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Black Panther – Review


Release Date: 16 February 2018 [USA]
Director: Ryan Coogler
Writer: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole [Screenplay]
Cast: Chadwick Boseman - Michael B. Jordan - Lupita Nyong'o



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Posted February 18, 2018 by

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Black Panther – Review

This is the one fans have been waiting for. Black Panther, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first superhero of colour finally hits the big screen. It has taken far too long for the character to get a solo outing but, he is here to stay.

The last we saw of Black Panther, aka Prince T’Challa of Wakanda (Chadwick Boseman), he was mourning the loss of his father, the benevolent King T’Chaka (John Kani), in Captain America: Civil War. In Black Panther, T’Challa takes his first steps towards assuming his father’s mantle. But, first, he needs his trusted friend, and one-time romantic partner, Wakandan spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), by his side.

Black Panther ReviewT’Challa and his chief of security, General Okoye (Danai Gurira), set out to find Nakia, who is on a secret mission. Together, they help Nakia complete her task and persuade her to return to Wakanda for T’Challa’s coronation. At the elaborate ceremony, the tribes of Wakanda are mostly happy to see T’Challa ascend to the throne, all except the elusive Jabari. But, T’Challa makes short work of the Jabari leader M’Baku (Winston Duke) and claims the Wakandan throne for himself.

There should be peace in Wakanda, but a new threat soon arrives – Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) want Wakanda’s vibranium, the strongest metal on the planet, for themselves. Killmonger also wants something else – the Wakandan throne. T’Challa may be the Black Panther, but life in a peaceful nation may have made him too kind to face as vengeful an adversary as Killmonger.

Black Panther CastBlack Panther is undoubtedly the most beautiful film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The fictional country of Wakanda is a stunning amalgamation of high-rises, vibrant green plains and gushing rivers. Rachel Morrison’s cinematography is undoubtedly the hero of this film. Colour is everywhere in Black Panther, especially in the clothes and jewellery. The Wakandan tribes each have a different colour scheme, which is reflected in their clothing and headdresses. Then there’s the red and gold uniforms of T’Challa’s security team, the Dora Milaje and everything Lupita Nyong’o wears – greens, blues and red armour – that especially stand out in the battle sequences. Even Black Panther’s new suit gets a colour upgrade, incorporating purple with the black and silver of the existing suit.

Black Panther MarvelBlack Panther’s greatest strength is that it is unapologetically African. Writer-director Ryan Coogler and his team did a great deal of research into the cultures of Africa’s countries to create a cohesive Wakandan culture that was unquestionably African. The various sects of Wakanda are the most obvious homages to the many countries of Africa, but so are the fighting techniques and locations.

In the Marvel Comics, Wakanda is shown to be an incredibly advanced nation. I had reservations as to how the country’s advanced technology would be portrayed in the MCU, considering how much science-fiction we have encountered in the past few decades. The technology is, in a word, marvellous. Alongside the skyscrapers are high-speed monorails, hologram-based communication devices and aircraft that would make S.H.I.E.L.D. envious. This is the kind of afrofuturism that audiences have been denied for decades.

Black Panther 2017When one watches a film like this, you realise what is missing in Hollywood. Diversity is a word critics throw around a lot but what do we mean when we ask for more diversity in film? It means scenes like the South Korea sequence in Black Panther. Of everything I loved in this film, the South Korea segment brought home the importance of diversity to me. People of colour engaged in espionage and high-speed chases? Yes, please! Why can’t we have more of this? This film isn’t just diverse, it is representative of the kind of cinema people want.

Black Panther Lupita Nyong'oThe MCU has struggled with their female characters, who have, till now, been relegated to love interest/ damsel in distress/ sidekick roles. Yet again, Black Panther subverts the MCU norm by surrounding T’Challa with powerful women. Aside from the Dora Milaje, which is straight from the comics, and Wakanda’s top spy Nakia, there are also a number of women on the Wakanda high council and, the country’s chief inventor is T’Challa’s sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright). However, despite the plethora of female characters, the film does not pass the Bechdel-Wallace test, which is a surprise for a film that is otherwise so progressive.

If you do not leave the theatre absolutely adoring Shuri, you need to go back and rewatch the film. Wright’s Shuri is a delight. She is a funny, sarcastic, enthusiastic genius who steals your heart from the moment she appears on screen, teasing her brother and getting into trouble with her mother. She is definitely my new favourite Marvel character.

Black Panther Michael B. JordanAt the other end of the spectrum is Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. Jordan has the acting chops to handle any role but with Killmonger he brings a complexity and depth that elevates his villain into the company of the MCU’s only other solid villain till now, Loki. Where Killmonger surpasses Loki, however, is in his political motivations. Killmonger sees Wakanda as a cowardly nation because it has used its power and wealth solely for its own advancement. Whereas the rest of Africa and Africa’s descendants around the world suffer, Wakanda grows without a care in the world for its fellow Africans. This is an injustice Killmonger cannot tolerate and thus, he sets about trying to rectify it.

Black Panther Chadwick BosemanJordan’s performance steals the show and outshines Boseman’s T’Challa, who, though conflicted, does not have as much character development in this film as he did in his curtailed appearance in Captain America: Civil War. T’Challa’s one-dimensionality is probably the primary negative of the film, but it is outweighed by his charm and chemistry with all the characters. A character doesn’t always need to have a powerful arc; sometimes it is good enough for the protagonist to have a series of encounters just to change his mind about one big decision.

Like 2017’s Wonder Woman, Black Panther is the kind of progressive film we need, especially within the superhero genre. It is sad that it has taken ten years and seventeen MCU films for this one to come to fruition but the final product is brilliant, cohesive and a refreshing entry into the genre. The visuals are to die for, the action is raw and engaging, despite the extensive world-building, the pace never lags, the characters make you love them instantly, and the political messages are overt and relevant for our times. Black Panther is the film we have been waiting for. Till we meet T’Challa and his friends again: Wakanda Forever!


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Louis Skye
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