‘Black Panther’ Blu-Ray Review: Tale Of African Superhero Is Poignant & Action-Packed
It would be easy to dismiss Black Panther as just another over-the-top superhero flick designed to score more ticket sales than earn strong reviews. Instead, one of the latest fantastical tales in the Marvel Cinematic Universe achieved great success on both counts.
Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) directs and co-writes this action-packed and culturally rich story of one man, his family and friends, and the multi-dimensional land he calls home. The film begins shortly after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, where the character of Black Panther was first introduced. Prince T’Challa has assumed the title of King of the fictional African nation of Wakanda following the death of his father. After a nefarious terrorist named Ulysses Klaue (a delightfully evil Andy Serkis) attacks Wakanda and steals its vast supply of vibranium — a fictional metal that constitutes one of the country’s most precious resources — T’Challa, his family and his friends must fight together to preserve their nation’s security. However, an even more deadly foe aligned with Klaue (Michael B. Jordan) also soon threatens Wakanda’s government, stability and way of life.
Perhaps one of Black Panther’s strongest attributes — aside from the fact that its cast is almost entirely black, a rarity in big-budget Hollywood movies or American films in general — is its beautiful blend of action and fight sequences and geopolitical themes. Top it off with a breathtaking array of visual effects and colorful set designs and costumes to show the many aspects of Wakanda’s culture, and this Marvel Studios flick is a definite hit. Rarely will any typical superhero or science fiction movie provide such a great mixture of these key elements.
The score and soundtrack is also captivating, and includes a mix of traditional-sounding African music with contemporary R&B and hip-hop from the likes of The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar and SZA.
The performances are also amazing, another characteristic that distinguishes Black Panther from other superhero blockbusters. Chadwick Boseman’s performance as the titular King T’Challa and Jordan’s full immersion into the character of the villainous Eric ‘Kilmonger’ Stevens are the most noteworthy. Their high-tech, vibranium-made suits and gadgets (which include a bracelet with magical Kimoyo beads for Black Panther) simply add to the mesmerizing nature of the warriors they portray. Whenever he is not fighting behind the Black Panther suit, Boseman’s T’Challa occasionally reminds one of a young Nelson-Mandela-esque African leader, whose poise, coolness, maturity and wisdom stand out in almost any circumstance.
Both actors would definitely deserve Golden Globe or Oscar nominations in 2019 for lead and supporting roles, respectively. Even the character of Kilmonger draws some sympathy despite the extreme, methodical madness that lies within his character, believe it or not. Add to this the fact that Black Panther is also partly a feminist film, as it boasts powerful female characters like T’Challa’s science/tech genius baby sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), the fearless Okoye, (Danai Gurira) head of the all-female warrior tribe known as the Dora Milaje, and loyal international spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).
Blu-ray bonus features include “From Page to Screen: A Roundtable Discussion,” which delves into the making of the film based on the original character from the Marvel Comic books. Other extras include deleted scenes and a gag reel, “The Warriors Within” — a featurette on the women of Wakanda — and “Wakanda Revealed: Exploring the Technology.” Finally, there is a featurette that shows how Black Panther relates to other Marvel Cinematic Universe films from the past ten years, as well as an exclusive sneak peek at Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man!
There is a reason why Black Panther has resonated with so many African-Americans, and black people across the globe more generally speaking. The film depicts African citizens not as violent criminals but as strong, resilient humans with the same qualities and flaws shared by so many people. (Even if they are in some senses extraordinary characters living in a larger-than-life country and community).
The famous Wakanda salute of crossing arms over one’s chest to form an ‘X’ and the accompanying phrase “Wakanda forever” has become a sensation in America, and for a good reason. That imaginary African nation and its residents has left a mark on the minds and souls of people all over the world. The themes of family, loyalty, betrayal, sacrifice and patriotism are relatable in any time period, country and culture, and Black Panther interweaves them in such a beautiful way that it is truly a difficult tale to ever forget. Wakanda. Forever.
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