Marvel’s newest movie, Black Panther, is many things at once. It’s the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a series of interconnected movies (and related TV series plus other media) that began with Iron Man in 2008 and has generated over thirteen billion dollars at the global box office (making it the most successful film franchise in history). But Black Panther is more than just a continuation of existing stories. It’s unlike any other superhero movie before it. In short, it is the blackest superhero movie ever made, and it depicts blackness in ways that no Hollywood movie before it has ever done.
For those who do not know the character, the Black Panther is the superhero alter-ego of King T’Challa of Wakanda, a fictional country in Africa. As much as T’Challa himself, Wakanda is the star of the movie, a fully-realized vision of an Africa that never was: never colonized by Europeans, never stripped of its resources, never subjugated. Not only is Wakanda independent and free, it is wealthy and extremely advanced thanks to deposits of a metal known as Vibranium. Technology in Wakanda isn’t just twenty-first century, it’s hundreds of years beyond that. To protect its people and its resources from outside encroachment, Wakanda cloaks itself behind elaborate holograms. The world at large sees another “Third-World” country with jungles, farmers and “cool textiles.” In reality, Wakanda is like a Star Trek planet founded by Africans.
The plot of the movie focuses on Wakanda’s status as a hidden jewel of wealth and technology, and whether Wakanda can or even should remain shrouded from the outside world. That question isn’t treated glibly, nor is it divorced from the history of the fallen world in which we actually live (as opposed to the Afro-futurist ideal of Wakanda). It plays out as a power struggle between different tribes and between different branches of the royal family. It includes plenty of action, but that action is driven by ideas and ideals to an extent that none of the other MCU films have been.
Co-written and directed by a black man, and starring a cast that is almost entirely black (and which spans the globe by including Americans, Brits, and Africans), Black Panther shows us sights we’ve never seen in a Hollywood movie, from the fierce female warriors sworn to protect Wakanda to the armored rhinos that charge into battle to the hidden city full of levitating trains, spaceships, holograms, nano-suits, magical herbs and, yes, really cool textiles. Out of all of the Marvel movies, this is the first one that will NOT give you the feeling that “we’ve been here before.” We haven’t. This is something new, fresh and exciting. It is optimistic, joyful, and beautifully, wonderfully black.
If Black Panther succeeds at the global box-office, which the early signs point to it doing, it has the potential to radically change the playing field in the movie industry. No other film of this scale has ever had this many people of color involved in its creation. No other tent pole movie has ever had a story in which white people were, at most, incidental. No, they aren’t excluded from the film, nor is it even slightly “anti-white” (though it is most assuredly anti-colonialist). They just aren’t the focus of the plot. This movie may finally stand as the irrefutable proof that they don’t always NEED to be the docs point; that fantasy, escapism, excitement and heroism can and should come in many guises, and show many hues. The previous MCU films have almost all been good, or at the very least thoroughly competent (hello, Ant Man). Black Panther is the first MCU film that truly MATTERS.
Written by: Wayne Allen Jones
No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters
If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago.
It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced.
Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.
Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game.
From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.
Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.
The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.
What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?
And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Back to the movie.
Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.
Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.
The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023
Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Opening Act Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on North 200A. Talent confirmed so far to participate in the post-screening panel is Natalie Alyn Lind (Big Sky, The Goldbergs, Gotham) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and longtime RWBY cast member Lindsay Jones (Camp Camp) as Ruby, Kara Eberle ( RWBY: Ice Queendom) as Weiss, Arryn Zech (Detective Now Dead) as Blake and Barbara Dunkelman (Blood Fest) as Yang – along with Jeannie Tirado (Soul, Saints Row) as Green Lantern and Tru Valentino (The Rookie, The Cuphead Show!) as a cyborg. Also attending the panel will be producer/director Kerry Shawcross (series RWBY) and writer Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II).
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023 with the big screen debut from DC Animated Films: highlights this year include the world premieres of the highly anticipated Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham and Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Part One the weekend of March 24-26 in Anaheim, California. Both screenings will be followed by panel discussions with actors and creators. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham premieres at The Arena on Friday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Tati Gabrielle (Kaleidoscope, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Uncharted) as Kai Li Cain, Christopher Gorham (The Lincoln Lawyer, Insatiable) as Oliver Queen, David Dastmalchian (Dune, Suicide Squad, Ant-Man) as Grendon, producer/co-director Sam Liu (The Death and the Return of Superman), co-director Christopher Berkeley (Young Justice) and screenwriter Jase Ricci (Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem Across the Multiverse).
Both films will have encore screenings in the Arena on Sunday, March 26. Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One will screen at 12:15pm, followed by Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham at 2:00pm