In a departure from the usual Movies on Review format, columnist Dustyn Dubuque invites John Hansen, local comic book expert and owner of Heroes Welcome on Menomonie’s Main Street to join him with his take on Black Panther. First we hear from Dubuque:Wakanda is the sprawling, technological but fictional African nation that T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) calls home. Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa — better known as Black Panther — must fight for his homeland against factions within his own country. Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) was wronged as a child and has come to Wakanda for redemption.
A revenge story is nothing new for the superhero genre, but a successful villains is. Michael B. Jordan commands the screen, from his eccentric hair, to his scars and to his laser-focused demeanor. Director Ryan Coogler has worked with Jordan in both Creed and Fruitvale Station — one of my favorite films of 2013, and has created a chemistry that is on display Black Panther.
It is not only Jordan who commandeers this film, but also the clan of strong and powerful women who have surrounded themselves around T’Challa. Academy Award Winner Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest, one who understands the meaning of placing culture over love first. Letitia Wright is the fun, witty sister of the stoic protagonist.
Finally, Danai Gurira’s Okoye is the head general of Wakanda’s army and quite possibly is the most intense and interesting female character I have seen in the Marvel Universe. Rounding out the fabulous supporting cast is Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya and Andy Serkis.
What Black Panther succeeds at is creating a cast of characters worth remembering without the light-hearted jokes often found in Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok. This film wears its social commentary on its sleeve without wavering from the Marvel movie feel.
A pair of separate one vs. one fight sequences are brutal and create an emotional investment, unlike the typical final fight sequence that feels somewhat out of place for a movie of great emotion.
We get another dark, uninteresting and uncreative finale which feels all too familiar. Overall, though, Black Panther deserves the praise it has received and is one of the better installments of the modern, Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Dubuque’s Grade – B+
In Black Panther, we are introduced to the world of Wakanda, a fictional nation in Africa that has isolated itself from the rest of the Marvel universe. The setting is very fun and unique. It blends primitive visuals with advanced technology.
People fight with spears rather than guns, but their spears are made of vibranium which is unbreakable and allows them to puncture any material. T’Challa’s Black Panther costume and its claws are also made of vibranium which makes him essentially a bullet-proof ninja.
There are a lot of great supporting characters in the film as well. There’s a young girl named Shuri who designs Wakanda’s weapons and gadgets much like Q in James Bond. There’s a really awesome team of warrior women called the Dora Milaje. There’s Martin Freeman as a government agent who is just now discovering and learning about Wakanda. There are many great characters, and everyone who sees this film will have their own favorites.
Even the villains are great, like Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue, a tattooed roughneck arms dealer. The real star of this movie, however, is Michael B. Jordan who plays Erik Killmonger — one of the best villains I’ve seen in any Marvel film. Over the course of the film, you will get to know him and his motivations. Whether you agree with him or not is up to you, but he definitely demonstrates the idea that everyone is the hero of their own story.
Black Panther is very enjoyable, featuring a moderate amount of action and a sprinkle of humor, but mostly it’s a story about interesting new characters that help further flesh out the Marvel Universe.
Hansen’s “grade”: Take the family, take your friends, and see it twice. It’s a good one!