MOVIE REVIEW: Black Panther

written by David Steffen

Black Panther is a 2018 science fiction superhero film by Marvel Studios, based on Marvel’s Black Panther character established in 1966. This is the first film starring the Marvel hero, who has gone on to be featured in other Marvel films.

The story is rooted in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, which keeps much of its culture and economy a secret from the outside world. Unbeknownst to most outsiders, they are the most technologically advanced country in the world, rooted in an early discovery of vibranium (a fictional substance in the Marvel universe that, among other things, is what Captain America’s shield is made from). For many generations, most of the subcultures of Wakanda have been united under the leadership of a king who is also the Black Panther, made special by the ingestion of a heart-shaped herb that grows only there and gives that person superhuman abilities.

The old king has died, and his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the heir, is called back to Wakanda to become the king and Black Panther. But what would normally be a relatively smooth succession marked more by rituals of contention than any real contention is thrown into turmoil by the appearance of a man who calls himself Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), an American special operative that claims to have a claim to the throne among other attempts at the throne including attacks from black-market arms dealer Klaue (Andy Serkis).

This is one of my favorite Marvel films. There is a lot of special effects eye candy with the really interesting Wakandan technology that is inspired by African styles but with its own technological flare, intended to be its own thing apart from Western technology. The cast is wonderful, and is a rarity in Hollywood films for being majority of the African diaspora, which was refreshing. The story is compelling and action-packed. Highly recommended!


written by David Steffen

Ant-Man is a 2015 superhero film based on the Marvel comics characters of the same name.  Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is the inventor of a suit that allows the wearer to shrink and grow.  When the wearer is small, their punches land with the same force as when they’re full size, but concentrated onto the area of a pinhead.  Pym worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. using the suit until 1989 when he resigned when he learned that they were trying to replicate the suit technology for military applications, and started his own company: Pym Technologies.  In the present, Pym’s daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is working with Pym’s former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), to force Pym out of his own company.  Cross is determined to reverse-engineer Pym’s shrinking suit, and keeps on trying despite failure after failure.

Meanwhile, well-intentioned small-time thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is released on parole, but has trouble finding legitimate work because of his ex-con status.  Pressured by his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) to find a way to pay child support, he returns to a life of crime to try to break into a safe in the house of an older man who is supposed to be on vacation.  What he finds in the safe is the Ant-Man suit, planted there by Pym, and when he tries it on Pym puts him through a crash-course in its abilities (not only growing and shrinking, but being able to control ants using electrical signals).  Pym recruits Scott to help him thwart Cross’s plan to perfect the suit.

Ant-Man is as much a comedy as it is an action movie, unusual in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where action is usually most of the focus with humor as a sideline.  It’s friendly for kids, though a couple parts could be scary, bad guys are generally incapacitated instead of dying.  Paul Rudd has a knack for dry delivery, and he is perfect for this role, bringing much of the humor to the film, and Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly are great in their roles as well.  I watched this movie with my child and we enjoyed it a lot.  I’d recommend it for all ages.