If the reported ticket pre-sale numbers are accurate, we’re about to see a huge weekend at the box office. Advance purchases for Marvel’s latest movie are said to be through the roof. In addition to the MCU’s 18th installment, Aardman Animations has its first new feature since 2015’s ‘Shaun the Sheep’.
The biggest and most noteworthy of the weekend’s three new films is Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’. We first met the title character nearly two years ago in ‘Captain America: Civil War’. Now he has a feature film of his own that breaks the Marvel rut – you know, the one that makes every new movie feel like Mad-Libbed iteration of the last – and functions entirely on its own. The isolated tale takes place in a new location with mostly new characters, all of which are fleshed out more than those of any MCU entry to date (arguably, of course). The story relies on intimate character flaws instead of world-saving scenarios, and the villain has a depth and motive that make him rise above most flat Marvel bad guys. Having a few structural and tonal issues and a too-long running time, it’s not flawless, but the addition of the rich Wakandan culture expands the MCU in a way that I didn’t previously believe possible.
Aardman Animations produces a unique brand of animated movie just as entertaining for kids as for the adults who brought them out to the cinema. The studio’s latest picture, ‘Early Man’, is no exception, but I worry that it will struggled to find an audience on this side of the pond as the ‘Paddington’ movies have. ‘Early Man’ takes us back to the awkward transitional period between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age. Cavemen and modern men collide, and the only way to settle their qualms is to face off on the football (soccer) field. Charming, hilarious and easily accessible, ‘Early Man’ is yet another smart family movie that might be more entertaining for the adults than the kids.
Lastly, we have ‘Samson’, a PG-13 Biblical epic from a dozen random producers of such titles as ‘The Case for Christ’, ‘God’s Not Dead’ and ‘The Last House on the Left’. A miscellaneous crew member from ‘Donnie Darko’ also managed to get a producer credit for it. No-name actors play Samson, the legendary hero with all-powerful hair, and Delilah, the woman bound to betray him. A ‘Twilight’ actor and Billy Zane also managed to make it into the cast.