Black Panther (PG-13)
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It begins with a story about a meteorite made of vibranium falling to Earth millions of years ago, and much later (thousands of years ago), five tribes warring over the mineral, until one man ate an herb that had been affected by the vibranium, which gave him enhanced abilities, becoming the first Black Panther. He united all but the Jabari tribe, and formed the kingdom of Wakanda. The people of Wakanda used the vibranium over the millennia to create weapons, as well as all kinds of advanced technology. Ultimately, they hid the truth about their country from the outside world, which was in chaos. So the world sees Wakanda as an isolated country of simple farmers and such, with no idea of its true power.
In 1992, King T'Chaka visits his brother, N'Jobu (Sterling K. Brown), who had been sent to Oakland, California, as one of Wakanda's spies (or "War Dogs"). Recently, a South African arms dealer named Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis, previously seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron) had stolen some vibranium and escaped Wakanda by causing an explosion that killed many people. T'Chaka reveals that he knows inside information had been provided to Klaue by N'Jobu, who had become radicalized by witnessing the oppression of African Americans. The king wants to take his brother home, but is forced to kill him to save the life of another war dog, Zuri. We'll later learn that N'Jobu had a young son, whom T'Chaka chose to leave behind in Oakland, rather than bringing him to Wakanda.
In the present, after the events of Captain America: Civil War (including T'Chaka's death), T'Chaka's son T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to Wakanda to assume the position of king (and Black Panther, though he'd already technically assumed that mantle in the earlier movie). But first, he and a Wakandan warrior named Okoye (general of an army of women called the Dora Milaje) rescue a war dog named Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) from Boko Haram, in Nigeria, where she was on an undercover mission. Nakia and T'Challa are former lovers, and he wants her to be present at the ceremony where he officially becomes king. At that ceremony, T'Challa is challenged for the title by the leader of the Jabari tribe, M'Baku. Such challenges can only end when one person either submits or is killed, and in the end, M'Baku submits. Meanwhile, we get to know some other important Wakandans, including T'Challa's mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett); and his younger sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), who is in charge of Wakanda's technological innovations. (She's probably my favorite character in the movie.) Zuri (now played by Forest Whitaker) is also important.
Soon after he becomes king, T'Challa's people learn that Klaue is going to be selling an ancient artifact made of vibranium to someone in South Korea. So he, Okoye, and Nakia go there to capture Klaue and bring him back to Wakanda to pay for his crime, from all those years ago. But things get complicated when the buyer turns out to be CIA agent Everett Ross, whom T'Challa had first met in "Civil War." There's an awesome fight scene and an awesome chase scene, and Klaue is finally captured. But then he's rescued by a couple of his associates, including someone called Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Everett is shot, and T'Challa decides to take him back to Wakanda, where Shuri uses advanced medical technology to save his life.
And... there are some surprise revelations about Killmonger, who eventually challenges T'Challa for the throne of Wakanda, and wins. He wants to use Wakanda's advanced weaponry to take over the world, and put a stop to the oppression of Black people everywhere. Which I gotta say, I could pretty much get behind, except for all the innocent people who would undoubtedly be killed. I don't want to reveal too much more about the movie, but of course T'Challa will eventually return to challenge Killmonger, and put a stop to his plans (with help from his friends, of course). But at least he does come to realize, as Shuri and Nakia had both made cases for before, that it was time for Wakanda to stop isolating itself from the world, and to help people in more positive ways, through education and so forth, rather than through war. Which I definitely think is a good idea, and I hope future MCU movies will show us at least a bit of how the world changes because of this.
There's a mid-credits scene where T'Challa is appearing before the United Nations, offering to help the world. When someone asks what Wakanda could have to offer, we don't get to hear his response, but I want to say it put me in mind of the moment in "Iron Man" when Tony Stark revealed to the world that he was Iron Man. There's also a post-credits scene, which I don't want to spoil, but I will say there's a revelation that explains a line of dialog from earlier in the movie that I had been wondering about.
Well, I don't know what else to say except it's an awesome movie with lots of great action and drama and humor, but I think the best thing about it is the philosophical questions it raises. Oh, and good villains. I mean, Klaue is a funny villain who's obviously having a lot of fun, and Killmonger is a serious villain who actually has good reasons for what he does.
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