For a review of “Black Panther,”
Believe the hype: “Black Panther” is easily Marvel’s best film to date. This exhilarating, beautiful and genuinely moving superhero film is firmly rooted in the point of view of director and co- writer Ryan Coogler, a tremendous example of the radical possibilities to be found in Afrofuturism. Coogler builds a thrilling, exciting world, and threads throughout it a story filled with pathos and realworld gravitas.
Although our hero, T’Challa ( Chadwick Boseman), hails from the African powered by the natural resource vibranium country Coogler with — a “storyline through of Black Wakanda— Panther” and that through, a originates technological-wonder is on the streets of Oakland, California. The conflict of between the been inequalities, have and the oppressed. Wakandans, shielded been film the colonized, lies from the world’sexperiences and T’Challa, in those who the enslaved have gulf who who of becomes the to position the decide beginning liberation king Wakanda how of of of he’s black the Wakanda to going film, people aid has in to at throughout also Boseman He protecting may very be the his classily the world country. king, allows while but himself Panther” every to minute by be the upstaged women of “Black nearly of Wakanda. luminous Lupita He’s flanked Nyong’o by the as Nakia, his love a interest, Wakandan as spy well and as the warrior righteous Okoye, and ferocious the stunning, DanaiGurira, who just about walks away with the whole movie. His mother, Ramonda, is played by the inimitable- newcomers spunky Angela Wright sister, Bassett, also as Shuri, T’Challa’s shine: and Letitia and two Winston rival tribe him Duke for leader the as M’Baku, throne. who challenges a
from Electronic Kendrick hip- Lamar hop course beats throughout world, which the melds bold, traditional colorful African aesthetics with modern flair. Coogler brings his audacious, slick style to “Black Panther,” with long tracking shots and clean, crisp action shot by Oscarnominated cinematographer Rachel Morrison. “Black Panther” is an epic, immersive, world- building experience, but it stays grounded in its action, and pitches the stakes and scope at the individual level. The visual thrills are suspenseful because we care about the characters involved. This is a superhero film with a point of view that is fiery, radical and revolutionary — which comes from Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger, a villain and the most fascinating character. With his punky dreads and gold lower canines, Erik oozes cool. But what makes him so riveting is not his style, swag or sex appeal, but his deep well of anger. Jordan is a live- wire onscreen, his rage constantly at a low roiling boil. He simmers like he’s spring- loaded, ready to explode at any moment. Erik’s rage is justified. You feel it in your bones, because Jordan makes it that real. He’s a kid who grew up on tough American streets, without a father, not in Wakanda enjoying a futuristic, royal lifestyle. Hewants to harness that power for black liberation, and although the methods he employs are extreme, you root for his success. Erik is filled with all the rage, grief, fear, resentment and fire that comes from being a minority crushed by a colonizer— an Afrofuturist Nat Turner. T’Challa could never know that pain. His regal pride is what we love about him, but we yearn for Erik’s victory because he wears his chip on his shoulder as a badge of honor, using his pain for strength.
Although it’s only February, “Black Panther” is bound to be one of the best films of 2018, period, no need for the qualifiers “superhero” or “Marvel.” It’s an awesome vision from one of our most exciting young directors, coursing with his DNA— his values, beliefs and perspective branded indelibly upon it.
“Black Panther,” a Marvel Studios release, is rated PG- 13 for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture. Running time: 140 minutes.
It’s almost impossible not to be charmed by the claymation creations of British animation studio Aardman Animations— the creators of “Wallace and Gromit,” “Chicken Run” and “Shaun the Sheep.” While traditional computergenerated animation keeps pushing the technology closer to photorealism, the stopmotion technique of Aardman isn’t going for realism, but expressiveness. It’s incredible what a simple nudge to the clay can convey.
Their latest film, “Early Man,” directed by “Gromit” and “Chicken Run” director Nick Park, is an age- old tale: It starts in the Neo- Pleistocene era, “somewhere near Manchester.” While dinosaurs and cavemen battle over lunch, an asteroid hits the earth, leaving a lava hot sphere that the cavemen kick around, and soon, the beautiful game, football — or soccer, if you will— is born, and immortalized on cave walls.
A few generations later, caveman Dug ( Eddie Redmayne) is living happily with his tribe in the valley, yearning for adventure while he and his pals hunt rabbits. He gets it when the newera rolls into town— the Bronze Age. Say goodbye to the Stone Age, because the might of metal is here, and soon the snooty, French- accented Lord Nooth ( Tom Hiddleston) is banishing the cavemen to the Badlands.
When Dug sneaks into the city, he discovers football and challenges Nooth to a match for his valley back. Nooth accepts, dreaming of the piles of “shnookers” he’ll rake in from fans clamoring to see thematch. That’s when Early Man goes from “Clan of the Cave Bear” to “Bad News Bears” as Dug tries to whip his team of cavemen into football fighting shape, with the help of city- dweller Goona ( Maisie Williams).
The style is all Aardman, their characters sporting pliable foreheads and adorable overbites. The story is light, and it doesn’t go too deep, but it’s effective and rousing, relying on beloved sports movie tropes. It’s the funny little details that make the film as delightful as it is. Like most Aardman films, it is packed to the brim with visual gags and makes great use from the reactions of wordless animal characters. Dug’s wild boar buddy Hognob, voiced by director Park, steals the showwith his little grunts of surprise and plaintive howls. One sequence even has Hognob massaging Lord Nooth in the bath and playing the harp.
It’s those little moments of the surreal that make Aardman films so unique. There are mallards the size of a T- Rex’s, a spider covered in eyes, a “primordial soup” that gets up and walks away. One of the film’s best gags is a message bird who delivers word for word, gesture for gesture messages between Nooth and the Queen that get increasingly hostile.
“Early Man” is a blend of evolutionary humor and a tribute to football all wrapped up in a story that argues for inclusion of all people and an equal distribution of wealth, all in 89 tightlypaced and efficient minutes. And there are so puns, so many puns. Truly, what more could you ask for? Don’t run late for the fun that “Early Man” has to offer.
“Early Man,” a Lionsgate release, is rated Rated PG for rude humor and some action. Running time: 89 minutes.
Aardman Animations star Nick Park, the brilliant mind behind the adventures of “Wallace & Gromit,” tries to outdo the Flintstones in his latest comedy “Early Man.”