Film Black Panther Ryan Coogler’s Marvel Comics entry dazzles with smartly staged action, magnetic performances, genuine suspense and a bracing sense of novelty By Todd McCarthy With uncanny timing, Marvel has taken its superheroes into a domain they’ve never inhabited before — and is all the better for it. There’s no mistaking you’re still in the Marvel universe here, but Black Panther sweeps you off to a part of it you’ve never seen: a hidden lost world in Africa defined by royal traditions and technological wonders that open up refreshing dramatic, visual and casting possibilities. Getting it right where other studios and franchises — they know who they are — get it wrong, Marvel and Disney have another commercial leviathan, although it’ll be interesting to see how it plays in certain overseas markets where industry traditionalists say black-dominated fare underperforms. Producer Kevin Feige and the Marvel brain trust introduced Black Panther into their superhero mix in 2016’s Civil War: Captain America with the intention of spinning yet another franchise around him. This seems like a natural idea now, but in July 1966, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby birthed the character in Fantastic Four No. 52, he was the first black superhero to appear in American comics. Although director/co-writer Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) sets his framing action in Oakland, California, the film’s heart lies in Africa. In one of the tale’s beguiling inventions, the land of Wakanda keeps the world away by posing as one of the planet’s poorest countries and restricting visitors. In fact, it possesses advanced technology and has a gleaming metropolis that coexists with natural wonders on par with anything in the world. What makes this possible is a mined substance called OPENS Friday, Feb. 16 (Disney) CAST Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright DIRECTOR Ryan Coogler Rated PG-13, 135 minutes vibranium, a source of power akin to nuclear that Wakanda keeps to itself. The novelties of the society are fun to behold, the streets full of life, the inhabitants happy. But this enlightened land remains a monarchy, and, with his father’s death, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) becomes king in a spectacular coronation ceremony. There to support him are his mother, Ramonda (Angela Bassett); sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), a scientist who’s next in line for the throne; chief counsel W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), head of security for a tough border tribe; mentor Zuri (Forest Whitaker), the king’s spiritual leader; and the Dora Milaje, an independent-minded security force comprising shaven-headed women, notably its best fighter Okoye (Danai Gurira) and rebellious Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). Then there’s M’Baku (Winston Duke), who is opposed to T’Challa’s technological beliefs and challenges him to a mano-a-mano slugfest
PANTHER: COURTESY OF MARVEL STUDIOS. JOHNSON: JB LACROIX/WIREIMAGE. NANJIANI:TAYLOR HILL/GETTY IMAGES. DESCHANEL: AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN/GETTY IMAGES. FALLON: NOAM GALAI/WIREIMAGE. Boseman’s Black Panther defends Wakanda from adversaries seeking its most precious natural resource. that takes place in a lagoon located between towering brown rocks and a cliff you don’t want to fall off. Does this sound like your everyday Marvel film so far? It certainly doesn’t look like one. Along with the color of nearly everyone’s skin, there are vistas, costumes and settings that keep the images popping off the screen, even though this Marvel offering is not in 3D. Black Panther also sets itself apart via an ideological divide between two camps within the Wakandan leadership. The royals and traditionalists, including T’Challa, insist that vibranium must remain exclusively in their own possession, as it’s been the secret of their success since time immemorial. A minority believes that this extraordinary substance should be shared with the world, or at least with their struggling African neighbors, in the interest of the common good. It’s a potent political dispute that will presumably continue to inform the series in further episodes. In the meantime, a deliciously nasty bad guy, a white South African gangster named Klaw (Andy Serkis, in a role he introduced three years ago in Avengers: Age of Ultron), is keen to get his hands on some vibranium himself. That leads the story to South Korea for a prolonged sequence heavy on chases and tough-guy action but rather more conventional than the rest of the film. But the most challenging threat to Wakandian stability comes from another mercenary, an imposing African named Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Convinced that vibranium should be available to all people (and that he should profit by dispensing it), this intimidating wannabe usurper challenges the king to a duel in the watery arena — one for which he cannot wear his Black Panther armor. Much intense drama and action follow; there’s a real and sustained sense of jeopardy for the kingdom, and the fighting significantly involves the female warriors, who are very cool indeed. Just as he staged the boxing in Creed with intensity and invention, Coogler handles the more extensive physical faceoffs here with freshness and brio, building to a tensely stirring climax. For such an actionpacked modern film, it’s surprising how little blood figures into this combat epic. A brief return to Oakland at the end brings things full circle, while the usual Marvel post-credits teaser reminds us that its next offering will be Avengers: Infinity War (coming May 4), in which T’Challa/Black Panther also appears. The actors are all seen to very good advantage. Boseman certainly holds his own, but there are quite a few charismatic supporting players here eager to steal every scene they can — and they do, notably the physically imposing Jordan, the radiant Nyong’o and especially Wright, who gives each of her scenes extra punch and humor. THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER 75 THR’S SOCIAL CLIMBERS A ranking of the week’s top actors, comedians and personalities based on social media engagement across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and more This Week Last Week Actors 1 ↑ I 2 I Dwayne Johnson A week after Millie Bobby Brown ended Johnson’s nine-week run at No. 1, he regains the top spot with the week’s most liked Instagram post by an actor: A Jan. 28 video of him playing “The Entertainer” on a floor piano with his feet got 3 million favorites. 2 ↑ I 4 I Kevin Hart 3 ↑ I 8 I Deepika Padukone 4 ↓ I 1 I Millie Bobby Brown 5 ↑ I 7 I Will Smith 6 ↓ I 3 I Dove Cameron 7 ↓ I 6 I Jennifer Lopez 8 ↓ I 5 I Priyanka Chopra 9 ↑ I 11 I Gal Gadot 10 ↓ I 9 I Noah Schnapp 11 ↑ I 13 I Finn Wolfhard 12 ↑ I 16 I Zendaya 13 ↑ I - I Chris Hemsworth 14 ↑ I - I Tom Holland 15 ↓ I 12 I Hugh Jackman 16 ↑ I 18 I Cara Delevingne 17 ↑ I 25 I Zooey Deschanel Deschanel follows her chart debut (No. 25, Jan. 31) by jumping to No. 17 with a 654 percent boost in Facebook shares (mostly reshares of videos, photos and memes she had already posted). She added 413,000 Instagram favorites after showing off her new haircut. 18 ↑ I - I Bella Thorne 19 ↑ I - I Reese Witherspoon 20 ↑ I - I Vanessa Hudgens 21 ↓ I 19 I Ansel Elgort 22 ↑ I 23 I Lily Collins 23 ↓ I 10 I Jack Dylan Grazer 24 ↑ I - I Shay Mitchell 25 ↑ I - I Hailee Steinfeld FEBRUARY 7, 2018 This Week This Week Last Week 10 ↓ I 7 I Bill Maher Last Week Comedians 1 ←→ I 1 I Kevin Hart 2 ←→ I 2 I D.L. Hughley 3 ←→ I 3 I Joe Rogan 4 ↑ I 6 I Colleen Ballinger 5 ↑ I - I Adam Sandler 6 ↑ I - I Martin Lawrence 7 ↓ I 4 I Marlon Wayans 8 ↓ I 5 I Mike Epps 9 ↑ I - I Kumail Nanjiani Nanjiani’s Jan. 29 tweet that art, music, movies and books “have always been political. Keep your ‘Keep your politics out of BLANK’ bs outta my face” garnered him a 16 percent increase in retweets and was the week’s most-engaged-with tweet by a comedian. TV Personalities 1 ↑ I 10 I Jimmy Fallon A 406 percent gain in Facebook post likes allows the Tonight Show host to reach No. 1 on the chart for the first time. One of his top posts was a clip of Fallon, as the character Peter, singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” while heckled by Will Ferrell. 2 ↑ I 6 I Gordon Ramsay 3 ↑ I 5 I Mike Rowe 4 ↑ I 9 I Jake Tapper 5 ↓ I 3 I Mike Huckabee 6 ↓ I 4 I Tamera Mowry 7 ↑ I - I Tyra Banks 8 ↓ I 2 I Joanna Gaines 9 ↓ I 7 I Chris Hayes 10 ↓ I 1 I Chelsea Handler Data Compiled By Source: The week’s most active and talked-about entertainers on leading social networking sites Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for the week ending Jan. 31. Rankings are based on a formula blending weekly additions of fans as well as cumulative weekly reactions and conversations, as tracked by MVP Index.
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