Greg Eichelberger reviews 'Black Panther'

Greg Eichelberger
Staff Writer

Marvel's "Black Panther" is a visually arresting and layered story of the most uninteresting character in the Marvel (Studios) universe and its ridiculously high 97 percent positive rating on the notoriously inaccurate Rotten Tomatoes website is either a product of uninformed film critics or forced affirmative action (remember how crazy everyone was for "Wonder Women," mostly because it was directed by a female?).
Wow. Ninety-seven, huh? By RT's metrics, that means "Black Panther" is a greater movie than "Gone With the Wind," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "A Clockwork Orange," "West Side Story," "The Sound Of Music," "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," among others. And it is just ONE point behind "Chinatown," "The Wizard Of Oz" and "The Godfather." Once again, wow … It is also one point behind the fraudulent 2016 Best Picture, "Moonlight." Does anyone other than me see a pattern, here? Am I completely paranoid or what...?
Despite this complete and unbelievable stupidity, however, the picture follows T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman, "42"), who, after the events of "Captain America: Civil War," returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced mythical African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King. However, when an old enemy reappears on the radar, T'Challa's mettle as King and alter ego Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk.
That's the simple explanation, though.
The racial and immigration politics in television and film these days are not far under the surface as the main villain, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, "Creed"), a half Wakandan, half American comes back to his homeland to gain the country's technology simply to overthrow the world's (read "white") nations and then become the most powerful people on earth.
Well, first a little backstory (which is explained in a wonderful animated sequence at the beginning) as a meteor landed in Africa millions of years ago. That great rock was made of Vibratium, the strongest element on earth.
Using that meteor, the hidden nation builds an amazing technological empire which powers incredible underground cities (which still manage to utilize sunshine in those locations). The Wakandans also have miraculous medical facilities which can save just about anyone and an army of practically invincible bald amazons who carry only spears.
In the middle of all this, the several tribes of this nation agree to unite — except that one rebellious klan that always appears in these movies — and the legend of the Black Panther, which is bestowed upon the King to protect and serve the community and, as a character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the entity has been included in the enormously popular "Avengers" world, despite his bland narrative. I'm not really sure what powers the whole Panther thing gives him, since he seems to do all right by himself (defeating two mighty opponents without the feline backup).
In fact, his amazons, led by Gen. Okeye (Lupita Nyong'o, "Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi") and his super smart sister, Letitia Wright ( "The Commuter") who seem to have just as much strength as he does. And just to prove how incompetent the male species is, there's sequence where a group of men are completes crushed and defeat by them.
Meanwhile, Martin Freeman ("The Hobbit" franchise, "Fargo" TV series) plays the blundering token white guy with his usual perfection.
This is also the rare MS movie NOT to have another Marvel character appear (except for the very last credit scene), but one of the few such films that could really USE a more recognizable cameo or two …
That's not saying the production isn't fun in parts, the villain is terrific with a heart-tugging background and most of the effects (thanks to Daniel Sudick, "Guardians Of the Galaxy 2," the upcoming "Avengers: Infinity War") are very well done.
Even Stan Lee's regular appearance is funny, but not side-splitting so as most of them, leaves this one just a bit short, plus the not-so-covert politics (T'Challa announces at the United nations in a post credit sequence that we need to build bridges and not walls — again).
Some say director and co-writer Ryan Coogler ("Creed," "Fruitville Station") of a modern classic that addresses the deep fault lines in American society without compromising action movie. For some this may be true, but for this scribbler, it takes what could have been a decent story of a rich country unaffectedly the world now dragged into a spotlight with an allegory of slavery and horrible most developed nations are (read "United States," especially led by its current president).
Now that the character has its own picture, however, maybe the sequel can reach 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and become the greatest motion picture of ALL-TIME.
Grade: C+