Black Panther (2018)
Move over Star Wars.
A new force is with us.
Make room for Black Panther. Wakanda Wars is here.Those Wars blow a new hole in the universe.
Black Panther offers a galvanic wonder world. It's a fresh vision - based on the past but looking to the future.
"Praise the ancestors" is one of the film's essential phrases.
Shuri (Letitia Wright), Panther's sister, a brilliant researcher and inventor, is a wave of the future.
At one point facing a dying CIA agent (Martin Freeman), Shuri exclaims, "Great. Another broken white boy for us to fix. This is going to be fun." Fun it is. And much more.
Black Panther is an amalgam of different film elements. It's epic action, social awareness, historical perspective, comic book qualities, sly politics, and a plunge into the future. That's a heady combination, and occasionally it gets in the way of itself. But generally, it prevails.
Today it doesn't seem as though any director is going to take the risk of too little action; if they err, it's on the side of too much action. Black Panther might trim some of its battle scenes a bit more. But, generally, they are creative and exciting. And, believe it or not, a car chase has its fresh moments.
Director/writer Ryan Coogler has an active imagination and sense of creativity. He and co-writer Joe Robert Cole veer down several jolting avenues, always in control of their careening passage.
Black Panther is a story of control. How do people control their emotions, and how do they control power?
Hans off Black Panther. It takes a village to produce a Panther. He doesn't go solo. T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who is Black Panther, becomes the King of Wakanda. Some would call it a "shit hole" African country, but of course it's not. It's a nation of strength, honor, and tradition.
Wakanda possess the extraordinary mineral vibranium, which when weaponized will overwhelm any attempts to control it. Vibranium is a symbol for power, its use and potential for terrible abuse.
Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is the cousin of T'Challa. Born and raised in America, he still has the right to challenge for the throne of Wakanda. [In the original character creation (1966), Stan Lee had Erik Killmonger growing up in Harlem. Coogler transported him to Oakland, California, the city of his own birth. Oakland also was where the Black Panther Party was originated.]
Killmonger stakes his claim to the throne of Wakanda. He plans to use vibranium for destruction all over the world. He challenges T'Challa.
Subsequently, Wakanda experiences inner turmoil which threatens the world. The outcome is symbolic.
The cast evokes strength and purpose. Chadwick Boseman exudes quiet power as T'Challa, the Black Panther. Michael B. Jordan captures the steely, seething arrogance of Erik Killmonger, who was victimized in his youth and seeks absolute vengeance.
Andy Serkis cavorts like a swarthy, clunky, laughing hyena as a villainous arms dealer.
The actresses shimmer. Angela Bassett emits cool dignity as the royal mother. Lupita Nyong'o is effective as a smart spy. But the most appealing performance is Letitia Wright who sparkles as the brash, creative sister.
The actresses are important, because in some ways Black Panther can be seen as a significant look into the future.
Many crucial characters at the end are female: a spy, the sister, the royal mother, and a woman general (Danai Gurira).
In some crucial - and perhaps unsettling to some - ways, Black Panther is about approaching matriarchy. In a major scene, men throw down their weapons when faced with armed females. [Be prepared NRA.]
Like the end of the classic western Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), we have images of a coming matriarchy.
The world can change.
Black Panther, evocative and provocative, is a harbinger of that.
As director Coogler said, "Wakanda Forever."