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Black Panther movie is ‘gripping’

Matt Withers, Arts Editor

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“Black Panther” was making headlines before it even hit the silver screen. Breaking the records for the most presale tickets (for a non-Star Wars) Fandango has ever had, and now that its out, it has had the biggest opening for a movie released in February. With it breaking records left and right the question still remained of whether or not the film is worth seeing.

The majority of the film takes place in Wakanda, a fictional, hidden country in the heart of Africa. Wakanda is the most technologically advanced country on the planet, due to the excessive amounts of Vibranium (the most powerful metal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU).

T’challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) is the titular “Black Panther” king and protector of Wakanda, and the movie focuses on his struggle to live up to the legacy of his father while also trying to move the country forward into the future.

This is where the strengths of the film start to show. The character writing and the performances in “Black Panther” are some of the strongest the MCU has to offer since Iron Man.

Boseman’s T’challa has a quiet confidence and kingly presence throughout the film. He’s hardly ever shouting or screaming, but it’s easy to see him commanding a country. When he is in the suit he is extremely acrobatic and fluid, and it is a sight to behold.

The real stand out performances come from the side characters. Shuri (played by Letitia Wright,) is the smartest character in the MCU as well as the princess of Wakanda. She mainly plays the role of comic relief, but she does it extremely well. Whenever she is on screen she is a delight to see and is obviously having a blast. Wright proves she can do more than just a comedic performance because in the more dramatic scenes she delivers a powerful anger and desperation when things are at their darkest for the royal family.

The other character who really steals the scene whenever she is on screen is Okoye (portrayed by Danai Gurira). Okoye is the leader of the Dora Milaje (Wakanda’s most elite fighting force and intel gathers) and Gurria has an on screen presence like few others. In every fight scene, as much as I loved watching Black Panther, I found myself wondering “man I wish the camera would show what Okoye is doing.”

As fun as every other character is, a film is only as good as its villain, and Micheal B. Jordan’s performance as Killmonger is the best Marvel has ever put to the screen. Killmonger believes he is the hero of his own story; he’s not being evil for the sake of being evil. His goal is other one that many people might find themselves agreeing with but it’s his methods that turn him villainous (minor spoilers ahead).

Killmonger is angry that Wakanda has remained hidden all these years instead of coming to help the poor black communities throughout the world. He is bitter and upset that he had to grow up without a father and having to resort to crime to provide for himself, while the royals of Wakanda reap the benefits of being the most technologically advanced nation in the world. Killmongers ultimate plan is the arm the minorities of the world to kill their oppressors and create a new world order.

While his methods may be evil his message is one that makes everyone think for a minute, many people may find themselves agreeing with Killmonger even to the bitter end. That along with Jordan’s spectacular and sympathetic performance brings to life the best bad guy put to screen in a super hero film. In many ways he wins because he ends up changing T’challa’s mind about everything, making him a better hero in the end.

All of these great performances along with beautiful cinematography is brought the screen by director Ryan Coogler (known for Creed, and Fruitvale Station). Coogler has a special talent for bringing the best out of his performers and its never been more clear than in “Black Panther.” Every action scene is vibrant and focused on what’s important. At 31 years old Coogler is a director you need to be watching out for, because he is going to continue to make incredible groundbreaking films.

As amazing as this film is it’s not perfect. The plot is pretty standard fair if you’ve seen a superhero film before, and this one doesn’t break the mold in that regard. It’s not bad, its just average. The other major flaw in the film is that there are many times where the CGI is painfully bad. The final fight is gripping because of the emotional stakes but it’s basically just like watching a cartoon.

Overall “Black Panther” ends being the best action movie Marvel has put to screen, for its cultural impact, and outstanding character performances that pull you though an average plot. If you haven’t seen “Black Panther” yet or were on the fence, drop what you are doing and sprint to the theater, this is one you won’t want to miss.

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Black Panther movie is ‘gripping’