Black Panther is the umpteeth addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe which picks up with T’Challa where Civil War left him.
After the death of King T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the afrofuturist, and highly secretive, kingdom of Wakanda. As T’Challa claims the throne he is faced with questions over Wakanda’s role within the greater world. Should they use their technology to help others? Wakandans have always kept themselves to themselves for safety; T’Challa’s duty is to his people, not anyone else. But when Michael B Jordan’s Killmonger enters the picture, he argues that Wakanda should be using their resources to help black people everywhere who have been oppressed their whole lives.
Ryan Coogler, on the back of Creed, has delivered yet another impressive directorial effort, masterfully crafting an immersive world with rich characters. The world of Wakanda feels lived in, with a deep history and vibrant culture. Coogler has perfectly blended African culture with space age technology – a wonderfully empowering image, considering that all most of us see of African culture is from Lenny Henry on Comic Relief, and one that is shamefully overdue in big budget cinema.
Coogler doesn’t shy away from addressing the big issues, highlighting the inequality and oppression that black people have faced throughout history. This is explored both on the global scale and pared down to poverty stricken black America. It’s hard to justify Wakanda idly ignoring the treatment of black people throughout the past, drawing a parallel with the uncomfortable reality of white history.
Chadwick Boseman is given the opportunity to build on the character we saw glimpses of in Civil War and he does so with aplomb. We see a much more vulnerable and complicated version of the character here. It’s always been the case that your hero is only as good as his villain and boy, is the villain good here. Michael B Jordan has delivered one of Marvel’s best villainous turns yet. Killmonger is a real threat. He doesn’t see himself as the bad guy and that’s the key to a great villain. Much of what he says is completely reasonable or at least understandable – it comes from a place of caring. He’s a villain you can empathise with and not only that, but his views puts the ethics and morality of the hero in jeopardy.
As well as the two male leads, Black Panther boasts an impressive array of female talent all of whom excel in their roles. Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, a spy who thinks Wakanda could and should do more to help neighbouring countries where poverty and war is rife. Letitia Wright is T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri and the genius behind most of Wakanda’s technological advances and Danai Gurira is Okoye, the leader of Wakanda’s all-female special forces team.
Andy Serkis returns as Ulysses Klaue, one of two Tolkien white guys, and he delivers a riotous performance clearly enjoying his time out of the CGI suit. He’s such an underrated actor who deserves so much more recognition for his work. Martin Freeman also returns to play Everett Ross with his usual charm and humour.
Coogler does a fantastic job of creating interesting and relatable characters and in crafting compelling relationships – T’Challa and Shuri’s relationship is a highlight which brings levity and humour to the film. As a result, the film feels more personal than a film of this scale usually would and it’s all the better for it. It’s about one man battling with his identity, legacy and the legacy of his ancestors.
Black Panther looks spectacular; the use of vibrant colour and African prints combined with sleek vibranium tech give it a unique and effervescent style. The soundtrack too, with input from Kendrick Lemar not only fits perfectly into this world but is a major part of why it feels so real.
Technically, it is a film difficult to fault. However, while most of the action is generally good, particularly the hand-to-hand combat, there are a few issues in the final act. As is becoming standard in comic book films, this suffers from the overuse of CGI, which detracts slightly from the good work in building up a personal and emotional conflict.
The film emphasises the importance of togetherness in overcoming world issues. It’s everyone’s responsibility to make the world a better place and the film ends on a powerful uplifting note. Ultimately, Black Panther is another success for Marvel thanks to a wonderful cast of characters. Despite being let down by one of Marvel’s well known pitfalls, Black Panther still earns it’s spot in the top tier of MCU films. Like with Taika Waititi and Thor: Rangarok, Marvel have given creative control over to a director to tell a story that he wants to tell.
More of the same, please.
AFROFUTURIST. PROGRESSIVE. UPLIFTING.
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