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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Black Panther
Black Panther
Disney // PG-13 // February 16, 2018
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted February 15, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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"Uneasy is the head that holds the crown", indeed. In Captain America: Civil War, we saw the stoic and thoughtful prince T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) donning the generational Black Panther costume to fight against injustice after losing his king father to a terrorist attack. In Black Panther, T'Challah has to undergo a massive responsibility that even the bravest of superheroes might be afraid of: He has to become the king of the secret African nation of Wakanda, the safety of millions of lives in his hands. Understandably afraid of white western colonization that would immediately steal their awesome resources, the previous kings have adopted an isolationist and tribalist attitude, keeping themselves from interfering in world affairs, no matter how much the rest of the world's black population suffered in the meantime.

As T'Challah begins to reconsider this approach, an evil of his own family's making forces him to fast track that decision as he threatens his very existence, and the existence of his beloved land. That disruptor is Erik Kilmonger (Director Ryan Coogler's muse, Michael B. Jordan), who spent his entire life to avenge a horrific wrongdoing perpetrated by T'Challah's father. Apart from his simple vendetta mission, Kilmonger, who grew up in the rough streets of Oakland, is also understandably disgusted by the comfort of the Wakandan citizens while he witnesses his own people's suffering across the globe. However, his plan is not to offer a hand at some form of global reconciliation, but an all out war that will destroy the west with Wakanda's stockpile of vibranium, an alien tech that can create weapons that rivals the strongest deterrents human technology can come up with.

Strongly challenged of his status, T'Challah cannot abide by Kilmonger's plans, but also understands the folly of his ancestral rulers. In order to save his people, he has to come up with his own style of leadership, and might need to make some very tough decisions. After Star Wars: The Last Jedi gloriously destroyed the old myth in order to pave its own way, it's encouraging to see so many smart blockbusters cheering the next generation to ignore the broken parts of tradition in order create their own future. I know that I'm making Black Panther sound like a boring history lesson, but it's always refreshing to see a piece of mega budget franchise entertainment that more than satisfies its base requirements for eye candy and spectacular action set-pieces while also sporting a unique and deep thematic and sociopolitical vision. Anyway, onto the fun stuff:

The action, especially a midpoint chase scene, rivals many of even the best Marvel set pieces when it comes to innovation and pulse-pounding pacing. Wakanda's mix of future utopian sci-fi architecture and traditional African aesthetic creates some of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful production designs and costumes of recent years. Any day that Disney spends not turning Wakanda into a VR experience or at least a wing of Disneyland is a day wasted. With Creed, Ryan Coogler proved that he can bring his own unique style to mainstream filmmaking. He has a lot of fun here as he showcases his take on some of his favorite genre fare. He must be a big fan of the James Bond franchise, as he brings forth the best Bond film since Skyfall, hidden inside a Marvel superhero flick. Black Panther not only has his own Q in the form of his tech genius sister (Letitia Wright), but we also get a smooth casino sequence.

I knew Chadwick Boseman would be a force to reckon with after witnessing him transform into James Brown for the underrated biopic, Get On Up, so his effortless charisma and presence is no surprise here. The cast, made up of some of the best black actors on offer, is solid. That being said, the MVP here is a badass Wakandan general played by Danai Gurira. Black Panther is not a unique masterpiece, since it follows the base Marvel formula a bit too close for comfort, but it's nonetheless a refreshing and exhilarating bit of blockbuster entertainment.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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