Superhero sets up franchise in this first film

Superhero sets up franchise in this first film

Wow. Marvelous Marvel Studios has done it again. “Black Panther” broke all kinds of box office records over its first weekend — advance sales, sales per theater and more — with this highly anticipated movie. “Hype” is a dirty word for most movies because they fail to meet the high expectations, but “Black Panther” comes so close to accomplishing this save for some wobbly direction and a little superhero fatigue. And don’t let that take away from a great movie experience.

Much is asked of this first movie. It must introduce the world of Wakanda, its people and way of life, and its ruler, while telling the backstory of the Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa, the newly crowned king of Wakanda, a fictional African country that all but owns the super precious metal, Vibranium, a meteor ore that has infinite properties.

To the outside world, Wakanda is a third world country of goat herders, but hidden in a valley under a cloudbank is its super modern city run on Vibranium. Here T’Challa will rule, but almost immediately the threat of war arrives in a visitor from the past, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who challenges T’Challa for the throne, and a ruthless arms dealer, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis with gold caps and a buzz cut) who is out to steal the precious Vibranium.

Their machinations threaten to expose Wakanda and its vast, secret stash of Vibranium, to the entire world, something that T’Challa is ambivalent about, along with the tribal leaders that trust him. This question, to share the powers of Vibranium with the world for the vast good it can do or to keep it hidden, is a running theme in “Black Panther” and one that has timely appeal. Will isolationism or altruism win?

There is so much to like: the vibrant set and costume design that mirrors African culture. The cast is perfection, and there’s the overwhelming inclusion of powerful female characters. T’Challa may rule as king and the Black Panther, but without the women around him, things might be different, beginning with his mother, the now widowed queen Ramonda (the always wonderful Angela Bassett), a wise woman who offers guidance and support. T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri, played by Leticia Wright, is an cheeky genius who runs the lab that creates new ways to use Vibranium. She also operates as the Q to T’Challa’s James Bond, or the Alfred to his Batman — you get the idea...


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