Crown jewel: A king comes home in Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’

Joshua Lloyd, A&E Editor

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     Newsflash; the “Black Panther” hype is very, very real, and the film itself is an unstoppable beast. If you hear people running around and yelling “Wakanda forever” for the next few months, this is the reason why.

     Let’s get a quick refresher; the Avengers aren’t doing too much avenging in the wake of “Captain America: Civil War.” T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) jets back to the fictional African nation of Wakanda to take up his kingly mantle and ensure that peace remains the status quo within his borders.

     Enter Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis at his anarchic best), who was last seen getting his arm lopped off by James Spader’s metallic menace in “Age of Ultron.” Damn, was that really just three years ago?

     Anyway, Klaue’s doing his thing selling illegal shipments of vibranium to buyers around the globe, and he’s got raging mercenary Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) to watch his back. Klaue just wants to make bank, but Killmonger wants to make changes, and that means parking his ass squarely on the throne of Wakanda.

     Naturally, the King won’t stand for that, and neither will his show-stealing royal court. Steely warrior-general Okoye (Danai Gurira, “The Walking Dead”) and worldly spy Nakia (Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o) join the young monarch in his battle that rages from the streets of Busan to the Wakandan plains.

     The fight scenes, by the way, are on par with those from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” The difference here is that combat only ends in surrender or death.

     Shuri, T’Challa’s genius little sis (Letitia Wright), heads Wakanda’s science division, taking all that precious vibranium and molding it into next-gen weapons, an infectious smile etched on her face the whole time. Wright gives the movie a youthful, beating heart; if you’re a Millennial, you can probably guess what Shuri says when she sees her brother’s ugly mandals.

     The immortal Forest Whitaker is Zuri, tribal shaman and T’Challa’s constant confidant.

     Caught in the middle of the chaos is CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), eyes wide with wonder (and occasional disbelief) as he’s swept up in a deadly feud for Wakanda’s throne.

     You’re in for a surprise from newcomer Winston Duke as M’Baku, leader of the hard-nosed Jabari tribe. In his big-screen debut, he puts on a star-making show, jumping from badass to hilarious with ease. Remember his name, and Wright’s, too.

     This fierce – no, ferocious departure from any Marvel thing that’s come before is what makes “Black Panther” such a thunderbolt. “Black Panther” resides in a movie-verse all its own, far from any Avengers grandiosity, and it’s entrancing on a grand scale. Plus there’s a killer soundtrack featuring The Weeknd, 2 Chainz and should-be Album of the Year winner Kendrick Lamar.

     Enough praise can’t be heaped on Chadwick Boseman. Starring role in the first-ever predominantly-black superhero movie? No sweat. He’s not one to crack under pressure, having already aced previous roles as American icons Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall.

     Boseman’s T’Challa is the epitome of cool, wise beyond his years and armed with wit that cuts just as deep as those vibranium claws.

     “You get to decide what kind of king you are going to be,” Nakia tells T’Challa. Boseman will have you hanging on every word and every choice.

     “Black Panther” doesn’t shy away from the hard-hitting stuff. Champion indie director Ryan Coogler takes it and runs with it. Just listen to what Killmonger says to a white curator at a museum housing African artifacts.

     “How do you think your ancestors got these? Do you think they paid a fair price? Or did they take it, like they took everything else?”

     Racism isn’t the only issue that gets put in bold print. Stick around for a mid-credits scene where T’Challa addresses some U.N. representatives.

     “In times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers,” the warrior-king says. Fools build barriers? Sounds like someone we all know.

     Mix in a smashing assortment of costumes and effects (wait until you get a load of Wakanda’s vibranium-powered city) and you’ve got a living, breathing blockbuster that’s damn near flawless.
It’s no secret that people are hailing “Black Panther” as Marvel Studios’ crowning achievement. Just try to find a blockbuster more timely and soulful than this one. Spoiler alert: you won’t.

     The Black Panther is turning superhero cinema – hell, the whole concept of movie-making – on its head. Long may he reign.

 

Letitia Wright and Forest Whitaker star in Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” The film has its roots in Afrofuturism, a cultural aesthetic that features black people in futuristic settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Panther, the first-ever black superhero, made his debut in “Fantastic Four #52” in July 1966.