Black Panther Hits on All Cylinders

The Marvel Universe is stocked with superheroes, and the company has a long term battle plan to roll out their standalone adventures, peppered with periodic ensemble gatherings. “Black Panther” is the long-anticipated launch of a black superhero, and the results are stunningly good.

Ryan Coogler directed and co-wrote the film. His commanding work on “Fruitvale Station” undoubtedly played a huge role in his selection to helm this blockbuster.

The film unfolds in the obscure African nation of Wakanda, which is as obscure as it is technologically advanced. That premise affords the filmmakers are broad canvas on which to sketch their world, and the consequent visuals are magnificent. The country’s main asset is the wonderfully-named substance called Vibranium.

Prince T’Challa has returned home, and is crowned king. Most of his subjects are loyal, but a faction soon tests the new king’s resolve. The battle scenes are filled with clever armaments. One particular scene involves a huge rhino-like beast that plays a pivotal role. Particularly thrilling is a fight between the two lead characters, on a suspended maglev train track.

But mostly it is the Afrofuturist vision that amazes. Building unsaid on the ideas created by musicians like George Clinton and Sun Ra, as well as other black writers, Coogler and his team have created a compelling vision.

The women are all strong characters, rarely deferring to their male counterparts. Often it is the women who inject needed insights at key moments. The action shifts from Wakanda to present day California and London seamlessly.

Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan are dramatic and commanding as the competing leads, and a fine supporting cast includes Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright,  Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya and Angela Bassett.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.