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MOVIE REVIEW: Black Panther raises the bar on superhero movies

Vicky Sparks If there’s anything society has learned in recent years it’s that representation matters. All of us want to see ourselves reflected onscreen.
Erik Killmonger, left, (Michael B. Jordan) squares off against T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in a scene from Black Panther. Photo: Matt Kennedy©Marvel Studios 2018

Vicky Sparks

If there’s anything society has learned in recent years it’s that representation matters. All of us want to see ourselves reflected onscreen.

Wonder Woman’s smashing success proved the representation of women wasn’t just a nice idea but also a smart business decision, earning more than $800 million worldwide.

Black Panther has arrived to make it crystal clear the positive representation of African-Americans on film is also a smart business decision. It’s on track for a $170-million opening weekend.

But Black Panther is more than an exercise in representation. Equal parts modern and historic, it tells a story that is both Shakespearean and Disneyesque, showcasing a black society untouched by colonization and light years ahead of the rest of the world. And it’s FANTASTIC.

The film picks up right after the events of Captain America: Civil War, where Black Panther was introduced (don’t worry if you haven’t seen Captain America, the movie will remind you of what happened) and immediately jumps into the coronation of a new king.

Chadwick Boseman is fantastic as T’Challa/Black Panther the king of Wakanda, Black Panther’s fictional world that runs on a metal called vibranium.

Vibranium is found only in Wakanda and that has allowed it to become the most technologically advanced society on earth. While they get around in flying cars the rest of the world believes they’re a small African nation of farmers.

Shortly after T’Challa takes the throne he is tasked with taking out an old foe, Ulysses Klaue, (played by Andy Serkis) in a battle that leads him to one of the best villains any superhero movie has seen in years – Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger.

To explain his origin would give away too much, so suffice to say Jordan plays Killmonger with such humanity you find yourself unsure of whom to root for.

Helping Black Panther with his missions is a team of badass women from his fierce protective squad, the Dora Milaje. They include the formidable Danai Gurira (best known as Michonne in The Walking Dead), his ex-girlfriend and super spy Nakia (played by Oscar winner Lupita N’yongo), and his scene-stealing tech genius, Q to his Bond, little sister Princess Shuri (played by newcomer Letitia Wright). In short, he’s surrounded by fully formed and essential female characters - a first in a Marvel movie!

It was written and directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) who at the age of 31 is rightfully becoming one of the biggest names in Hollywood.

Cinematographer Rachel Morrison is the first woman to ever be nominated for Best Cinematography in the 90-year history of the Oscars (for Mudbound) and she shows off just how much she deserves that nomination with visual surprises and stunning beauty in Black Panther.

The film is timely, taking on issues of ethnic and gender roles while destroying racial stereotypes and discussing ideas of nationalism with nuance and sensitivity between fight scenes on the edge of waterfalls and car chases through South Korea.

Black Panther does for superhero movies what Get Out did for horror films – it sets a new standard for blending real world issues with popcorn fun - let’s hope every other superhero movie follows suit.

Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia

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