‘Black Pan­ther’ is OUT­STAND­ING!


I’m not a comic book fan so I knew noth­ing of the Black Pan­ther char­ac­ter un­til his ap­pear­ance in the “Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War” movie a cou­ple of years ago. I en­joyed his pres­ence in that movie and looked for­ward to him chop­ping it up with the other su­per­heroes in sub­se­quent Marvel flicks.

When the first trailer for “Black Pan­ther” dropped, like the rest of Black Amer­ica, I nearly lost my mind due to the roughly 45 sec­onds of breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful black­ness in the char­ac­ters, the lo­ca­tions, the wardrobe. The an­tic­i­pa­tion built with each sub­se­quent teaser un­til Tues­day, when I saw this out­stand­ing work of rev­o­lu­tion­ary art bril­liantly woven to­gether by a young film­maker rapidly ce­ment­ing his place in a director’s hall of fame.

Ryan Coogler knows how to make a movie. He demon­strated it with “Fruit­vale Sta­tion,” and “Creed.” Now, with “Black Pan­ther,” he has placed him­self head and shoul­ders above his film­mak­ing co­horts. Michael B. Jor­dan has starred in each of Coogler’s films – and the dy­namic duo el­e­vate their game with each project.

I refuse to spoil your op­por­tu­nity for a full “Black Pan­ther” ex­pe­ri­ence, so here’s a non­spoiler re­view that pro­vides an over­view of the movie’s great­ness and its ef­fect on this re­viewer. T’Challa/Black Pan­ther re­turns to Wakanda to take his place as king af­ter his fa­ther’s death; how­ever, his as­cen­sion is not with­out its chal­lenges. One chal­lenge in par­tic­u­lar emerges un­ex­pect­edly and has rad­i­cal global im­pli­ca­tions rem­i­nis­cent of the real Black Pan­ther Party circa the 1960s.

With other su­per­hero movies, I some­times find my­self try­ing to re­mem­ber who’s fight­ing whom, and why. Black Pan­ther’s plot is so tight and writ­ten so flaw­lessly (by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole) that there was never a ques­tion about what was go­ing on or why it was hap­pen­ing. There was no wasted di­a­logue – it moved the story along cre­atively while also do­ing its job in the char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment depart­ment.

The fic­tional African na­tion of Wakanda is a char­ac­ter it­self. Ac­tor ex­traor­di­naire Chad­wick Bose­man brings his ‘A’ game to his role as T'Challa/Black Pan­ther and Michael B. Jor­dan has bro­ken the mold on play­ing a vil­lain. How­ever, if you feel like I feel, you just might have to re-think your per­cep­tion of what con­sti­tutes a vil­lain.

The women in the movie are strong in ev­ery con­ceiv­able as­pect. Deep melanin never looked so good on the big screen. Lupita Ny­ong'o, Danai Gurira and Leti­tia Wright are smart, charis­matic and fiercely in­de­pen­dent, yet un­con­di­tion­ally loyal to Wakanda. An­gela Bas­sett is per­fectly cast as T’Challa’s mother, bring­ing a de­fi­ant ma­ter­nal in­stinct to the proud, grief-stricken widow.

For­est Whi­taker is his usual su­perb self, em­body­ing a key role and car­ry­ing it off with a wide emo­tional range. Fresh off his Os­carnom­i­nated role in last year’s mega-hit, “Get Out,” Daniel Kalu­uya is a con­flicted war­rior whose af fec­tion for Okoye (Gurira) lit­er­ally brings him to his knees.

“Black Pan­ther” is a more than a movie. Yeah, Wakanda is a fic­tional place, but its pres­ence, “hid­den in plain sight,” its val­ues, beauty, soul and al­le­giance to the an­ces­tors make it a pow­er­ful metaphor for AfricanAmer­i­cans. The vis­ual power - the stel­lar CGI (com­puter-gen­er­ated images) were not too much and cer­tainly not too lit­tle - con­verged with the sub­tle and­not-so-sub­tle racial analo­gies to evoke a vis­ceral re­ac­tion in me so strong that I had to lit­er­ally stand for the last 25 min­utes of the movie to pro­vide the adren­a­line and in­tense feel­ings room to flow.

The movie’s cli­max is in­cred­i­bly emo­tional. Not sim­ply be­cause of what is lost, but also be­cause of the lan­guage used to ex­plain the rea­son the loss was cho­sen.

Go see this movie. Take your chil­dren. I pre­dict it will be­come one of those tire­less clas­sics that finds its way into a col­lege course be­cause its con­tent is rich and ripe for in­tel­lec­tual dis­course. It will cer­tainly be­come a trea­sure in the black com­mu­nity.

The South Florida Times does not have a rat­ing sys­tem. Good thing, be­cause there are not enough stars to quan­tify the ex­cel­lence of “Black Pan­ther.”


Scenes from the movie, "Black Pan­ther," which opens Feb. 16 na­tion­wide.

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