The first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to feature a black superhero feels more like the first black Bond film, minus the cavalier attitude toward women and plus some supernatural elements. You’ve got your central drama over who gets to get their hands on the advanced technology. Your tour of the gadget lab prior to embarking on a mission. Your slightly creaky humor — in this case, a “What are those?” shoe joke and a reference to whipping one’s hair back and forth. Your entanglement with the CIA and punch-up with an evil black-marketeer in a casino. And most importantly, your bad guy bursting with dreams of world domination — the violent creation of a new world order to replace the current, admittedly miserable one. It’s also a bit ponderous (Bonderous?), and prone to answering profound political questions via mortal combat. That’s one thing when you’ve got a licensed-to-kill operative trying to stop a countdown, but it’s another when you have it as the accepted method for legitimate political rivals to determine a nation’s foreign policy. Credit to director and co-writer Ryan Coogler for envisioning an epic and assembling the requisite elements: a struggle for the throne, a nation on the brink of transformation, a compelling juxtaposition of father-son relationships, a brilliant array of women determined to aid their king in his hour of need, and a daring mix of the ancient and the very new. Points off for poor pacing, action, and dialogue; goofy physics (including a charging rhino stopping on a dime for laffs); and an overall failure to make his dramatic beats register in regions below the brain. Ultimately, it's more interesting to think about than it is to watch. (2018) — Matthew Lickona
This movie is not currently in theaters.