MovieMonday: Black Panther

I’m only going to say a few things about this movie because just about everybody has seen it already.

It’s very, very good.  The source material is a comic book series from the 1970s, when comic book creators were trying to make their work more relevant to actual human realities.

Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa, who assumes the kingship (and Black Panther mantle) of Wakanda upon the death of his father.  Wakanda is a remote and unassuming African country that just happens to sit on a big stash of vibranium, the source of its high-tech superiority and BP’s super powers.

During the movie, the new king learns something disturbing about his father and meets a cousin, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who was raised in the US.  Killmonger has set out to usurp the throne and use vibranium for his larger plan to influence world events.

Black Panther must come to terms with his own plans and, of course, must battle to hold onto his throne.  He is honest and careful and measured and true, the sort of superhero people would like their children to imitate.

The movie hits all the right notes with strong female characters, beautiful cinematography, fine acting and a musical score organized by Kendrick Lamar that has been turned into an album or compendium or whatever a collection of music is called these days.

I was interested in the movie because of its director, Ryan Coogler, whose Creed impressed me two years ago.

Disney’s promotional team ginned up genuine excitement for this film in venues from sports events to fashion shows, and the effort has paid off.  What was first estimated to be a very big $150 million opening weekend domestically now is looking more like $225 million.

The Big Question

Why did it take so long for this picture to be made?  Film studios have been releasing superhero movies since 2008, including some with increasingly labored concepts —  “Captain America: Civil War,” “Batman V. Superman,” “Deadpool,” “The Lego Batman Movie,” etc.  The first female superhero film, “Wonder Woman,” only came out last year.

If the concern was that audiences wouldn’t want to see a movie with an almost entirely black cast, that seems silly.

“Lion King,” the theatrical musical based on another Disney property, has an all-black cast (except for the bad guys) and has been playing on Broadway for more than 20 years and in London’s West End for almost as long.

Another Disney affiliate, Pixar Animation, most recently released “Coco,” a story set in Mexico and with Mexican characters and customs.  It has been an international success, selling more tickets in China than in the US.

In 2016, Disney’s “Moana,” a story about native islanders in the South Pacific, also was very popular.

It’s a big world, and people are interested in stories from more than their own little corners. Time for the superhero studios to pull their heads out of distant galaxies and pay attention.

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