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Black Panther

13 Dec

Black Panther—directed by Ryan Coogler. Comic Book/Sci-fi/Fantasy Adventure. 134 minutes Color 2018.
★★★★★
The Story: Will the king win his throne or if he wins it, keep it or if he keeps it, lead his people to a better life?
~
Virtual virtuosity plus an imaginative story, well performed, and perfectly costumed.

The virtuosity of the special effects is not, never has been an endearing element in movies.

In the days of D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille the special effects were often not virtual but real, and you gaped at the size and proportion of palaces and circus tents and cliffs and volcanoes and cities of the plains.

Many, however, were made with and for and as special effects, just achieved differently. They were not endearing either and sometimes not even convincing, but they sometimes were impressive and often fun, just as special effects are meant to be and are, here.

What were once miniatures made with scissors and paste, are now made with keyboards and screens. The point is, they are made. Seeing them exercises our capacity for wonderment —which is good, since we do not have the Grand Canyon before us daily. Huge railway stations, great sports arenas, picture palaces used to do this for us. Now film. And Black Panther is a prime example of the craft.

I say all this because, since I saw it on my 18 X 36 inch home screen, all of its effects were miniaturized. So, see this picture, if you must see it at all, in the biggest picture palace movie screen within striking distance.

Lupita Nyong’o who won an Oscar for 12 Years A Slave strikes the tone of the tale we are to see at the very start. We are faced not just with roles of hero and heroine, black buck wooing village maiden, but with strong women, and strong women who surround and give authority, experience-wisdom, and authenticity to the males. Black Panther’s woman stands not just as The New Woman, she also embodies an inner and rigorous platform of outreach which the story must come to grips with by resisting. Each of these females does this with humor.

For instance, our entire army is female. Danai Gurira plays the generalissima. What brings her alive is not the fact of her female eminence, but the teasing relations she has with the king and with everyone. Beautifully played and just funny enough.

Then we have the king’s little sister, a teenage science whizz who invents and oversees the technology at the palace, and the fact that solemnity is entirely skirted with this character is a tribute to the writing and the enthusiasm which Letitia Wright brings to the part. Her sauciness and dedication to her calling are a complement not just to her but to the casting of the entire film by Sarah Finn.

Madam Finn has gathered perfect talent to the piece. Everyone is absolutely suited to their part, and each actor understands the style of Comic book-Sci-fi/Fantasy we are operating in. The male actors are those most hard pressed not to pose and posture and cover the screen with creamy acting of the kind often found in Sci-fi/Comic Book/Fantasy. Loud noises from the diaphragm and plummy preachments are the trap—but not here. Here the writers have made the king deep, and Chadwick Boseman has brought his physical, facial, vocal beauty to serve that depth and the difficulties that open the character up to it.

Michael B. Jordan offers the only questionable performance. Rigged up in cockeyed pigtails, he represents opportunist/punk-energy—street smarts fueled by resentment. But his personal energy is wrong for the part. It needs to be played by someone who, if he actually toppled the king, would be able to be a king—a quality necessary for the audience to fear this might happen—which with Jordan in the role, we never believe for a moment.

Two of our most redoubtable actors, Forrest Whitaker and Angela Bassett hold their parts in good order as supporting royals.

The great and commanding feature of the film is the story, which veers off the expected at every turn, and thus keeps us worrying what outcome will come and then what outcome and then what outcome. It is the script, above all, which keeps the film above the routine of other comic book hero shows.

Ruth Carter has done the costumes, and if they do not receive all the awards available, justice is at the beach. We never tire or become too distracted by the imagination and brilliance of what people wear, how their hair is done. Although in every case extreme, in every case they are right.

Of course, Black Panther is not a great film. It lacks a universal inner myth—such as you find in Pinocchio. Or a single great character, such as in Gone With The Wind. But it has a luster of its own. I wanted the hero to prevail, and I could not guess how that might come about. You sympathize with it, you do not identify with it—but so much is offered, so generously, that you can’t help like it and say to others, generously: “Be generous to yourself and go!” —generosity being Black Panther’s true subject after all.

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC

 
 
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