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BLACK PANTHER
4K Ultra HD Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis
Director: Ryan Coogler
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Marvel
Features: See Review
Length: 140 Minutes
Release Date: May 15, 2018

WAKANDA FOREVER!”

Film ****

I confess, I didn’t see Black Panther theatrically. I’ve also never seen Captain America: Civil War or Thor: Ragnarok. Why? Nothing personal. I had just reached a point where I was kind of “over” the comic book film. Too many, too quickly released, and a lot of repetitiveness for my taste.

I was very wrong. Like Christopher Nolan did with Batman Begins, and especially The Dark Knight, Black Panther reminds us that a comic book film can be more than fun entertainment for the masses. It can actually be a great film without labeling the genre. It just takes the right artist at the helm.

In this case, that artist is Ryan Coogler, who directed and co-wrote the movie. Coogler recently turned his attention to the Rocky franchise and delivered Creed, which is easily the best movie of the lot since the first one. Here, Coogler brings character sensibility, a great propensity for story, and the necessary sure hand for action, making Black Panther one of the year’s truly great films.

Black Panther (Boseman) was first introduced in Captain America: Civil War, but definitely deserved his own chapter in the Marvel Comics Universe. It’s an imaginative tale of morality, complex questions with no easy answers, and a world that blows away anything seen before in the MCU.

That world is Wakanda, an African nation thought by the world to be an impoverished land offering little, but hiding a secret. Thanks to a healthy supply of the world’s rarest metal vibranium (think: Captain America’s shield), Wakanda is actually more technically advanced and wealthier than any country on earth. So profound is their technology that they can actually mask their true existence from everyone.

The story follows T’Challa, aka Black Panther, as he assumes the role of king following the death of his father. His main concern is protecting his land and his people. Though their knowledge and technology could conceivably do a great deal of good in a suffering world, it could also do tremendous harm, as we see those like Ulysses Klau (Serkis) trying to access it for personal gain.

With his sister Shuri (Wright) running the amazing tech, and some-time love interest Nakia (Nyong’o) and lead warier Okoye (Gurira) by his side, he sets out to battle Klau, and even gets help from an old CIA friend Ross (Freeman). But Klau is not his biggest battle.

The challenge comes with the arrival of American Killmonger (Jordan, who has starred in all of Coogler’s projects to date). He is angry at the state of African descendants in his country, and turns out to have a right to challenge T’Challa for the throne. His objective: open Wakanda, send weapons around the world, and have an open uprising where Africans rule all.

Killmonger is both a vicious and fully developed villain here…no camp, no pontifications, just a burning desire to right what he sees as a great wrong at any cost. His anger is at a land where slavery ended 150 years ago, and doesn’t seem to know or care that slavery actually still exists to this day in his ancestral continent. His vision may mean the end of Wakanda, and T’Challa will have the greatest battle of his life to save his people and their way of life.

I could go into more, but I don’t want to delve into the plot details, or even describe the amazing technology at play here. As mentioned, Wakanda is a fully realized world, and more fantastic than anything seen in the comic book movie world before. Some of the joy in the movie is in the surprises, which are delightful and plentiful…I can’t say more.

Best of all, this is real cinematic storytelling with surety of vision. It’s entertaining and fun, but also engaging and thoughtful. We are invested in these people. We understand them. We can’t help but ask ourselves what we would do in the young king’s sandals. Any film that pretends right and wrong are easily defined is a film that insults our intelligence. Black Panther knows there are costs either way.

This is easily the best movie to date from the MCU, and easily the best comic book film since The Dark Knight. Attempts to quantify its greatness are an insult, and frankly, often wrong. This is not the first comic book movie to have an African or African American lead (it’s actually number 13). It’s not the first Marvel film to feature one (the first three Blade movies beat it to the punch). It’s not even the first to be written and directed by an African American (that would be Robert Towsend’s Meteor Man).

What does it matter? Black Panther doesn’t need to be the first of anything to earn consideration. It’s the best. It’s fresh, exhilarating, and engaging all the way. It’s more than just everything we expect from a good comic book movie. It’s everything we expect from a great movie, period.

Video ***1/2

This 4K presentation is sharp and stunning…almost perfect, except for a few scenes early on that are dark, and it’s a little difficult to ascertain all images. Everywhere else, the HDR colors pop off the screen with clarity and perfection.

Audio ****

You wouldn’t expect anything less from a Marvel uncompressed audio track, and this disk delivers. Astounding dynamic range rules the day, with plenty of action to keep all channels fully engaged. Dialogue and music balance nicely against the effects.

Features ***

All of the extras are on the Blu-ray disc of the movie. There are four production featurettes and four deleted scenes, plus a gag reel.

Summary:

Black Panther is a great film, and Marvel’s crowing achievement to date. Long live the king!

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