually he was taken off of the list once he decided to direct the next entry in the “Fast & Furious” franchise.

It was clear that Marvel Studios was looking for a black director to helm this film. The studio was coming under much criticism for its lack of diversity, both in front of the camera and behind it as well. Many people would call foul for the studio hiring a white director for the film. Finally in late 2015, the movie “Creed” was released. The film was critically and commercially acclaimed. The director of the film, Ryan Coogler, quickly shot up on the list of choices to direct the “Black Panther” feature film.

Coogler has only two major feature films under his belt. The small film, “Fruitvale Station” based on the real life story of Oscar Grant and chronicles his final day before his untimely death. The film was critically acclaimed and earned a great deal of money considering it’s very small budget. His next film was, “Creed”, which is the latest installment in the “Rocky” movie franchise. “Creed” is a unique film as it is a something of a spin-off and sequel to the movies in the franchise and something of a remake to the very first “Rocky” movie.  The film was a rousing success and in January of 2016, Marvel Studios officially announced Coogler as the director of their “Black Panther” feature film.

This is a triumph on many different sorts. This is not simply a diversity hire just to have a diversity hire. Coogler has proven that he is a talent. Both of his films have been introspective and character oriented, which helps leads to its acclaim as they are not shallow films. Part of the success of “Creed” was not only did it introduce a new character in the “Rocky” franchise but also showed a new side to the character of Rocky himself, which has led Sylver Stallone being nominated for numerous awards for his performance in the film. Coogler jumping into the franchise also showed that he can work within a studio and have numerous eyes on him, yet still be able to do his own thing. He has also shown that he can go from a tiny budget to a mid sized budget and his next film will be a large budget film and is a natural growth. Both films also feature predominantly non white casts, which is something that is essential considering “Black Panther” is the prince/king of an African nation.

Marvel Studios certainly scored with snagging Ryan Coogler to direct “Black Panther”. He is a director that could have chosen any project to do next, including a sequel to “Creed”, but instead chose to direct this film. No one knows how the film will turn out. However, with talent such as Coogler at the helm, one can expect an interesting take on Marvel’s first film featuring a person of color. February 16, 2018 is when “Black Panther” will be released into theaters and one expects great things from the Ryan Coogler directed film.