Tag Archives: ryan coogler

Black Panther 2 is Coming May 2022. Coogler to Return

At D23, it was revealed that Black Panther 2 has a debut date. The film will come to theaters on May 6, 2022. It was also revealed that Ryan Coogler will return to direct the film.

It’s too early for the title of the film to be revealed though so keep speculating and spinning those rumors.

Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Both Win at the Critics’ Choice Awards

Cast of Black Panther

This Sunday the Critics’ Choice Awards were held and both Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse walked away winners.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won “Best Animated Feature” repeating its Golden Globe win in the same category. The film has momentum going into the Oscars. It beat The Grinch, Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, and Ralph Breaks the Internet to walk away with the latest win.

Ruth Carter won for “Best Costume Design” for Black Panther besting Alexandra Byrne for Mary Queen of Scots, Julian Day for Bohemian Rhapsody, and Sandy Powell for The Favourite and Mary Poppins Returns.

Black Panther also walked away a winner for “Best Visual Effects” besting Avengers: Infinity War, First Man, Mary Poppins Returns, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and Ready Player One.

But it wasn’t all celebrations. Black Panther walked away empty handed in numerous categories as well.

Black Panther was nominated for “Best Picture” which it lost to Roma. in “Best Acting Ensemble” this film lost to The Favourite. Michael B. Jordan was nominating for “Best Supporting Actor” for his role as Killmonger in Black Panther. He lost to Mahershala Ali for his role in Green Book. Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole were nominated for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for Black Panther. They lost to Barry Jenkins and If Beale Street Could Talk. Rachel Morrison was nominated for “Best Cinematography” for Black Panther and lost to Alfonso Cuarón and Roma. Black Panther was also nominated for “Best Hair and Makeup” losing to Vice.

Numerous comic films lost in “Best Action Movie” to Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, and Deadpool 2 were all nominated as well as Ready Player One and Widows.

In “Best Comedy,” Deadpool 2 and The Death of Stalin lost to Crazy Rich Asians. The Favourite, Game Night, and Sorry to Bother You were nominated as well.

Ryan Reynolds lost in “Best Actor in a Comedy” to Christian Bale for his role in Vice. Reynolds starred in the title role in Deadpool 2.

When it comes to music Black Panther came up empty handed as well. “All the Stars” lost to A Star is Born‘s “Shallow” in “Best Song” and and in “Best ScoreLudwig Göransson lost to Justin Hurwitz for First Man.

Comic adaptations were absent from television awards at the show.

Movie Review: Black Panther

Lets get this out of the way, Marvel films are rather formulaic. We get the origin of the hero in the first third of the film, the second third is the set up where they are beaten down, then the last third turns into a fist fight. This is generally what we can expect and as more films are released, that formula grows a bit old. So, the question is, with each new release, can Marvel Studios deliver enough “new” to keep the audience engaged and interested. Black Panther delivers a lot new and then some, though suffers in that last third due to the formula.

The story is a bit James Bond as Black Panther must bring to justice a man who stole the country’s precious Vibranium decades earlier. Cool gadgets are plenty as illegal deals are attempted to be broken up all as we learn more about these cast of characters.

While we know some of Black Panther and the Dora Milaje (his elite bodyguards/warriors) from Captain America: Civil War where they debuted, the world of Wakanda is mainly unknown and this film is far more than the few that debuted in what seems forever ago. In a sense, this is an origin story like so many other Marvel Studios releases as T’Challa takes up the mantle of King as well as Black Panther. But, where Black Panther stands heads and above what’s come before is how it does that origin story and it’s focus on not just one man.

Played by Chadwick Boseman, T’Challa is conservative in many ways. There’s not as much ego or brashness, instead Boseman plays the character as the leader of a nation but also one who is clearly learning. He doesn’t go it alone or “have to learn,” he seeks council and relies on those around him. This is a very different superhero and the movie does an excellent job of recognizing that. Where it really stands out from those before is the supporting cast which is large and in charge. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Letitia Wright as Shuri, it’s the women (especially the Dora Milaje) who steal the show. Wonder Woman showed us kick-ass women, this film takes it to the next level in so many ways. And, while they definitely kicked ass, their presences was a statement too. The Dora Milaje are not one size fits all. While all members are athletic, the heights, build, and skin tone differ for each. While I expected a general uniform look (something more like the Amazons in Wonder Woman), I was surprised at the vast differences. In one scene in particular one rather tall member is next to a shorter member and I can only think this was done on purpose to emphasize this. Wright especially stands out for her enthusiasm and Q like character. She delivers the tech that makes Black Panther (and Wakanda) function. As T’Challa’s sister, there’s also a healthy relationship that feels fresh and like it’s been missing from movie screens.

But, it’s not just the young brilliant and kick-ass women who add to the film. Angela Bassett as Ramonda and Forest Whitaker as Zuri add a gravitas in a way and feel like they’re passing the baton to a new generation of Black actors.

But, what is a Marvel film without its villains? Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue and Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger step into those roles in what may be the best Marvel villains to date. We’ve seen Serkis’ briefly in a previous Marvel film, but here he’s able to amp up the sleaze to the next level both having fun with it all and making the audience feel dirty. But, it’s Jordan’s Killmonger that delivers a character that’s complicated at at times sympathetic. It’s difficult to truly dissect everything without spoilers but he’s an American whose goal is to take over the throne of Wakanda. His Western Imperialism embodied but one whose past and history makes him sympathetic.

And that complicated nature is what also makes Black Panther stand out as one of Marvel’s best films. This is a film, that in numerous scenes, debates the isolationist policy of Wakanda. It debates how this wealthy African nation leaves other nations and specifically Black individuals to suffer. While it prospers it does not provide aid, instead pretending it too is a Third World Nation. It directly addresses the concept of Black individuals “making it” then leaving others, the debate about supporting one’s own community. While the film takes place in Wakanda, it’s a debate that’s had right here in American communities, about supporting Black owned businesses or creators. It’s that sort of layering and detail that again makes the film stand out and the films’ writers Ryan Coogler (who also directed) and Joe Robert Cole deserve accolades for that.

Coogler’s direction, while good, falls a bit short of my expectations. Coogler is known for Fruitvale Station and Creed (both starring Michael B. Jordan). When it comes to direction, both of those films surpass Black Panther. But, visually, the film is amazing delivering us something that would make Jack Kirby cry. This is Afrofuturism on screen and through all the wonders of the city, when we get to the streets it feels lived in and real. Visually the film is stunning and you do see Coogler’s touches with small looks and moments that create a story that feels natural and how individuals actually interact.

As I said, the film does stumble a bit towards the end with a typical battle that has become standard in Marvel Studio films. This one feels like a bit of escalation with the amount of individuals involved so it does shake things up in some ways. It’s not just the usual hero fighting bad guy. But, the film does stumble in typical Marvel fashion. If it had come out earlier, before the pattern of stories was clear, this wouldn’t have been as much of an issue. But, the pattern and formula is pretty clear now.

Black Panther feels fresh though. The women steal the show. The first 2/3s feels more like a James Bond film than typical superhero movie, and there’s a healthy dose of exploring real world issues. There’s an enthusiasm and enough freshness about the film to make it stand out from the pack as one of Marvel’s best. The fact that everyone on screen doesn’t look like me is a large portion of that. Hopefully the film is as much of a success as I expect it to be and we see much more of this to come.

Overall Rating: 8.75

11 Things to Check Out Before Black Panther

The hype is strong out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s newest addition — and not without reason. While I am prohibited from revealing major plot points or spoilers from Black Pantherwhat I would like to provide is a sort of guide to what you’re getting into. Think of it like a wine and cheese pairing list to prepare your appetite before you go into see this next film.

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron / Captain America: Civil War.

The second one may seem obvious — it was the first time we saw Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa on screen, and it tells us at least a little bit about his home country of Wakanda. But we’re also introduced for the first time to Martin Freeman as Everett Ross, who shows up a lot in Black Panther. 

But many of us will have forgotten (or tried to forget?) that Andy Serkis showed up for about 10 minutes in Age of Ultron as Ullyses Klaue, a South African arms dealer who stole vibranium from Wakanda, which Ultron then took from Klaue, along with a sizeable portion of his arm. This becomes important, so it’s worth revisiting at least that scene from Age of Ultron, and then watching Civil War, because Civil War is just so. dang. good.

It’s also worth noting T’Challa’s character arc in the film, especially as it relates to him being on Team Iron Man. In Black Panther, we’re treated to seeing just how much he respects international law and being subject to the Sokovia Accords. . . which is not at all, as we first see him in the film running an operation outside of Wakanda’s borders to rescue a colleague.

Also, note the final scenes he’s in with Zemo, and with Cap and Bucky in Wakanda. Boseman’s character work and scripting is excellent here, and this carries over into our film here.

Oh, and anyone who felt teased by this scene where a Dora Milaje is about to throw down with Black Widow?

“As entertaining as that would be. . .” Well, we get that entertainment in Black Panther. And the wait is worth it.

2. An Encomium To The Black Experience: Why I Am Excited To See Black Panther

This article by our own Troy Powell is a must-read. This is an incredibly thoughtful take on why Black Panther’s vision of afro-futurism is refreshing and exciting. Just go read it. I’ll wait.

3. Fruitvale Station and Creed

Director Ryan Coogler‘s career so far has been pretty well entangled with that of actor Michael B. Jordan and it’s great to see Jordan stretch his wings as the villain of Black Panther, Eric Killmonger. The MCU has often been faulted for relatively weak on-screen villains, but Killmonger is a rare exception.

To see their first collaboration, go back to Coogler’s first film, Fruitvale Station, which he both wrote and directed. It tells the true story of Oscar Grant who was shot by a San Francisco Transit Officer on New Year’s Day in 2009. It’s a heartbreaking story of hope and tragedy, and a film which I first reviewed as being “the best and most important film of 2013 that everyone who truly needs to see it never will.”

Coogler followed this up with the most unlikely of films– the Rocky franchise reboot/sequel Creed, also starring Jordan as the son of Apollo Creed who seeks out the aging champ Balboa to train him. The single shot of the young Creed’s first fight is such a masterwork of filmmaking it’s worth the price of admission alone.

You add onto that really brilliant character work and an intense understanding of the franchise, and you can understand why Coogler was a great choice to take on the MCU. Coogler grows as a visual director, and it’s great to see his growth from a low budget film to a medium budget studio film to using Disney/Marvel money.

4. That Kendrick Lamar soundtrack

black panther soundtrackAnother common complaint about the MCU is lack of memorable music. And especially where the films have tried to pair up with popular music, results have been. . .  mixed. Yes, I love hearing Foo Fighters play Walk in the bar in Thor (and over the credits), but it doesn’t quite mesh with the film overall. And then you have Soundgarden playing some nonsense over the credits to The Avengers — in my mind, the only problem with that film at all. They should’ve just licensed a good Soundgarden song and called it good. (How much better — and more fitting — would “Rusty Cage” have been there?)

But from the moment we heard a hip hop sample of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in the first trailer for Black Panther, we knew we were getting something different.

You can listen to the album streaming on Spotify here and now.

5. A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates

a nation under our feet 1

While this current run on Black Panther may not have a lot to do with the movie from a narrative or character standpoint, it shares something incredibly important which is a social commentary. Coates’ opening run on Black Panther may have been set in Wakanda and been about the politics of Wakanda, but it wasn’t hard to see parallels to our current political situation in the US.

This is completely true of the film as well. It’s also clear that Coogler and Coates are of similar minds about presenting a critique of colonialism (and our current neo-colonialist attitudes towards Africa). Our film also hits hard on the oppression faced by black Americans, a struggle Coates has written on extensively and which finds itself woven into the philosophical discussions of A Nation Under Our Feet.

Beyond that, the basic premise of this run is whether T’Challa and Wakanda have some duty to the larger world or only to their country and their throne. That resonates thematically with T’Challa’s growth in the film. It’s also paced similarly– with lots of dialogue and character and less action.

Please also check out our video review of this on Facebook.

On a side note, a quick shout out to one of my favorite podcasts, Funnybooks and Firewater, which covers comics and offers drinking games and custom cocktails to go with your reading. They covered this a few weeks ago, and if you ever wanted to hear four white guys from Utah and California struggle with their privilege and talk about why they love this book so much, this is worth a listen. Also, they’re currently halfway through Watchmen and inching up on their 100th episode, so check them out.

6. Black Panther by Christopher Priest

h/t to my colleague Jon Carroll, who recommended this to me. Starting in his 1998 run on Black Panther, Christopher Priest introduced the Dora Milaje and the character of Everett Ross, whom we see a lot of in this film.

7. Static Shock

Speaking of Christopher Priest, it’s worth mentioning and recommending Static Shock, which he co-created with Dwayne McDuffie (Rest in Power– we miss you still), Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle, and Michael Davis.

For kids of a certain age who will remember this fondly from the Kids WB lineup of cartoons, this was simply the height of early 00’s superhero awesomeness. It was also important to remember how groundbreaking this was at the time to have a superhero show led by a young black hero. Sure, Storm had been on the X-Men cartoon, but only as a part of a team that also included a fuzzy purple demon.

But this was the impetus for creating the character in the first place– greater representation and diversity in the world of comics and tv. Here’s hoping we also see more of him with the upcoming Young Justice continuation on Netflix as his inclusion was a highlight of Season 2.

8. Blade II 

Yes, for all the hype about this being the first time we’ve had a black comic book superhero in a big budget Hollywood movie, we’ve forgotten that Blade was a Marvel comics character before Wesley Snipes took on the role. However, in my opinion, the first film was good, not great. But Blade II is the far superior film.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, contender for Best Director this year for The Shape of Water, we get Blade teaming up with a vampire clan to take out the Reapers, new creatures that feed on vampires. This also reunites Del Toro with Ron Perlman from their previous work on Cronos, but perhaps more importantly, set up Del Toro and Perlman to make Hellboy. 

The major difference between the Blade movies and Black Panther? It’s missing a broader social conscience. This is something the Blade franchise always seemed to approach but never quite executed on, using vampires as stand-ins for parasitic and oppressive capitalism and the resulting income inequality. You can read that into the first two Blade movies (we dare not speak about the third one), but it isn’t quite there in the same way Black Panther wears its social commentary on its sleeve.

Some have suggested along with Blade, I should also recommend Spawn, which also starred a black superhero. But then I would be recommending Spawn. And I just can’t bring myself to do that. The Summer of 1997 was very cruel to comic books at the movies. I’m still not sure what is the bigger ignominy– nipples on the batsuit or the entirety of Spawn. 

9. Ultimates II

A Marvel animated film based off the second arc of The Ultimates, or the comics themselves, in which the Ultimate Universe versions of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (which became a sort of meta-blueprint for a lot of the MCU) enter Wakanda and meet Black Panther.

10. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

Because one good cartoon deserves another, this cartoon series for some reason met an early death after only two seasons despite some amazing work. Klaue shows up fairly early, and T’Challa shows himself the equal or superior of all of our Avengers.

11. Luke Cage and Black Lightning

Last but certainly not least, these are great tv shows, and certainly Luke Cage is set in the same universe. But I didn’t want to just fall into a trap of just listing every superhero adaptation with a black protagonist. What sets these apart is a clear connection with a strong social commentary on what it is to be black in America right now. It should go without saying that if you aren’t watching Black Lightning every week on the CW, you should be. And if you somehow skipped Luke Cage on Netflix, it’s a good time to catch up, especially before the next season of Jessica Jones comes out in a few weeks.

 

Well, there we go. While certainly not an exhaustive list, this should help you as you wait patiently to see this film later this week.

Did I miss anything? Have a favorite Black Panther tie-in? Leave it in the comments section. Wakanda Forever.

Movie Review: Black Panther

Black-Panther-posterBelieve the hype.

Marvel’s Black Panther not only continues the studio’s tradition for making fun, accessible comic book movies, but also propels it into something almost wholly different. One major complaint about Marvel Studios work is their relative sameness and unwillingness to mess with a winning formula.

This movie is anything but the same as everything that came before it. It presents a character-driven story (and, yes, a social message– appropriate for both the history of this character and our current political state) and is more focused on character and world-building than its action sequences, which may leave some fans feeling a little bored in the first act. But just hang around for the last twenty minutes.

Director Ryan Coogler’s visual style is given the budget and canvass it deserves, and he directs a cast of black luminaries in a way that is balanced and thoughtful. He successfully channels — and possibly even outshines — Joss Whedon and the Russo Brothers in the way other Marvel franchise movies have managed to give each character their due.

Chief among these is Chadwick Boseman, who as the title character T’Challa must take the throne of his country of Wakanda after the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War. This is ultimately a story of his internal conflict — whether to reveal Wakanda’s true capabilities to the world and help it, or to continue to be isolated.

His struggle is made real in the rise of Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), working with Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). You may remember Klaue from Age of Ultron as the arms dealer who was able to steal vibranium from Wakanda. Killmonger, an American mercenary who seems to have a connection to Wakanda, certainly has a grudge. No spoilers, but the way his story intertwines with T’Challa’s is masterful in that it helps tie the concerns of the streets of America to the fate of Wakanda and their precious vibranium.

Even better, Killmonger has a point, and is one of those great, classic villains who doesn’t believe he’s the bad guy. In many ways, he isn’t. He represents real outrage and militarism that is wholly justified. Just as T’Challa has to grapple with him, so too do we as an audience face a real challenge to heed and internalize his critique. But perhaps what is most amazing (and a credit to Coogler’s script and directing) is the commentary never feels heavy-handed, and Jordan delivers his commentary on the US military-industrial complex and systemic, cyclical, oppressive poverty, mass incarceration, drugs with the crispness, charisma, and intensity of an early 1990s Denzel Washington.

Another frequent criticism of Marvel Studios’ films is their general lack of good on-screen villains. A dozen and a half films, and across all of those you have. . .  Loki? And that’s basically it as truly memorable villains.

Black Panther by some counts may have as many as four different antagonists, including an appearance by regular comics series villain M’Baku. And all of them have a character arc, are fully developed, and work within the narrative to enhance T’Challa’s growth as a character. Most other movies suffering from too many villains (hello multiple Batman movies!) will collapse under their bloated weight. Coogler here perfectly balances everything.

Coogler also brings to bear a balanced supporting cast, all of whom get their moments to shine. Daniel Kaluyya, fresh off his success in Get Out, plays W’Kabi, one of T’Challa’s closest friends and advisors who is pushing him to be more militant and seek justice for what Klaue did to them. And Martin Freeman shows up again as Everett Ross, playing a much bigger role than we’d be led to believe.

But the real stars are the women. Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia, T’Challa’s ex-romantic interest and a foreign operative for Wakanda. She and Danai Gurira as Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all-female royal guard, help keep T’Challa grounded, as well as watching his back and proving themselves just as much his equal in combat. A fight scene in a casino about halfway in show them t be T’Challa’s equals in combat, but the scene is also a master class in fight scene choreography.

Also perhaps most importantly, Angela Bassett plays the Queen mother and provides perhaps the most important line of the film. While T’Challa engages in ritual combat to claim the throne, he loses focus. She screams from the sidelines, “Show them who you are!” So much of this film is about the search for modern black identity, with multiple people asking T’Challa through the film who he is. Upon hearing the encouragement from his mother, he replies, “I am T’Challa! Son of T’Chaka!” and is able to summon the inner strength needed to vanquish his rival.

Speaking of the Wakanda royal family, T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), basically acts as Q giving James Bond his toys in an early scene, and is technically adept enough that she could easily give Tony Stark some lessons. Oh, by the way, she’s a teenager, and in one of the few missteps n the film makes an immediately dated reference to an internet meme made popular on the now-defunct social media site Vine.  Despite her meming, Shuri is the breakout star of this movie, delivering one of the other best lines of the film when she refers to Everett Ross by a particularly on-the-nose epithet. She’s also an amazing role model– not just a princess, but the mind behind so much of Wakanda’s technology.

This leads me to my next point, which is the impressive tech and gadgetry of this film. Basically Wakanda says to anything we’ve seen from Stark or SHIELD in previous movies, “Anything you can do, I can do better!” Opening scenes show just how advanced they are.

And yet, for all this futuristic technology, the design and aesthetics of the film remain so firmly rooted in Africa and traditional clothes and weapons. The costume design on this film is phenomenal. Beyond that, Wakandan warriors and Dora Milaje wielding spears, knives, and scythes belie a deeper tech core, one which you can see as the weapons sparkle in the sun– one of those spears can take down a helicopter, or SUV, no problem. It’s incredibly fascinating from a basic design perspective, and asking a very basic question: What might have happened to Africa if these nations hadn’t been carved up, colonized, plundered and exploited for resources? If defended, as Wakanda was because of its vibranium, we wonder how close we would be to this vision of afro-futurism the film so effortlessly shows. But, instead, Wakanda plays to the vanity and ignorance of the rest of the world by pretending to be poor and less developed. That says more about us than it does about them.

The costumes, the weapon design all pale in comparison to a broader visual aesthetic Coogler presents. This film is gorgeous in many places. During a dream sequence we see Wakanda with purple skies in a sort of magical twilight. We also get several scenes played at or near sunset in that “magic hour” that they either beautifully captured (or more likely, digitally re-created). It’s just gorgeous, and characters even remark how spectacular the Wakandan sunsets are in a moment that will break your heart. A car chase through the streets of Busan, Korea also provide some spectacular visuals, as well as one of the best action sequences of the film.

Speaking of, hold on until the final act of this movie. It’s really talky and thinky through much of its first two hours, but its final action sequence will have you wanting more– and really looking forward to seeing Wakanda face off against Thanos and his armies in Avengers: Infinity War (What?!?! That’s only three months away?!? We live in a golden age of entertainment).

Black Panther is going to be a little less accessible to some audiences, which is a shame. Some will shun it because of bias or racism, and that’s simply too bad for them that they won’t enjoy the best movie of 2018 so far. Some will be bored by its character and world-building and wish there was more action. That’s also a shame, as we deserve more smarts in our blockbusters.

But bottom line? Go see this movie. Several times. Perhaps then after major success of this, Get Out, and Star Wars, Hollywood will stop pretending that movies led by black actors don’t appeal to mainstream (read: white) audiences. We vote with our dollars, so vote loudly, and vote often.

And stick around through the credits. The first after-credits scene (minor spoiler, but not really) of T’Challa speaking at the UN is a speech that should be printed on posters and hanging in your office. You will want it playing on a loop as motivation for us as humans to do better. And the end credit scene. . .  fans should be happy for another tease towards Infinity War.

Wakanda Forever.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Michael B. Jordan Joins Black Panther

Michael_B._Jordan_by_Gage_SkidmoreActor Michael B. Jordan will be reteaming with director Ryan Coogler as it is being reported that he’ll be joining Marvel‘s Black Panther in an unspecified role.

This is the third time the actor has team with Coogler. They worked together on Fruitvale Station and Creed previously.

It was reported yesterday that Lupita Nyong’o is in talks to join the cast.

This is the second superhero role for Jordan. Earlier this year he played Johnny Storm in the box office flop Fantastic Four, another Marvel property but that one by 20th Century Fox. Jordan is also the second Johnny Storm to hop from that role in to a role in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Chris Evans played the same role twice and is now Captain America.

The film is being directed by Ryan Coogler and stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther. Coogler is known for writing and directly Fruitvale Station as well as Creed. He will be doing both for Black Panther as well. After a career mostly in television, Boseman broke through with his portrayal as Jackie Robinson in the film 42 and will be depicting Thurgood Marshall in Marshall which comes to theaters in 2016.

The film is set to release February 2, 2018 and begins filming in early 2017.

Black Panther debuted in Captain America: Civil War is the warrior king of the African kingdom of Wakanda. A teaser scene at the end of Civil War sets up the possible conflict of the film.

Ryan Coogler on Board to Direct Black Panther

Variety Studio At Chivas House - Day 2 - The 66th Annual Cannes Film FestivalAfter a lot of speculation, rumors, and denial, Marvel has announced that Ryan Coogler will direct Black Panther which hits theaters February 16, 2018.

Coogler blew up as the director of the award winning Fruitvale Station. He most recently directed and wrote Creed, which won a Golden Globe last night for Sylvester Stallone’s peformance in Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.

Chadwick Boseman will star and debut as the character in Captain America: Civil War which comes to theaters May 6, 2016.

Movie Review: Creed

CreedThe former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.

When I saw the first trailer for Creed there were two thoughts that crossed my mind, 1) how am I just hearing about this?; 2) oh come on!

I’m a fan of the Rocky series, and other than the atrocious Rocky V, I can watch the movies over and over again, and curled up on the couch catching a marathon on television is a great way to spend the day for me. Though the films generally decreased in quality over time (with Rocky Balboa being the outlier) the franchise is one of the most enjoyable out there.

Walking out of Creed, not only have I watched the best “Rocky” film since the first (and in many ways it challenges the first), but also one of the best films of the year.

Directed by Ryan Coogler (who also has a writing credit), the film is a modern take on the Rocky myth, with Michael B. Jordan standing in for Sylvester Stallone, and Stallone taking on the mentor role. With Coogler behind the camera and Jordan in front, we also have one of the freshest films this year. It should be no surprise these two put out such an excellent film as they both shot to stardom with their first collaboration Fruitville Station.

Coogler’s choices are fantastic when it comes to direction, as well as story, with shots that modernize much of what we’ve seen. Subtle moves of the camera, especially during the boxing scenes, amp up a genre where we see mainly the same framing and use of the camera. Here a camera may start facing one boxer and in a single tracking shot back up and pivot to bring another in. We follow a knocked out boxer down, as if we’re knocked out. A face is placed low on the screen showing off the surroundings. Training is presented in a way that I feel it’s something I’ve never seen on the screen. The mitt training in particular feel like a choreographed dance with a flurry of arm movements, just beautiful and mesmerizing to watch fly through the air. It’s all masterful, as Coogler realizes the surroundings are as important as those who occupy them.

The story is almost a complete remake of the first Rocky film with some twists and turns. Jordan plays Adonis Johnson, a troubled youth who gets in to fighting then boxing. He seeks out Balboa as a mentor, and eventually fights for the championship. We’ve seen this plot, but how it’s presented and with such fantastic acting, are two ways this very much differs.

Coogler as a director clearly has the ability to bring out the best in his actors. Jordan is not shockingly fantastic. I’ve yet to see him in a role where he didn’t shine. He plays the role fantastically well with an air of privilege and trouble mixed together. He also gives an emotional performance, one which I have no problem admitting got me to choke up a few times. What’s truly surprising is Stallone’s performance, who lets face it, isn’t known for his acting ability. Here though, he plays the aged mentor well. The vulnerability he shows is amazing, especially when his life is on the line. You truly feel that this is a man who is struggling to decide if he should give up and see his wife and friend again, or keep on fighting. This film is as about Johnson’s fight for the title as it is Rocky’s fight to go on with life.

Of note are two other actors. Tessa Thompson plays Jordan’s love interest Johnson. She’s excellent for the subtlety of her performance. Her character Bianca also has an aspect not mentioned in much of what I’ve seen, a character who is losing her hearing and thus struggling with a disability. It’s an aspect of the movie I didn’t expect, and the way she talks and deals with it, you can feel her struggling to cope and having to cope. It’s wonderful to see on screen. For those also familiar with the boxing/MMA world Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran is a fixture in the second half of the film bringing an air of authenticity. Duran is a real world cutman working in boxing/MMA/kickboxing, and though he doesn’t have much as far as lines, it was great to see him on screen.

Like a championship passing from the champ to challenger, we may be witnessing the passing of a franchise. If what’s to come is as good as this first film, I’m quite ok with that. One of my favorite films of the year, and possibly one of the bests, it’s also one of my favorite films in a while.

Overall Rating: 9.6

Director – Ryan Coogler
Starring – Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 133 minutes