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Black Panther Review

Black Panther Review

"Black Panther" is a Cut Above

Ryan Coogler is someone who makes going to the movies thrilling. The latest Marvel outing, "Black Panther," is only the young director's third feature film; but with each project, Coogler establishes himself as a fresh and exciting filmmaker who makes every frame of his films feel dazzling alive. "Fruitvale Station" put him on the map, "Creed" established his talents, and "Black Panther" will make him a household name.

We briefly met Black Panther in "Captain America: Civil War," but in his first solo outing, we meet him as Prince T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman, "Marshall"), who has to return to his home country of Wakanda to claim the throne after his father is killed in a terrorist attack. T'Challa brings a great deal of guilt and grief to his role as king but loves his country and is eager to do right by them. Though he might not have been ready to be king, especially under these circumstances, he does not take his new role lightly.

But this is a Marvel film, so T'Challa's ascension to the throne is met with its detractors: notably, an assassin nicknamed Killmonger (Michel B. Jordan). He partners with arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi") to steal vibranium - a rare and highly-coveted metal - from Wakanda to create powerful weapons. Killmonger, a relatively well-developed villain as far as these movies go, has his own nefarious agenda, which poses the central challenge in "Black Panther."   

There is a great deal more going on throughout the film but being immersed in this beautiful world is the film's greatest pleasure. "Black Panther" features a roster of great supporting players: Angela Basset (American Horror Story) as T'Challa's mother, Lupita Nyong'o ("12 Years a Slave") as a spy with a romantic past with T'Challa, and Forest Whitaker ("Southpaw") as T'Challa's uncle. There's also "Get Out" Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), Danai Gurira (fan favorite Michonne on The Walking Dead) and Martin Freeman (Sherlock). The supporting cast all get their time to shine and no one solely serves the purpose to be in the background. Boseman is great and charismatic as T'Challa, but he isn't always the main focus of the movie. Coogler wisely - and to great effect - gives depth to each character.

If you break down the narrative of "Black Panther," it's not unlike any of the movies that came before it. What Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole do so well with the familiar story is build a world and present conflict that feels deeply personal to these characters, and also grand in the scheme of a Marvel movie. Their movie finds a balance between the two, which helps "Black Panther" rise just above being only another Marvel film. Also, to the movie's benefit, it introduces us to the titular character without feeling bogged down in the trappings of a superhero origin story.

A handful of the Marvel movies have been quite good but "Black Panther" is the first one that feels like a passion project; it can be felt in just about every moment of the film. While the movie is world-building and setting up Black Panther for inevitable sequels and appearances in other movies, it doesn't feel like a mere cog in the machine. It's the movie Coogler was meant to make.

The excitement for the film has been palpable and it delivers. It's a rare time you'll leave one of these movies and be eager to return to its world again. That alone is a great achievement.

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