The Bock’s Office: ‘Black Panther’ a superb superhero saga
While every entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has billed itself as an event, most have succeeded primarily due to the ongoing above-average quality and audiences that enjoy the sense of continuity. While “Black Panther” has both those traits, it’s also a little something more.
With the passing of his father, King T’Chaka (John Kani), African prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) must take on the mantle of ruler of Wakanda, which presents itself as a third-world nation but hides many secrets.
In fact, the small, isolated country is a bustling technological wonder, advanced well beyond the imaginations of most thanks to its almost limitless deposits of vibranium, a mystical, powerful substance that lends itself to many uses.
One such purpose is as an element in the costume of Black Panther, the protector of Wakanda and the alter ego of its king.
T’Challa is more than ready to step into those duties, though apart from the minor resistance he sees from the other tribes that make up the country, an old enemy presents himself.
South African terrorist Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) has already stolen much from T’Challa’s family, and a heist of Wakandan artifacts is the latest insult.
However, it appears he may not be acting alone, and his associates may prove an even greater threat to the Black Panther.
Boseman proved himself capable with a supporting role in “Captain America: Civil War,” which sets up the action here, but he’s far better as the headliner, not that you’d expect less from the man who’s also played Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall in the past few years.
T’Challa has all the big vision of Tony Stark, the regality of Thor and the down-to-earth charm of Steve Rogers, yet it’s his ability to share the spotlight that may be his greatest asset.
Frankly, it comes largely from surrounding himself with capable women, who mean more than just their relationship to him.
Lupita Nyong’o has his heart and his trust as Nakia, a spy for Wakanda who’s well teamed for most scenes with Danai Gurira — best known as Michonne from “The Walking Dead” — as Okoye, the royal bodyguard and head of the all-female military forces, who needs little more than a good spear to get a foe in submission.
Letitia Wright also offers humor aplenty as the king’s brilliant younger sister, Shuri, a princess who heads up her country’s scientific development almost entirely alone, always updating the already innovative line of technology.
The joke has been circulating online for months, but Bilbo Baggins and Gollum actors Martin Freeman and Serkis truly are the Tolkien white guys in this feature as straightlaced CIA Agent Everett K. Ross and the far more interesting Klaue, boasting a sonic weapon in his prosthetic arm and babbling constantly as he commits his malfeasance, as any good comic book villain should.
Still, it’s Michael B. Jordan who’s the real threat as Klaue’s latest partner in crime, heavily trained ex-American soldier Erik Stevens, who prefers to go by the appropriate alias Killmonger and has a few ties to Wakanda that could cause some problems.
Although I would take a look at those skin tags before you start any other big projects…
Jordan’s pairings with director/co-writer Ryan Coogler have been almost flawless when you look back at “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed,” and neither loses a step in their newest film.
The usual Marvel rhythms are there, as well as a tribal-influenced musical score by Ludwig Göransson and songs by Kendrick Lamar, but the sheer scope of the MCU is off to the side in a movie that very much demands to have its own identity.
Black Panther isn’t the first title to feature a black star — it was Blade that did the heavy lifting getting Marvel off the ground, while Luke Cage has been one of Netflix’s better series — but T’Challa was indeed the first of his race to be a noteworthy superhero more than 50 years ago.
If it were just a faithful comic book adaptation, that’d be enough, but Coogler and his cast craft one of the more realistic Marvel installments, touching on the delicate nature of the geopolitical equilibrium, exploitation of resources and the power of true unity.
“Black Panther” is a film that’s been discussed for many years but released at just the right time. Though it will undoubtedly mean much to those who seek more black representation, it feels like a victory for all of us.
So much for the models that predicted a cool, wet summer for us here in western Colorado — at least I think it’s hot this July. Ranchers are probably relieved that it’s been a good haying season, and after the cool spring, it’s nice to have a “normal” summer, but it is indeed hot.