stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
The hero we've been waiting for
space
Ryan Coogler's Black Panther fervently counters the obligations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with innovation and diversity
space
By BARRY HERTZ
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Friday, February 16, 2018 – Page A17

Black Panther CLASSIFICATION PG; 134 MINUTES Directed by Ryan Coogler Written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole Starring Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright and Michael B. Jordan 3

Early in Ryan Coogler's half-revolutionary, half-conventional superhero epic Black Panther, the title character returns to his fictional African homeland of Wakanda aboard a futuristic aircraft. As the plane - impressive in its aesthetic conception but lacking in its CGI actualization - prepares to enter the country's airspace, it gently pierces layer after layer of holographic illusion.

Wakanda, you see, is a high-tech nation hidden in plain sight from the rest of the globe, the stereotypical Third World image of the African continent - cattle fields, towering mountains, lush rain forests - a wink-nudge mask for the ultramodern country that thrives underneath.

"This never gets old," the cat-suited hero (Chadwick Boseman) whispers as Wakanda's skyscrapers and gravity-defying trains come into view.

Except, it does get old: the use and abuse of weak VFX, the McGuffin-driven narrative, the climactic duels that preguarantee the victor, the set pieces that echo a thousand other whiz-bang battles that came before. Eighteen films in, Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has become a ruthlessly efficient machine expert at pumping out mass-market adventures for the juvenile and the juvenile at heart.

Yet, to the infinite credit of the director and his team - notably amassed from outside Marvel's assembly line, including such regular Coogler collaborators as cinematographer Rachel Morrison, composer Ludwig Goransson and production designer Hannah Beachler - Black Panther fights constantly and bitterly against the familiar constraints of Disney's superhero industrial complex. At every turn, the expectations of the genre, the bland sameness that breeds cinematic comfort for the millions who line up to fill Marvel's coffers, are met by the director with resistance and creative intensity.

So yeah, we all know that Black Panther, a.k.a. Prince T'Challa, is going to triumph over adversity in his bid to bring harmony to the kingdom of Wakanda, that there will be the obligatory action sequences where actual danger is a distant possibility for both hero and bystander, and that the plot will pivot on a mysterious object of unknown origin ("Vibranium," in this case - don't worry if it sounds unfamiliar; the film's characters will mention it at least three-dozen times over the course of the movie). What we don't expect is for Black Panther to so fervently counter obligation with innovation, homogeneity with diversity.

Coogler's more radical approach to the MCU starts behind the scenes - Morrison shoots the corners of Wakanda with as much intensity and pure fascination as she did Oakland, Calif., in Coogler's feature debut, Fruitvale Station; Ruth E. Carter's eye-popping costumes deserve to be toured around the world now and forever - and reaches a thrilling high with the performers he elevates on screen.

Make no mistake, this cast is stacked as high as a Wakandan office tower: the stoic and charming Boseman, sure, but Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya, Lupita Nyong'o, Sterling K. Brown and Angela Bassett, too.

Also: Winston Duke as a rival Wakandan leader, Danai Gurira as T'Challa's chief bodyguard and breakout Letitia Wright as a spin on Ian Fleming's gadget guru Q. Oh, and Michael B. Jordan, the dynamo who made his bones with Coogler's Fruitvale and Creed and here brings a burning intensity to the role of T'Challa's main nemesis, Killmonger, a mercenary who deserves far more screen time than he receives.

The fact that nearly every performer is a person of colour may seem incidental, so easily does each star fit into Coogler's world, but at the same time the casting is necessary, thrilling and long overdue. Black Panther may not be the first superhero film to place a black lead front and centre - Wesley Snipes made two great Blade movies plus another one, and the nineties delivered a handful of now-forgotten fare with black men behind the mask (Spawn, Steel, Blankman, The Meteor Man) - but it is the first to surround its hero with an equally diverse cast, and announce itself as the new blockbuster status quo, not a one-off alternative for a widely underrepresented audience.

Or that's the hope. The fact that it took until 2018 for T'Challa - created at the height of the civil-rights movement in the sixties - to earn his own film while prior superhero projects have centred on a talking tree and too many Batmen to count is disgraceful. The same goes for the fact that Black Panther is the only character the MCU seems to think needed a test-run introduction (via a supporting role in 2016's Captain America: Civil War) before getting a movie with his name in the title.

(For the nitpickers ready to pounce: No, the MCU iteration of Spider-Man doesn't count here, because there have already been approximately 13 different on-screen Peter Parkers in my lifetime.)

For anyone (everyone?) bombarded with clips from the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War, it's clear that the MCU isn't relegating T'Challa to this sole adventure.

But the true test for Disney's commitment to the character - and for its desire to tell diverse stories for diverse audiences - is not only who is allowed entry past its gates, but what access they are granted once inside. Hiring Coogler was the best decision the corporate behemoth has made since signing Taika Waititi for Thor: Ragnarok, but the Mouse House needs to trust its artists more and allow them the freedom to break and rebuild the MCU's dusty and rote rules.

As Coogler builds Black Panther to a finale that feels just different enough from typical MCU entries - the climactic battle is only about Wakanda, not the exhausting whole-wide-universe stakes we're used to; the fights are mostly physical and hand-to-hand; plus, there are some awesome giant rhinos involved - it is easy to get lost in hopeful optimism that this is the future of the superhero film. That, here, Coogler and his team are going to remake the beast from the inside out. But then the action is muddled by some unnecessary and meaningless CGI pyrotechnics, a holdover character from a previous MCU film (a white dude, naturally) is shoved into the spotlight and we all brace ourselves for the typical postcredits stinger.

This is a Marvel film, after all. It does get old, no matter how much we all hunger for, and deserve, the new.

Black Panther's main theme, as neatly summarized midway by T'Challa's father, is that "it is hard for a good man to be king." The same lesson might be applied to Coogler, or anyone hoping to bring diversity, energy and innovation to Marvel movies: It's hard for a good director to be king - especially when Disney is watching the throne.

Black Panther opens Feb. 16.

Associated Graphic

Chadwick Boseman stars as Prince T'Challa, the title hero trying to bring peace to a fictional, futuristic African kingdom in Marvel's Black Panther.


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main John_Doyle Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page