Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Movie Review: Black Panther

This great new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe manages to distinguish itself from other superhero films with a fresh batch of characters and a memorable villain. In a brief prologue, the history of Wakanda is explained and Prince N'Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) is murdered by his brother, the king of Wakanda. In the present day, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home with Okoye (Danai Guira) after the death of the king of Wakanda in a previous film. First, they stop to pick up Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), T'Challa's ex, and a spy for the hidden society and beat up some sex traffickers. T'Challa is greeted by his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and his younger sister Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright), who makes fun of him for freezing and updates his technology. Meanwhile, in London, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) steals a hidden Wakanda artifact with the help of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) showing their brutality and willingness to murder in cold blood.

To ascend to the throne, T'Challa must drink a special potion and fight anyone who challenges his rule. Member of several tribes including Nakia and W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) decline to fight T'Challa but M'Baku (Winston Duke) of the mountainous Jabari tribe does challenge him. They fight and T'Challa forces him to yield. He then eats a heart-shaped fruit which restores his powers and allows him to travel to the afterlife where he talks with his father about the burden he is inheriting. He spends some leisure time with Nakia trying to convince her to stay in Wakanda and looking at the giant rhinos raised by W'Kabi when Okoye calls him back to the council. Klaue has resurfaced in South Korea to sell the Wakanda artifact and Black Panther must stop him. Shuri, with great comedic wit, suits him up with a new necklace suit and even more advanced technology.

In Busan, Nakia gains them entrance to a secret casino where Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), a CIA agent, plans to buy the artifact. A fight breaks out when Okoye is spotted by Klaue's entourage and the mercenary flees. In a spectacular car chase, T'Challa flips around in his advanced Black Panther suit eventually catching Klaue. They bring him to a secret CIA hideout where Ross interrogates him learning that Wakanda has more reserves of the powerful metal Vibranium. Killmonger and his crew break Klaue out of the cell, shoot Black Panther with a grenade to escape, and injure Ross with a bullet. T'Challa has to take Ross back to Wakanda so that Shuri can save his life. Killmonger kills Klaue and enacts his plan to return to Wakanda.

T'Challa confronts Zuri (Forest Whitaker) who was there when his uncle was murdered by his father. Zuri reveals the truth of Killmonger's origins just as Erik arrives in Wakanda with a gift, Klaue's dead body. W'Kabi sides with Killmonger who challenges T'Challa for the throne. They fight in traditional combat and Killmonger kicks T"Challa into the river below. Nakia, Shuri, and Ramonda escape to the Jabari where they ask M'Baku to take the throne but he reveals that T'Challa was discovered by a fisherman in the river. They feed him the last heart-shaped fruit and he confronts his father in the afterlife before deciding that Wakanda will no longer stay in the shadows. Killmonger plans to spread the Vibranium technology across the globe and empower the Wakandan empire. An epic battle ensues between the tribes of the Wakandans including armored rhinos and all sorts of amazing technological weapons. Black Panther fights Killmonger in the mines eventually stabbing him. T'Challa returns to power ready to bring Wakanda out of hiding.

Black Panther may be the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer which has been increasingly improving in this third phase. Chadwick Boseman is fantastic as the leader of Wakanda and the super cool Black Panther with easily the coolest costume. He has great chemistry with Lupita Nyong'o while she avoids being a damsel in distress. Danai Guira finally moves beyond her great role on television proving she can steal scenes on the big screen. Letitia Wright was already a rising star but now she will skyrocket as the comedic relief and the genius of Wakanda. Michael B. Jordan plays the best villain in the universe possibly eclipsing the biggest bad guy in a few months. Veterans like Serkis, Bassett, and Whitaker flesh out the world as Ryan Coogler goes above and beyond in his first superhero feature. Black Panther can take the lead of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with booming box offices and a character that lives up to the hype. 

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