Sunday, February 25, 2018
Black Panther (2018 film)
Based on the comic series by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Black Panther is the story of a king of an isolated yet thriving African country who finds himself dealing with his new role as well as an enemy who wants to claim his right to the throne. Directed by Ryan Coogler and screenplay by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, the film is an exploration of a man trying to protect his country while dealing with some of the drawbacks of his country’s isolationist approach from outsiders as Chadwick Boseman plays the titular role of the hero and the King of Wakanda in T’Challa. Also starring Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman, Leticia Wright, Winston Duke, Andy Serkis, Isaach de Bankole, and Angela Bassett as the Queen Mother of Wakanda in Ramonda. Black Panther is a riveting and exhilarating film from Ryan Coogler.
Following the events in which King T’Challa finds the true killer of his father as well as deal with conflict between Captain America and Iron Man, the new king of Wakanda returns home where he doesn’t just deal with his new role but also the threat of new enemies who challenge T’Challa’s claim to the throne as well as what the country possesses. It’s a film that doesn’t just explore a man dealing with the weight of what he has to do to protect his country and its people but also deal with the sins of the past that his predecessors had made including his own father T’Chaka (John Kani) as it relates to the country’s isolationist persona. The film’s screenplay by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, with un-credited contributions from Donald and Stephen Glover, doesn’t just explore some of the fallacies of being an isolationist country that prefers to keep its resource known as vibranium to itself rather than share it with others in fear they would use the resource for devious reasons.
It’s this sense of isolation that would prove to be futile as the film has a prologue in which the young T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani) confronts a man (Sterling K. Brown) who helped the notorious arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) in obtaining vibranium. That man would have a son named Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) who would later create havoc with Klaue’s help as he has some legitimate reasons for wanting to stake his claim to Wakanda’s throne. For T’Challa, the news about Killmonger as well as his failed attempt to capture Klaue has him turning to his father’s longtime advisor Zuri (Forest Whitaker) about some truths of Killmonger’s identity as well as what happened back in 1992 as it relates to Killmonger’s father. Killmonger’s motivations for wanting to claim his right to the throne definitely has a lot about not just Africa’s role in the world but also the need to rise up against those that had repressed the continent and its people where he sees Wakanda as a country that should lead this revolt. For T’Challa, he understands Killmonger’s reasons but knows that it can go wrong where he finds himself having to deal with Killmonger.
It’s not just Zuri that T’Challa turns to for advice and wisdom but also his mother Ramonda and other tribe elders who express concerns for Killmonger’s claim and Klaue’s black-market dealings. Still, T’Challa has others to count on such as his younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) who is the country’s tech genius, his former lover/spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and Okoye (Danai Gurira) who is the leader of the king’s personal bodyguard regiment known as the Dora Milaje who all understand T’Challa’s struggle to make the right decisions. There are also tribe leaders such as longtime friend W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) who wants the country to thrive yet understands that Killmonger has some legitimate views about Wakanda. Killmonger’s threat to the throne would also force T’Challa to turn to a tribe leader in M’Baku (Winston Duke) whose tribe isn’t part of the council due to ideological disagreements as he would see what Killmonger is trying to do with Wakanda.
Coogler’s direction is sprawling not just in its action set pieces but also for the way he would create a country that is unique in the middle of Africa where it disguises itself as a third-world nation but is really a first-class country that has technology that is far more advanced than the rest of the world. Shot mainly at EUE/Screen Gems studio in Atlanta with a few sequences shot in Busan, South Korea and Oakland, California, the film does play into this idea an African country that never experienced being colonized or endure ideas of racism like other countries in Africa. The country of Wakanda is a character in the film where it has this mixture of being pure in its fields, mountains, and rivers while the cities are filled with these immense technological advances but that are also colorful and with its own identity. It’s a country that Coogler created where it feels like it could be real and it also displays elements of tradition and culture that has a lot of respect of what Africa is and what it could be if they weren’t shackled by colonialism and centuries of horrible atrocities and oppression.
Coogler’s direction also has some stylistic flair in its visuals as well as in some of the action scenes where he would create some tracking crane shots to play into the scope of the action as well as some of the dramatic moments in Wakanda. The usage of wide and medium shots do capture that beauty of Wakanda with a great depth of field as Coogler would see what goes inside of the country as it relates to its mines as well as the council meetings where tribe leaders, tribe elders, and others are treated equally in a shot with T’Challa part of this circle. Especially the women as the Dora Milaje is a task force that takes care of business where Coogler knows how to present them with this air of importance as well as knowing they’re a regiment not to be fucked with. The stakes do become more important in the third act where T’Challa has to turn to those who are loyal to him as well as unexpected allies that include CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) who would see what Wakanda really is as well as why the country has isolated itself leading to this climax between T’Challa and Killmonger. A showdown that isn’t just about Wakanda’s future but also a chance for the former to prove his worth as the country’s true king. Overall, Coogler crafts a gripping yet thrilling film about a king defending his throne and people from a mysterious outsider.
Cinematographer Rachel Morrison does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of colors and lighting cues for many of the exterior settings in South Korea and Wakanda as well as some low-key yet gorgeous looks for some of the interiors including the vibranium mines and Wakandan herbs. Editor Michael P. Shawver and Claudia Castello do excellent work with the editing as it does have elements of style without going too much into fast-cutting editing styles where it allows the audience to see what is going on as well as provide rhythmic cuts for some of the film’s humorous moments. Production designer Hannah Beachler, with set decorator Jay Hart and supervising art director Alan Hook, does incredible work with the look of Wakanda in the buildings as well as the palace hall and Shuri’s lab to showcase a world that is unique as it is a highlight of the film.
Costume designer Ruth E. Carter does amazing work with the costumes from the look of the Black Panther costumes to the colorful robes and uniforms that the characters wear as it is based on a lot of African clothing as it is another of the film’s highlights. Makeup designer Joel Harlow does fantastic work with the some of the makeup that the characters would sport including some scars in the bodies and prosthetics that one of the tribe elders would have. Special effects supervisor Daniel Sudick and visual effects supervisor Geoffrey Baumann do terrific work with the visual effects in the way they present some of the exteriors of Wakanda and its city as well as the vibranium mines and other things including Shuri’s technology as it is another highlight of the film.
Sound designer Steve Boeddeker, along with co-sound editor Benjamin A. Burtt, does superb work with the sound as it help play into some unique sound effects as well as textures in the sound to play into the locations and weapons that are used. The film’s music by Ludwig Goransson is phenomenal for its bombastic mixture of orchestral music with elements of traditional African music in its mixture of string and vocal music as it play into the world that is Africa while music supervisor Dave Jordan would provide a mixture of traditional African music and some hip-hop with original songs by Kendrick Lamar who would help cultivate a soundtrack that features contributions from Vince Staples, SZA, 2 Chainz, Schoolboy Q, Saudi, Khalid, Swae Lee, Yugen Blakrok, Jorja Smith, Future, the Weekend, and several others as it’s a highlight of the film.
The casting by Sarah Finn is tremendous as it feature some notable small roles from John Kani as T’Challa’s father T’Chaka, Atandwa Kani as the young T’Chaka, Denzel Whitaker as the young Zuri, the quartet of Danny Sapani, Connie Chiume, Dorothy Steel, and Isaach de Bankole as tribe elders, Seth Carr as the boy version of Killmonger, Ashton Tyler as the young T’Challa, the obligatory cameo from comic co-creator Stan Lee, Florence Kasumba as Okoye’s right-hand woman Ayo who is second-in-command of the Dora Milaje, and Sterling K. Brown in a small yet pivotal role as a Wakdadan agent who would play a major role into the drama that would occur many years later. Andy Serkis is terrific as Ulysses Klaue as a black-market arms dealer that is trying to get a hold of vibranium to sell as it is a comical yet fun performance from Serkis. Forest Whitaker is superb as Zuri as a royal advisor who was a friend of T’Chaka as he would guide T’Challa about his role as well as carry secrets that he knew would haunt him. Angela Bassett is fantastic as Queen mother Ramonda as T’Challa and Shuri’s mother who would help T’Challa with his role as well as deal with revelations about Killmonger.
Daniel Kaluuya is excellent as W’Kabi as a tribe leader who leads the country’s border defense team that is a friend of T’Challa who finds himself intrigued by what Killmonger is offering while Winston Duke is brilliant as M’Baku as a tribe leader of an isolated mountain clan who has issues with T’Challa but realizes the seriousness of Killmonger’s threats. Martin Freeman is amazing as Everett K. Ross as a CIA agent trying to capture Klaue in South Korea only to be injured by an attack where he’s taken to Wakanda as he learns about the country and helps T’Challa deal with Killmonger. Danai Gurira is incredible as Okoye as the leader of the Dora Milaje special forces unit whose job is to protect the king as she is also a traditionalist of sorts as it relates to Wakanda as she also sees Killmonger as a serious threat to everything she stands for. Letitia Wright is marvelous as Shuri as T’Challa’s teenage sister who is considered to be the smartest person in the world as she creates much of the country’s technology as well as provide gadgets for her brother and is also willing to defend her brother’s throne by any means necessary.
Lupita Nyong’o is remarkable as Nakia as a former lover of T’Challa as a spy for the country who works to liberate people from other countries as she helps T’Challa in his new role as well as the threat of Killmonger whom she sees as a dangerous extreme. Michael B. Jordan is phenomenal as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens as a mercenary who has legitimate claims to the throne of Wakanda as he’s an unconventional villain that has not just political and social motivations for his claim to the throne but also personal as he displays a sense of charisma that makes him a top-tier antagonist that has some compelling arguments about Wakanda’s place in the world. Finally, there’s Chadwick Boseman in a sensational performance as the titular character/King T’Challa of Wakanda as a man who has just become king as he deals with his new role and the new threats that are emerging where it’s a performance that has humor but also a gracefulness and the need to display humility as a man that is trying to create his own legacy but also play a role that carries a lot of weight as it’s a career-defining performance for Boseman.
Black Panther is a tremendous film from Ryan Coogler. Featuring an incredible ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, top-notch art direction, stylish costumes, thrilling visual effects, a killer music score and soundtrack, and themes that are willing to engage audiences about political and social themes around the world. It’s a film that isn’t just an entertaining and riveting superhero film but it offers so much more as it allows audience ideas of what an African country could be but also what it could for the world and the people with a simple message that universal and relevant. In the end, Black Panther is a magnificent film from Ryan Coogler.
Ryan Coogler Films: Fruitvale Station - Creed (2015 film)
Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers (2012 film)
Phase Two: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man
Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Avengers: Infinity War - Ant-Man & the Wasp - Captain Marvel - Avengers: Endgame - (Spider-Man: Far from Home)
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