Black Panther (2018): Seeking Justice in a Broken World

       “Black Panther” is easily one of my Top 5 favorite MCU films. This is a film that expands on the lore of the MCU, has great characters with amazing arcs, some of the best action and villains in any Marvel film. It also explores deeper themes of resistance and sovereignty adding up to a movie that is well worth your time.

The film was directed by Ryan Coogler who co-wrote it with Joe Robert Cole and produced by Kevin Feige.

The story involves T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), after “Captain America: Civil War,” as he takes the mantle as King of Wakanda but suddenly finds his world transformed as an enemy from Wakanda’s past upsets the status quo they’ve known for so long. This forces him and his allies to confront the past and what the choices they make will mean for Wakanda’s future.

SPOILERS Ahead

The Pros:

Wakanda – Wakanda is such a cool country. This is a Afro-Futuristic nation with advanced technology, hidden by a cloaking device that intermixes ancient tradition with tech. Wakandans are ruled by the King and a Tribal Council whose upholding of tradition drives the primary conflict in the shaping of Wakanda’s future. Each tribe differs in ideology, whether it is defending the King, the Border or trade. This world is rich and fully realized, each tribe is distinct and I wanted to know more about their histories in the foundation and development of Wakanda.

The Characters – The characters are definitely one of the most enjoyable parts of this great film, with Boseman once again killing it as T’Challa. Whitiker is fantastic as the Tribal Shaman whose history is intertwined with Wakanda’s past sins. The other minor characters, like the tribal leader W’Kabi, also have intriguing performances as well. In many cases it is these characters prideful choices that drive the conflict that T’Challa must untangle. Below, I’m going to explore some of my favorite characters of the film, as it was who they were that drew me into the story the most.

Okoye – Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, is Wakanda’s General and she owns this role. Not only does she one of the major focuses is some breathtaking actions scenes every action scenes, we see how important her role is for her as at one point following tradition has her on the opposite side of some of our heroes. She serves the Crown and Wakanda, and that is a complicated dance when T’Challa is believed dead and the sociopath Killmonger is now King of Wakanda. I can’t wait to see more of her in future films.

Shuri – Shuri is the Princess of Wakanda and T’Challa’s sister. She is one of the most intelligent characters in the MCU, as she is the inventor of the advanced technology of Wakanda, she is very much the Tony Stark of Wakanda.  Like Stark, she doesn’t care about tradition and is far more invested in the relationships around her and the beauty of discovery and invention. She has some great scenes, and like Okoye, she was one of the main reasons to see this film. 

Ulysses Klaue – Andy Serkis has a lot of fun as the weapons merchant who is almost Joker-like in how little he cares about anything. This is a guy who is selfish, and racist, and every reason why Wakanda is isolationist. He is an insane character and his chaotic and manipulative nature leads to some explosive conflict in the first act of the film. It is also great to see Serkis in anything. 

Killmonger – Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger might be one of Marvel’s most complicated villains. This is a boy who grew up homeless in Oakland when T’Challa’s father kills his father, who was connected to the royal family through blood. He is driven by revenge from this moment on, but also by a desire to help the oppressed, driven by all he has lost. Killmonger is also a complete sociopath (his body is covered in self-inflicted scars for every person he has killed), but that doesn’t stop him from being complex. You can see where he is coming from, even if his way of going about it is all wrong.

Isolationism and its Consequences – The main idea explored is isolationism and the consequences of it is the main theme of the movie. T’Challa’s father commits a grave sin to keep Wakanda hidden from the rest of the world and it is up to T’Challa to face the consequences of his father’s sins. As Killmonger reminds T’Challa there are Africans both on the continent and in the world that Wakanda left behind. Wakanda let great evils like slavery, apartheid and countless other atrocities take place, when they could have done something to fight it. The primary conflict within Wakanda is to become an Empire to help oppressed groups (Killmonger’s vision), or stay hidden and protect Wakandan technology from those who would use it for ill (T’Challa’s father’s vision). T’Challa’s arc is finding that balance between perspectives and owning the mistakes of the past…and it is beautifully executed.

Okay:

Final Fight -The final fight is fine but compared to the rest of the film comes off as weak, especially in regards to the relationship between Okoye and W’Kabi. The emotional setup earlier in the film does not add up to the payoff during this fight, and so much more could have been done with some of the locations.

Okoye and W’Kabi – These two are star-crossed lovers who are on opposite sides and leaders of their tribes. I wanted more with both of them as they are both great actors, but we never got to see them in love, it is only ever given to us through exposition. Fully fleshing out their relationship could have given us the perfect film. 

This is a film that had the Marvel problem only in that Act 3 was still a battle, and there were some plot holes that I wish had been expanded upon. Regardless, this is a film that is deserving of all the hype and praise it has been receiving. It really is that good and I can’t wait to see what else they do with T’Challa and the Wakandans in later films. This film has social awareness you don’t always get in action films and at the core it seeks justice in a broken world.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10 One of my favorite films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

If you noticed something different about this review it is because I am now working with an editor! He is friend Brandon Cabusas and you can find him on instagram @brandoncabusas. If you need editing work, you should check him out.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2011) – A Film That Grew My Respect for the Flash

Justice League Flashpoint Paradox

    As far as “The New 52” stories go, I actually enjoyed “The Flashpoint Paradox.” I wouldn’t call it a favorite but the Flash is one of the most likeable characters in a world populated by “New 52” versions of characters, where there is only tragedy and isn’t hope. This one also takes the grittyness to a whole new level with another timeline, that for what it is worth is fun exploring and establishes the strengths of the Nations our heroes represent.

     “The Flashpoint Paradox” was directed by Jay Oliva and written by James Krieg. While being produced by James Tucker and Alan Burnett and based off of the story of the same name written by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert.

     The story involves the Justice League and the Flash fighting off the Flash’s Rogues as it is all a trap set by the Reverse-Flash to force the Flash to make a choice that throws everyone into another timeline where the Justice League no longer exists.

The Pros: The Opening Fight – The opening fight against the Flash’s rogues is awesome. Especially when the Justice League has to disarm the bombs that Reverse-Flash put on them so that they can save the city. This was really well done.

The Justice League Voice Actors – Michael B. Jordan as Cyborg is perfect, the best Batman (Kevin Conroy) is voicing him again!, Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan and Vanessa Marshall as Wonder Woman make a great team.

Atlantis vs. The Amazons – I like how this war as presented as we have the Amazons taking over Britain to have a new home while Atlantis continues to strike with super weapons to wipe them out. Each side clearly has their own strengths.

Alternate Cyborg – Cyborg is trying to form a League to hold off both forces and save humanity. He’s the only really good character in this as everyone else is being used or manipulated.

Alternate Superman – He’s a child who was experimented on and doesn’t have much intelligence or strength but comes through in the end and is able to see the good in people again. His arc, for what it was was handled really well.

Thomas Wayne – Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne went crazy when Bruce was shot as a child. Thomas Wayne kills and is more akin to the Punisher while Martha Wayne became the Joker. You see how haunted he is and he always has a drink in his hand. He is also the first to help the Flash get his powers back when there is even the chance he can bring back the old timeline and in turn his son Bruce. He even writers a letter for Bruce too.

The Flash – The Flash is both the protagonist and antagonist of this as it was prompting from Reverse-Flash that lead him to go back in time to save his mother, which created the timeline where he doesn’t have powers and the world is ending in war. His arc is learning to let go and in doing so realize the truth of his mother’s statement about how each person matters in ways we can’t understand.

Okay: Reverse-Flash – We get he’s a sociopath, but he doesn’t seem to have any motivation beyond that that we are shown. This was a missed opportunity on the part of the writers. He could have been so much more.

The Cons: Not Enough Time Before the Time Change – I wanted more time with Kevin Conroy’s Batman in the main timeline! We never get how he and Barry are friends before the change happens. The new timeline is sudden and causes a bit of a whiplash to the viewer.

Why the War Started – The reasons are never fully explained as to why the war started…it seems that Wonder Woman killed Aquaman’s wife after her and Aquaman had an affair but it is implied the wife struck first…and why are both sides targeting humanity? Humans are innocent in all of this.

This was a film that could have become a favorite if they’d taken more time establish motivations. I didn’t get Reverse-Flash’s motivations or fully understand the reasons for the war as Aquaman was cheating with Wonder Woman, he had his chance to be with her now after his wife tried to kill her. It all came from a twisted sense of honor. There were some things I liked but the plot holes were big enough to bring it down from great and keep it merely at good. If characters we are know are willing to kill civilians and use super weapons…their reasons for doing so need more explanation. I’d still recommend this though, this is a story that shows why the Flash has fans.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10