“Black Panther,” the latest film from Marvel Studios, became a worldwide blockbuster in less than a week, shooting beyond the $500 million mark in just six days of the release Thursday, and from my point of view, it’s been money well spent by the movie-going audience.
“Black Panther” is an amazingly entertaining film that superbly translates the first mainstream black comic-book super hero from the page to the screen.
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Director Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station” and “Creed”) captures the character and his rich world in all its glory, mixing in an anti-nationalistic message that seems aimed straight at Washington D.C.
Introduced to the screen in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has not only inherited the throne of his homeland Wakanda after the assignation of the father but also taken on the mantle of the Black Panther, the protector of his clandestine civilization that is the most technologically advanced nation in the world but remains disguised as a third-world nation for its protection.
The wonders of Wakanda are a site to behold thanks to the nation’s rich supply of Vibranium, a metal with qualities beyond the realm of imagination that literally fuels the nation and aides in the development of technology makes even the United States look backwards in comparison.
A Vibranium-infused mystical flower is what gives the Black Panther his enhanced strength, dexterity, agility, and vitality. T’Challa and his ancestors have used those powers to protect the secrets of Wakanda for generations.
The Wakandan way of life is nationalistic and isolationist, but their dreamland is threatened by a grave mistake made by T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka (John Kani), and the ramifications threaten to tear the nation apart from within when Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) slips into the country to challenge T’Challa’s sovereignty.
Coogler, who not only directed but also wrote the screen play along with Joe Robert Cole, infuses the movie with the international excitement of a James Bond film, the animalistic draw of the old Tarzan movies, and the heart of “The Lion King,” that gives the movie a comfortable sense of familiarity, but the writing team also imbues the film with a freshness that makes the concoction work like a charm.
Rachel Morrison’s deft eye as cinematographer keeps the film visually interesting throughout, capturing the characters at their best and worst.
The film’s strong design elements from the set decorations to the colorful and expressive costumes to the tribal yet modern soundtrack by Ludwig Goransson fit together nearly flawlessly for a wonderful cinematic experience.
Turner Classic Movies is toward the end of its “31 Days of Oscars” celebration in which it airs only films that won at least one Oscar in some category. Sunday at midnight, TCM is airing the movie that won the first Best Picture Oscar back in 1928, director William Wellman’s romantic action movie “Wings.”
Two things standout about the 1927 production today. First, it’s a silent movie, the only fully silent film to win a Best Picture Oscar. Second, is its aviation scenes depicting World War I dogfights. Wellman, a WWI aviator himself, delivered stunning flight sequences in the movie which were the gold standard in Hollywood until the 1970s. Though special effects were used, much of what’s screen is actual footage of dueling planes, just without real ammunition.
The movie is a weepy melodrama at its core, featuring a love triangle between two pilots Jack Powell (Charles “Buddy” Rogers) and David Armstrong (Richard Arlen) from the same hometown, but there is also plenty of action, too. Arlen, also a WWI veteran, did his own flying, while Powell, who learned to fly in pre-production, did some of his.
Jack and David are rivals for the affections of Sylvia Lewis (Jobyna Ralston); however, the girl next door Mary Preston (the top-billed Clara Bow) is blindly in love with Jack, although he’s completely oblivious to her affections. Preston also joins the war effort as an ambulance drive, which of course leads to them running in to each other in Europe.
Though they start off as rivals Jack and David end up becoming great friends, but as with all war stories, the movie is fraught with tragedy that I won’t give away.
The movie also features a very young Gary Cooper in a small but key role in his first on-screen appearance as a fellow flyer with with Jack and David.
As with all silent and older films, modern audience will have to make allowances for the style and tone of the movie, but the flight sequences make the film worth watching. Those scenes are more realistic than most of we we see on the screen with today’s films because most of it actually is real.