- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The live-action exploits of Wakanda’s greatest superhero moves from its mega-blockbuster run in theaters to the ultra high-definition format in Black Panther: Cinematic Universe Edition (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 134 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $29.99).

Marvel Entertainment can do no wrong these days, delivering yet another $1 billion plus box-office-busting movie that manages to expose viewers to some socio and geopolitical commentary and some dazzling action.

Director Ryan Coogler also co-writes the script and orchestrates a story celebrating the first African-American superhero brought to life by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, way back in the 1960s.

In the story, Wakanda’s new protector T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the son of recently killed King T’Chaka (as seen in “Captain America” Civil War”), assumes the throne of his father and the privilege of wearing the nearly indestructible Black Panther armor.

Viewers are privy to the inner workings of the hidden country of Wakanda, its access to the strongest metal in the world vibranium and their isolationist attitudes that have allowed its citizens to thrive in a lush wonderland, create incredible technology and maintain a strong sense of tradition and culture.

Of course, all of that is potentially shattered when a mysterious enemy appears and, with help from greedy arms dealers, seeks to harness and distribute the precious metal to the outside world while looking for a way to ascend to Wakanda’s crown.

Strong performances complement the onscreen battles and special-effects magic (an early car chase stands out) and include Michael B. Jordan as the mysterious N’Jadaka (aka Killmonger), Danai Gurira as Wakanda’s leader of female special forces Okoye, Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s tech genius sister Shuri and Andy Serkis as homicidal bad guy Ulysses Klaue.

Although one can appreciate the positive themes of the film while bringing this awesome superhero to the big screen, I do not consider “Black Panther,” the best of what Marvel cinema has to offer.

Despite the enormous gushing unleashed on the movie by critics and its wild embrace by viewers worldwide, “Thor: Ragnarok” was still a much more fun, roller-coaster ride, “Captain America: Civil War” was much more emotionally impactful to the superhero universe and “Captain America: Winter Soldier” had way more eye-popping, intense action.

4K UHD in action: Disney offers an ultra-high definition experience culled from the 4K master source material (shot at 3.4K resolution) and adds high-dynamic range and Dolby Vision lighting and color upgrades to deliver the best way to watch “Black Panther” in a home entertainment environment.

Areas to appreciate include the rich costuming within the African nation highlighted by plenty saturated deep pinks, blues, purples, golds and reds, especially worn by the tribes folk and female warriors.

For memorable moments and details, enhanced by the 4K tweaks, look to the dark, herb-growing chamber sprinkled with glowing purple flowers set aflame by a villain; a fiery orange sunset over Wakanda; the glistening armor covering a group of charging rhinos; the electrified purple accents on the Black Panther costume; and Shuri driving a holographic car with sparks of vibranium lighting up its structure.

Alas, that does not mean that all is perfect. Scenes set at night or in dark terrain offer murky detail to the point of not really seeing what’s going on.

The opening fight scene in a jungle was an immediate disappointment. It was hard to see Black Panther in action, and multiple audience members complained about the issue while I was watching.

Best extras: Pop in the Blu-ray version of the film to find all of the goodies that begin with an information-packed, optional commentary track with Mr. Coogler and production designer Hannah Beachler.

The director talks nearly continuously and dives pretty deep into the African connection of the characters, down to the men wearing different color neck chains and using certain types of eating utensils.

He also covers trivia such as the Atlanta basketball court shoot (representing an Oakland parking lot) was across the street from Martin Luther King’s grave and King’s daughter even stopped by while filming.

The designer occasionally pipes in to offer nuggets such as using over 150,000 plants and 20 tons of dirt for one of the early jungle sets.

Next, a nostalgic roundtable discussion features Black Panther comics writers Christopher Priest, Ta-Nehisi Coates and legend Don McGregor; film writer Joe Robert Cole; executive producer Nate Moore; and Mr. Coogler.

Between viewing classic comic covers and art of the character’s history, the group discusses the African-American hero’s place in the 1960s, what does it mean to be African, how would a black American feel if Wakanda existed, and many themes from the comics and film.

For film production fans, they get a four-part, 25-minute overview of the movie covering the introduction of Black Panther in comics and cinema, his world, the somewhat matriarchal society of Wakanda, its key citizens and the vibranium-based technology of Wakanda. The overview is supplemented with interviews of the director, crew and actors.

Other extras include an 8-minute overview on the first 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a short gag reel, four deleted scenes and even a quick introduction of the film by the director.

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