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One of the longstanding truths about the realm of comic books is that death isn’t really death. With vanishingly few exceptions, the death of a Marvel or DC character tends to be more of a temporary setback than any kind of permanent loss.

Of course, that isn’t how the real world works.

When Chadwick Boseman passed away, we lost a truly gifted artist. We lost someone whose immense talents were evident in everything he did, from Jackie Robinson to James Brown to Thurgood Marshall to, yes, T’Challa, the Black Panther. An irreplaceable star in the cinematic firmament was extinguished too soon.

And yet … the show must go on.

The massive critical, commercial and cultural success of 2018’s “Black Panther” – as well as its prominent placement in the mythology of the Marvel Cinematic Universe write large – meant that there was always going to a sequel, but what shape could that now take? Was it possible to make a film that both respected the memory of its fallen star and carried forward the singular and general narratives? Could even a filmmaker as talented as Ryan Coogler pull this off?

The answer to those final two questions … is yes.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a fascinating work of popular culture. Somehow, the parties involved have crafted a superhero film that is good in all the ways that these films need to be good – big action set pieces, memorable characters, some decent laugh lines, a story that works in micro and macro contexts – yet still maintains the more sophisticated effort to explore thornier societal ideas. All that, while also being immensely respectful and reverent of Chadwick Boseman’s memory. Threading that needle would seem nigh-impossible – but Coogler does it.

Published in Movies

There’s nothing quite like a good whodunit. And the absolute O.G. of the whodunit is Agatha Christie, who wrote scores of novels and short story collections, all devoted to laying out literary mysteries for us to solve … or at least, for us to enjoy being solved.

One of Christie’s iconic characters – Detective Hercule Poirot – is currently in the midst of a big-screen renaissance, courtesy of the efforts of one Sir Kenneth Branagh, who is devoted to bringing the character back into the popular consciousness by working both in front of and behind the camera.

Indeed, “Death on the Nile” marks the second outing for Branagh as both director and star – he plays the iconic Belgian crime-solving genius (mustache and all) even as he steers the ship. It’s not quite as engaging as 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” for a variety of reasons – the level of ensemble talent isn’t quite as high and there’s a pasted-on feel to most of the exterior shots, making the whole thing feel just a touch low-rent – ironic, since this is a story that revolves around the rich.

Even taking those issues into account, however, it is a perfectly pleasant piece of pop cinema, a throwback of sorts (though one could certainly argue that “Death on the Nile” is no less IP-reliant than any superhero movie) that mostly works despite a fair share of flaws.

Published in Movies

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