Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were real innovators when it came to comic books. The Black Panther showed up for the first time in 1966 in an issue of the Fantastic Four, well before DC or other comic book lines were even considering risking such a character. I remember— I bought that issue of FF. Now of course we have this whole ever increasing line of movies from Marvel, with major actors lining up to play parts. Finally, the technology has caught up with the sheer imagination and creativity of Lee and Kirby over 50 years ago, so the depiction on the screen matches or exceeds the images in the comic books.
This is yet another origins story, like the one last year for Wonder Woman or before that for Dr. Strange. This one clocks in at a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which BTW exceeds the ratings of any of the Oscar nominated films, not to mention previous Marvel efforts. And it is indeed a tale well told. I need to say for those who get fidgety that this movie is two hours and fifteen minutes long, which is indeed long for a comic book movie. But this story needed to unfold at its own pace. It focuses on T’challa aka the Black Panther played convincingly by Chadwick Boseman, who clearly, like Michael B. Jordan who plays his cousin Erik has been really hitting the gym lately. Those boys are ripped. In addition we get Andy Serkis as the bad guy Claw, Martin Freeman as the good guy FBI agent Everett Ross, Angela Bassett as the queen mother, Forest Whitaker as Zuri the priest, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia the love interest of the Panther, and I could go on and on. It’s a great cast, and somehow, Martin Freeman convinces us he really can speak American and act like one.
The story line, as described on RT is as follows: “”Black Panther” follows T’Challa who, after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King. However, when an old enemy reappears on the radar, T’Challa’s mettle as King and Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk.” T’challa becomes king, but a decision must be made— will Wakanda share its technological secrets with the world and help solve world problems, or will it remain an isolated largely unknown African nation, cloaked in secrecy, and thought to be primitive? The story involves the pleasant fiction of a technologically advanced African society that far outstrips anything else on the planet, but with all its technology, it is also a macho warrior culture, with ritual duels to solve issues like succession and the like.
Visually, this movie spares no expense and is spectacular, on a scale for instance of the Avatar movie. It is worth seeing with special glasses on, but it’s good without them too. The story, written by Joe Cole and Ryan Coogler who also directed the film, is a good one, and the characters are not one dimensional. We see the fears and foibles as well as the skills and triumphs of T’challa. Unlike some Marvel films, there is more of a balance between fighting and other story lines, thank goodness. One gets weary of the endless spitting contests and fights. Like all these other Marvel films, Stan Lee himself has a cameo, this time as a gambler at a craps table, and we have the postlude trailer, indicating next steps in the story line.
Amongst the previews to this film were good trailers for Solo, the next Star Wars prequel film, and The Ant and the Wasp, which looks like great fun again, for in the summer. Stay tuned, but by all means go see the Black Panther, and see why so many folk, black and white cheered this film on its first day out. Finally, a minority as a comic superhero on the big screen in a big and bold way— it’s way overdue.