Hail to the King | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Hail to the King

"Black Panther" throws up the fist

I can understand the argument that there are too many superhero movies. At around a dozen a year, comic book movies are as ubiquitous to modern cinema as westerns were to the 1940s. Some are garbage ("Batman v. Superman" and "Suicide Squad" come to mind), but every year we get at least one new classic such as "The Winter Soldier" or "Logan."

What I don't quite understand is all the shade thrown at Marvel. Yes, the film studio releases two to three interconnected movies a year, with the name on four or five others. That's a lot of comic book action and, eventually, the bubble will burst with massive box office fatigue.

Even with all the elitists heralding the comic book movie as the death knell of cinema, the thing true fans of motion pictures are forgetting is that there has been nothing in history attempted like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. By the time the MCU reaches its crescendo (in 2020), there will be between 20 and 30 movies that, when watched in chronological order, tell one multi-layered and exciting story.

"Black Panther" is the 18th film in the inter-connected MCU, feeling like the studio has once again reinvented what the superhero genre can be, down to its basic fundamentals. The complainers think all the movies are the same, when in fact the filmmakers are inserting the comic book formula into different genres with each new entry. "Winter Soldier" is a paranoid conspiracy thriller, "Thor: Ragnarok" is a cosmic buddy comedy and "Iron Man 3" is a post-modern take on heroism.

To take it one step further, "Black Panther" doesn't even feel like a superhero movie with some drama thrown in, but instead walks the line of a family drama with a few action sequences. It's a mature, intense and deeply political film, also about the living embodiment of a panther god trying to protect an African kingdom that's so technically advanced it almost appears alien.

The film is also the MCU's first minority-led film. Next year will see its first ("Captain Marvel") led by a woman. Yes, it took far too long to bring much-needed diversity front and center, but now that "Black Panther" has made over $700 million in a single week, I'd say lesson learned.

Chadwick Boseman reprises the role of T'Challa, the Black Panther and King of Wakanda from "Captain America: Civil War," still managing to combine nobility and swag—much harder than it looks. His adversary is Erik "Killmonger" Stevens, a young man who holds a legitimate grudge against the Wakandan people and has a strong claim for the throne.

Centuries earlier, a meteorite brought Wakanda a precious metal called Vibranium, the same thing Captain America's shield is made from. Wakanda has figured out a way to use Vibranium for every possible need: technology, medicine, transportation and a powerful cloaking device. The outside world thinks Wakanda is a cash-starved Third World nation, but in reality, it's an isolationist society bent on hiding its technological advancements from the outside world.

Killmonger wants the world to know of Wakanda's power. He wants to arm minorities all across the world in order to take control of society and be the leaders of the entire planet. Killmonger is easily the best villain Marvel has created to date, and Michael B. Jordan once again proves he should be the biggest movie star on the planet. Killmonger's reasons behind everything he does are legit, even when he goes about achieving his ideals the wrong way. There's no question he's a villain—just a very sympathetic one.

Director Ryan Coogler had to make this movie. If a white director had tried to make "Black Panther," it would not only have felt like cultural appropriation, but all of the Afro-futurist design and texture would have felt like something akin to blackface.

"Black Panther" will be celebrated as a modern classic. The boundaries the film has broken will stay broken, changing what African-American actors and filmmakers can achieve in Hollywood. If that's not heroic, I don't know what is.

Black Panther

Dir. Ryan Coogler

Grade: A-

Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Sisters Movie House, Redmond Cinema

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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