'Black Panther' pounces onto Marvel's top tier

Black superheroes have reached the screen before, but seeing the collective weight of Marvel/Disney thrown behind a b...

Posted: Feb 14, 2018 7:06 AM
Updated: Feb 14, 2018 7:06 AM

Black superheroes have reached the screen before, but seeing the collective weight of Marvel/Disney thrown behind a blockbuster like "Black Panther" still feels like a cultural watershed, one that the movie exuberantly embraces. Boasting perhaps the strongest supporting characters yet among Marvel titles, director Ryan Coogler's visually dynamic film should transform a lesser-known comic-book hero into a household name.

Although they hail from rival companies, there are several parallels to DC's best movie, "Wonder Woman," beyond an under-represented group belatedly receiving its super-heroic due. In both instances, the title character is presented in a stand-alone origin story, after having been rather hastily introduced elsewhere -- in this case, among the dozen combatants in "Captain America: Civil War."

Related: Rotten Tomatoes condemns plan to flood 'Black Panther' with negative reviews

Like Wonder Woman, moreover, the Black Panther/T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the leader of the fictional African nation Wakanda, is not only super, but royalty, about to ascend the throne that he has inherited from his father.

Becoming king, however, brings its share of challenges -- top among them determining Wakanda's proper role in the wider world, and facing a threat in the form of Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, who starred in Coogler's "Rocky" sequel, "Creed"), a villain with an intricate back story of his own.

Coogler and company have established Wakanda -- a hyper-advanced society due to its stores of the near-magical metal Vibranium -- as a marvel of production design, bringing organic life to its dense history and traditions. Hidden from outsiders, the country is portrayed as a beautiful mix of nature and technology, having resisted sharing its wonders -- and opening its borders -- for fear of unsettling its peace and prosperity.

E-Commerce Guide by CNN Underscored: Novelty items 'Black Panther' fans will love

In that thread, as well as another that fleshes out Killmonger's past, Coogler (who also co-wrote the script with Joe Robert Cole) has taken the source material -- and a character introduced in 1966 -- and delivered an unexpectedly relevant and timely movie, one with something to say woven into its fantastic trappings.

That alone would be an impressive feat, but "Black Panther" really excels thanks to its rich array of characters and performances. While Boseman and Jordan hold center stage, the women's roles are especially meaty and muscular, with Lupita Nyong'o as T'Challa's self-sufficient former flame, "The Walking Dead's" Danai Gurira -- stealing every scene she's in -- as the fierce leader of the king's guard, and Letitia Wright as T'Challa's brilliant sister, whose gift for gadgets essentially makes her the Q to her big brother's James Bond.

Like most Marvel movies, the climactic portion of the film winds up being too chaotic, and a bit too long. But that's a quibble given the abundance of meticulous and pleasing touches, from Kendrick Lamar's musical contributions to the Easter eggs within the closing credits. The extravagant display of talent in smaller roles also adds to the sense of class, featuring Sterling K. Brown ("This Is Us"), "Get Out's" Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett.

Related: Octavia Spencer plans on treating to see 'Black Panther'

Marvel has demonstrated the ability to deftly expand its cinematic universe beyond the signature heroes with movies like "Ant-Man" and "Doctor Strange." Nevertheless, "Black Panther" pounces toward the head of the class in a way that should make the King, and his key subjects, a cornerstone of an already-formidable roster.

While Vibranium is a mythical element, the anticipation surrounding this first solo adventure figures to leave the studio up to its neck in precious metals.

"Black Panther" opens Feb. 16 in the U.S. It's rated PG-13.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 117215

Reported Deaths: 4305
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles572192448
Riverside8155342
San Diego7554269
Orange6574150
San Bernardino5501208
Alameda351597
Santa Clara2819143
San Francisco258743
Kern237639
San Mateo218884
Tulare200489
Fresno188236
Imperial179829
Santa Barbara166912
Contra Costa150637
Sacramento143958
Ventura116434
Kings11375
San Joaquin98235
Stanislaus75029
Monterey57110
Sonoma5664
Solano54622
Marin50115
Merced3017
San Luis Obispo2781
Placer2289
Santa Cruz2172
Yolo21324
Madera1143
Napa1133
Humboldt1023
El Dorado960
San Benito882
Butte511
Sutter462
Del Norte460
Nevada421
Shasta394
Mono371
Mendocino300
Yuba301
Lake260
Inyo201
Glenn170
Mariposa161
Calaveras150
Amador100
Siskiyou80
Colusa70
Lassen50
Tehama51
Plumas40
Tuolumne40
Alpine20
Sierra10
Trinity10
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 78°
Oroville
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 74°
Paradise
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 78°
Chester
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 65°
Red Bluff
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 73°
Willows
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 99° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 78°
The Heat Advisory will stay in place through Thursday evening. Cooler temperatures and the potential for active weather is on the way as we head into your weekend.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events