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Review: “Black Panther” Packs the Biggest Punch of the MCU

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Black Panther

If Marvel’s Thor was a watered down Shakespeare with a surfer glaze, Black Panther is the real deal. It’s a tale of kingdoms and ancestors, where men of sordid family histories battle for the throne. At the same time, it’s also a James Bond film of gadgets, casinos, and chases with sexy cars. But, wait, it’s also profoundly political and racial with elements of xenophobia and colonialism. The only thing more astounding than seeing all of this present in a Marvel superhero film is that all of it works incredibly well and serves as Marvel’s most influential and most groundbreaking of comic book films.

After the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has some cleaning up to do at home before he can jump back into the Black Panther superhero suit. His father dead, he must take on the mantle of king of Wakanda. To the rest of the world, Wakanda is a third-world nation, but hidden behind a holographic shield is a thriving metropolis built on Vibranium, the same substance used for Captain America’s shield. Even with all their tech, Wakanda is still a land of tradition and T’Challa must prove himself in shirtless combat atop a waterfall to be the king of his people.

black panther

Governing a metropolis overflowing with Vibranium, he must keep at bay the cackling Klaue (Andy Serkis), a sinister dealer that fancies Vibranium and brandishes a fake arm that houses an energy gun. He could very well be our standard villain for T’Challa to foil, but he thankfully isn’t the true antagonist. That title goes to Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) or Killmonger as he’s better known from the comic books. He is easily one of the best villains in the MCU for his pathos and plight that make some solid points. Having grown up on the streets when dear old passed was murdered, Stevens blames Wakanda’s closed nature for his dark childhood and the ills of the world. It’s a notion that T’Challa must weigh and not merely brush aside as a typical villain monologue. Sure, it’s easy to go against Killmonger once he enacts his plan of ruling Wakanda and plans to dominate every country with Wakandan technology, but his argument about the nation being xenophobic is a strong one that can’t be denied.

While Black Panther does adhere to a few familiar formula aspects of the MCU, its script manages to be original for focusing more on a classic tale of kingdoms than a quippy cape adventure. There’s faith in the direction to plow ahead with its drama of bloody family histories and raw emotions of clashing cultures, evading the usual stammering jokes to poke fun at the fantastical. I had my worries with the rebellious tech Shuri (Letitia Wright) and the outsider CIA ally Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), but they thankfully never grind the picture to a halt with their silly mannerisms. By that same token, T’Challa’s female forces of the stoic Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the emotionally driven Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) never mug for the camera that much. They know they’re badass and don’t need to add a pointless exclamation to stress this point, doing more talking with their fists than forgettable banter.

The look of Black Panther may be one of the most thoroughly realized and gorgeous looking settings of any Marvel movie. The balance of otherworldly technology and African culture creates a unique mixture of a colorful utopia. Shuri’s lab of Wakandan tech is the most remarkable of locations, dressed up like a fancy loft with its winding stairs, circular platforms, and colorful walls that make the lab appear as an art installation. The various costumes of Wakanda are fantastic and believable of what an African culture would look like if they had a boom in industry; one of the representatives of the tribes brandishes lip discs and fancy suits. The customs are rich with intrigue and mysticism, as with the ceremony where the new king must be buried in sand to communicate with his ancestors. Even the technology itself has a specific purpose and function, as with the mining train system that uses an elaborate means of light to transport Vibranium at high speeds.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without some superhero action, and there’s just enough here to please. The car chase through the streets of South Korea is exciting with Wakandans using their tech to manipulate cars and Black Panther leaping from one vehicle to another. T’Challa’s suit comes equipped with armor that is not only strong enough to take a bullet but also take that kinetic energy and use it against his enemies. The battles cliffside are the most exciting of all with raw warriors in combat for the throne. And though the climax settles on a large-scale battle of pike-wielding warriors and armored rhinos, it’s a final fight that feels more earned than necessary for all the drama stirred up to this point.

With a big production and a story heavy with race and politics, Black Panther is a risky gamble of a superhero picture, but the bet on black paid off greatly. Unlike Wonder Woman, which merely placed a leading female within a typical superhero popcorn blockbuster, there’s a real influence, and meta-storytelling is going on, so that isn’t just another Marvel movie with a refreshing African coat. It’s an inspiring tale of old-fashioned kingdom drama, well-choreographed action, dazzling fantasy, and an ending that is deeply profound for the impact you’d want to see an actual hero make in the world. It’s been stated that a lot of black children are going to be attending this film in droves. They’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that they’re not just getting an all-black comic book movie, but one of the best comic book movies of the year that will give them more than just a satisfying dose of fists and explosions.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]


Box Office

Another Astounding Weekend at the Box Office for Avengers: Infinity War

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Box Office Weekend 5/4/18-5/6/18

Not the least bit surprising, Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War has dominated the weekend box office with another massive gross. In its second weekend, the grandest superhero ensemble to date brought in $112.4 million. This brings its domestic total up to $450 million, and its worldwide take well over $1 billion. Time will tell if it has the legs, however, to hold its own against Marvel’s other superhero epic this year, Black Panther. Considering Black Panther is still in the top 10, and has almost passed $700 million domestic, it’ll be a close race between the two Marvel movies.

Of course, the success of the Avengers is due in no small part to this being a rather sparse weekend of premieres appearing in fewer theaters. Braving the Marvel storm to come in at #2 was the romantic comedy remake, Overboard, starring Eugenio Derbez and Anna Faris, making $14.7 million domestic. And if that’s the gross of the #2 spot, you can imagine how lower the other films are. Tully, a new comedy Jason Reitman and starring Charlize Theron, came in at #6 with a domestic gross of $3.1 million. Further down at #10 is the new David Tennant starring thriller, Bad Samaritan, making $1.7 million for the weekend.

There were expected dips all around with no huge surprises, but many of the successful films that have hung around are growing a considerable gross. John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place had the lowest drop and is currently sitting at a robust $159 million domestic total. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther has already blazed many records, but it’s only $7 million away from clearing $700 million domestic.

See the full top 10 box office results below.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War ($112,474,000)
  2. Overboard ($14,750,000)
  3. A Quiet Place ($7,600,000)
  4. I Feel Pretty ($4,900,000)
  5. Rampage ($4,620,000)
  6. Tully ($3,186,000)
  7. Black Panther ($3,146,000)
  8. Truth or Dare ($1,885,000)
  9. Super Troopers 2 ($1,815,000)
  10. Bad Samaritan ($1,758,000)

Next weekend, Avengers will be battling against the Melissa McCarthy starring comedy Life of the Party and the Gabrielle Union starring thriller Breaking In. Considering that Life of the Party will have the most significant theater count, McCarthy has the only real shot at being the first film to knock the superhero giant down from the top 10, though it’s doubtful of the Avengers hype will have died down by then.


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Box Office

Life of the Party and Breaking In Dominated by Avengers

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Box Office Report 5/11/18 – 5/13/18

In its third weekend, Avengers: Infinity War is still going strong with a beefy #1 spot that has yet to be bested. Marvel Studio’s latest superhero epic amassed $61.8 million for the weekend, soaring its total domestic gross up to $547 million. The film has managed to make more than Marvel’s other 2018 hit, Black Panther, in the same amount of time, but whether it’ll reach the same domestic gross remains to be seen. With the oncoming superhero film next week and a Star Wars film following, it’ll have some fierce competition.

The two newest films this week slid comfortably into the slots just below. Life of the Party, the new back-to-school comedy with Melissa McCarthy, predictably hit the #2 spot for being a female-centric comedy released on Mother’s Day weekend. While it didn’t exactly take the cake, the film did make $18.5 million to earn its spot during another Marvel cinematic snowstorm of a weekend. Just below it was the new thriller Breaking In, grossing $16.5 million, which is not too shabby for a film debuting in only 2500 theaters.

There were surprisingly low dips all around in the top 10. The smallest drop was for A Quiet Place, still hanging in there as the surprise horror hit, earning $6.4 million to boost its domestic total to $169.5 million. It’s not too surprising that the most significant drop was for Black Panther, grossing only $1.9 million. It’s a predictable drop considering the movie has been out for thirteen weeks, is already available to buy digitally, and will be out on DVD and Blu-ray by this Tuesday. It’s still a considerable feat for a film that has domestically grossed $696 million so far.

One film worth mentioning that snuck into the top 10 is RGB, the documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, expanding for the weekend into 180 theaters. That’s very impressive for such a small film to conquer the #10 spot on Mother’s Day weekend with a $1.1 million gross.

View the full top 10 list below.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War ($61,817,000)
  2. Life of the Party ($18,500,000)
  3. Breaking In ($16,500,000)
  4. Overboard ($10,100,000)
  5. A Quiet Place ($6,400,000)
  6. I Feel Pretty ($3,710,000)
  7. Rampage ($3,380,000)
  8. Tully ($2,240,000)
  9. Black Panther ($1,932,000)
  10. RGB ($1,165,000)

Next weekend, Infinity War will be going up against a real contender with Deadpool 2, the sequel to the Ryan Reynolds starring superhero comedy that broke records in 2016. Also vying for the box office will be the dog comedy, Show Dogs, and the aged female-oriented comedy, Book Club.


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Marvel

Review: “Deadpool 2” is Reheated Chimichangas That Mostly Hold Up

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Deadpool is third-wall breaking anti-hero that feels more needed than ever in the current crop of amassing superhero films. His self-aware satire made his 2016 film a hoot with commentary on the messy timelines, the lack of casting, and even mocking Ryan Reynolds himself. And while his sequel film does maintain that fast-paced and joking nature that made the character a breath of fresh air, it’s mostly the same brand we’ve come to expect from the merc with the mouth.

All the familiar scenes are present, even with the same bits of dialogue repeated from the previous film. There’s an opening fight where Wade “Deadpool” Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) narrates how this isn’t a superhero movie for the kids. There’s an extended bit where he trots around the X-Men headquarters where there are little to no mutants present. Hugh Jackman isn’t present in the film, but he always seems to find his way into the script in one form or another. Deadpool even rides up to the finale in a taxi and mentions chimichangas once again. While these segments still garner a laugh, there’s a lingering notion with each smirk that this superhero is running out of originality.

Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) and Karan Soni (Dopinder) in Twentieth Century Fox’s DEADPOOL 2. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

One of my biggest complaints about the previous film was that there needed to be more actors for Deadpool to play off so that his fourth-wall narration doesn’t overwhelm the screen. The sequel features the opposite, amassing too many characters for Wade to rib that they struggle to work their way into the script. Cable (Josh Brolin) is a soldier of the future that travels back in time to kill a mutant kid and becomes bitterly frustrated with Deadpool being an obstacle. This would’ve been enough for a buddy picture, but the film keeps stuffing in heroes. Deadpool takes a liking to Cable’s target of the overweight teenage mutant Firefist (Julian Dennison), but the kid is so cocky and stand-offish that their chemistry doesn’t have much time to develop. Not when Deadpool must also ally himself with Domino (Zazie Beetz), a hero whose superpower is plot armor. And while Colossus and Nega return from the previous film, their roles are so standard that they naturally become lost in the shuffle.

There’s a tightrope of typical superhero staging and self-aware silliness that Deadpool walks once more, and there’s a larger wobble this time around. There’s a bitter pathos to push Deadpool forward in his plight, but it comes with knowledgable spite for last year’s Logan pulling the same strings, of which Deadpool curses outright. A change of pace for the character is his desire to embrace the X-Men philosophy of no killing, but Wade still plays fast and loose with this logic, counterintuitive of his journey to better carve out a family.

Ryan Reynolds stars as Deadpool in Twentieth Century Fox’s DEADPOOL 2. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

And, wow, does the diversity angle feel so much like bullet-point lip-service, where the black Domino has no flaws, and the lesbian Nega has no character. It’d be nice to have a film where Deadpool coordinates a diverse collective, but everything is so tightly packed with little room to breathe that the inclusivity feels more like a quota, trying to appease everyone without exploring any one angle deeply. Let me know more about Domino’s tragic past without wedging it in at the last minute. Give Nega some better lines considering that her girlfriend, whose only interactions are saying hi to Deadpool, has more dialogue than she does. You wouldn’t even know Firefist has a problem with the perceptions of his weight if he hadn’t brought it up in conversation.

Yes, Deadpool 2 is still funny, especially with one of the most hilarious mid-credit sequences in recent memory. But most of the laughs are familiar ones, reiterating previous jokes and not landing as many original ones past the update of commenting on the current state of superhero cinema. It’s a bit sad that a film this satirical of the genre doesn’t realize it’s coming down with a severe case of sequel-itis, throwing far too many characters at the screen and hardly balancing any of them. There is levity and life in Deadpool, but it needs to start going that extra mile of absurdity in its awareness if it doesn’t want to become one of the lesser superhero franchises it loves to mock so much.

Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and Colossus in Twentieth Century Fox’s DEADPOOL 2. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.


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