Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman: Marshall) returns to his native Wakanda after the death of his father in a terrorist attack. Wakanda’s image as a charming but reclusive third-world nation is an illusion. In reality, a mountain of the powerful metal vibranium has given the nation technological prowess. The Wakandans have kept their secret to avoid the exploitation endured by other resource-rich African nations.
Now younger Wakandans feel a commitment to helping change the world for the better by sharing their secret. T’Challa’s former love, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o: Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and his inventor sister Shuri (Letitia Wright: The Commuter) push for Wakanda to become a global human rights leader. Tribal elders push to maintain the status quo.
T’Challa is torn between the warring factions.
Before he can decide, he must secure his succession. A former black ops spy turned thief, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan: Creed), plans to usurp T’Challa and use Wakanda’s arsenals.
Bold, beautiful and groundbreaking, Black Panther is the Marvel movie we all deserve. Director Ryan Coogler (Creed) gives us gorgeous locales, fascinating characters and a cadre of women warriors.
His first success is the intricate world of Wakanda he crafts. Each of the nation’s five tribes has a distinct look, land and people.
Beyond fashioning the culture of Wakanda, Coogler delights us visually. Each throne room is stunning. Each costume is wrought with small, interesting details. Each technological marvel is designed within the aesthetic he has developed for the nation. Wakanda is one of the most fully realized worlds Marvel has ever had on screen. It’s a wonder to behold.
Best of all is acting. Boseman, who has portrayed T’Challa in other Marvel films, returns with the quiet dignity that made him so fascinating. Unlike many Marvel heroes, he’s not conflicted about his role in the world. He’s ready to lead.
As the antagonist Killmonger, Jordan distinguishes himself as one of Marvel’s best villains. His violent visions of the future have been shaped by the world’s history of oppression, colonialism, racism and violence. It’s hard to dismiss his anger, and Jordan’s easy charm makes us at least begrudgingly admire his brash coup.
The film surrounds T’Challa with powerful, brilliant women. The king is guarded by the General Okoye (Danai Gurira: The Walking Dead) and her Dora Milaje, all-female sentinels who are fierce, no-nonsense warriors. Nakia is a brilliant spy who wanders the globe righting injustices. Shuri creates tech decades beyond anything coming from Stark Industries. It’s heartening to see this trend in big-budget films.
Already a notable film because movies with predominantly black casts are rarely given massive budgets and global releases, Black Panther transcends the hype by bringing us a wonderful cinematic experience. Order your tickets ahead, and buy the 3D upcharge.
Great Marvel Action • PG-13 • 134 mins.
New this Week
When her husband disappears on an expedition into a mysterious anomaly, biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) organizes a search party. Her all-female team of scientists hopes to be the first to return from what the military has named “The Shimmer.”
Inside the Shimmer, flora and fauna are constantly mutating. What does this mean for Lena’s husband — and the world at large as the Shimmer expands?
The second film from visionary director Alex Garland, who took the cinematic world by storm with his debut Ex Machina, Annihilation should be the sort of smart sci-fi that keeps you thinking and talking. The predominately female cast includes Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez.
Expect complex science fiction, great acting and stunning visuals.
Prospects: Bright • R • 120 mins.
Annie and Max (Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman) are in a rut. The formerly vivacious couple is bored of the weekly game night with neighborhood couples. A suggestion to spice it up with role play falls flat — until there’s a real death.
As bodies pile up, Annie and Max must figure out what’s real and what’s fake if they hope to survive the night.
From the directors of Horrible Bosses, Game Night promises the same gonzo slapstick humor: accidental shootings, pratfalls and profane exclamations. This is the type of comedy best enjoyed without thinking too hard about the plot or assigning logic to any action.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 100 mins.