Reel Reviews: ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Annihilation’

By on February 28, 2018

A changing world

Has Natalie Portman lost her allure as a hero? Well, if the box office has an answer, it is a resounding yes. Portman’s star was too dull to shine brightly over the weekend as “Annihilation” finished its opening weekend in a dismal fourth place.

Based on American author Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” trilogy, “Annihilation” starts with biology professor/ex-army combatant Lena (Portman) whose special forces husband is whisked away on assignment never to return.

But, he does return, a mere shell of his former self. Lena winds up in a government run installation trying to make heads or tails of a phenomena dubbed The Shimmer. The alien effect is engulfing parts of the Florida gulf coast at an alarming rate and no one has an answer as to why. Desperate, Lena joins Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny), and Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson) to form the next band of nothing-to-lose adventurers to enter The Shimmer.

This trippy, soul searching show is a machine for metaphors where each viewer can plug and unplug his or her own definition, reason, or preconception into the equation. Thought provoking and visually stunning, the film is a great thrill ride teetering on the edge of horror only to be pushed off the razor’s edge by science fiction laced with good ol’ gun-wielding, knife-playing, military-infused action. At times overly simplistic and at times wandering into the vastness of all possibilities, “Annihilation” is a movie evoking frustration and helplessness.

The main problem I had with this movie is that I could not wash the image of Portman as Nina Sayers in “The Black Swan” from my mind. That’s a personal take, but it is that type of connection this film evokes by its inquisitive nature. I haven’t read VanderMeer’s books, so I’d be curious to learn what a fan of the popular trilogy thinks.

Chadwick Boseman starts as T’Challa, king of Wakanda (a.k.a. Black Panther) in Marvel’s newest offering. Despite record-breaking ticket sales, reviewer Michael Upton found the film “underwhelming.” (

‘Black Panther’

Hot off his appearance in “Captain America: Civil War,” the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is back. Now king of Wakanda, T’Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther) must defend his homeland from a force both foreign and domestic as Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) has entered the secret country to make his claim as king and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman as U.S. military intelligence operative Everett K. Ross) threatens to expose the country’s vast resources and intelligence to the rest of the world. Beautiful battles ensue wrapped in a thick, warm blanket of filler and establishment.

As a Marvel Universe fan and longtime comic book reader, I was stoked to see this movie (especially after seeing the wonderful trailers), but I found it merely underwhelming. This may not be a popular take as many people have seen this movie several times and it is selling out almost every showing in local theaters. A lot of young viewers are calling it the best Marvel movie yet. And, this is not a political opinion made about the political statements in “Black Panther.”

One of my favorite parts was spying the Public Enemy poster in Killmonger’s apartment. Maybe it is just too much backstory for me. Maybe I wanted a deeper and grander connection to the Marvel Universe. Maybe it’s a generational thing. I don’t know; the rhinos were really, really cool though. And General Okoye (Danai Gurira) — she is really awesome!

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