Eppler: Believe the hype on "Black Panther"

Eppler: Believe the hype on "Black Panther"

"Black Panther" took in $192 million on its opening weekend - the largest ever for a non-sequel and a record for a black filmmaker. That huge opening is just another facet reinforcing the significance of this movie as a landmark pop culture artifact. There's a lot to be said about the importance of this film in terms of race and gender representation, and its portrayal of black identity. And there are people more qualified than a 35-year-old white guy to discuss those things. 
    
Aside from what the movie represents, it's also top notch entertainment. While these Disney Marvel movies have settled into a formula that keeps working, "Black Panther" comes along to offer a fresh perspective. 

Chadwick Boseman has built a respectable career playing real people from Jackie Robinson to James Brown and Thorgood Marshall, and he finally gets to create something new - tremendous as T'Challa, the new King of Wakanda - a hidden African nation far more technologically advanced than the rest of the world.  So, not a ****hole.

As King, T'Challa also has the power of the Black Panther, which has been passed down from his father. Michael B. Jordan ("Creed") is now the Marvel Cinematic Universe's best villain as Erik Killmonger, a mercenary who wants T'Challa dead for secret reasons.

"Black Panther" doesn't feel like a typical superhero or comic book movie. It's more like Shakespeare threaded with hip-hop. And like most Shakespeare, this is very much an ensemble piece with a host of wonderful characters - mostly women: Lupita N'yongo as a spy, Danai Gurira as a military general, Angela Bassett as T'Challa's mother and Letitia Wright as T'Challa's whip-smart techie sister - a next level Disney princess.

Ryan Coogler, 31, co-wrote and directs - building a world that feels lived-in, characters that seem know-able, and with a political sensibility that's thoughtful and profound. Coogler's action directing is less sure-handed, though. The final battle goes on too long and with some suspect special effects, but the film is otherwise beautifully shot and accented with a killer hip-hop soundtrack with contributions from Kendrick Lemar, Childish Gambino and others.

This is a movie with a distinct identity with layers and ideas to be studied for years to come. It's revelatory. Believe the hype. 
 

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