Black Panther - This Marvel Movie Rocks
Dir: Ryan Coogler
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Sterling K. Brown, Winston Duke
Black Panther brings with it a number of questions. Does it live up to the hype? Is it an “important” film? Is it really a “Marvel” film? Is it an “important Marvel” film? Will it do for black people what Wonder Woman did for women – i.e. sort out every issue EVER?? The answer to all of these (bar the last one) is “Yes.” With some reservations.
First and foremost, this is by no means a traditional Marvel film, as intended. It is also by no means a conventional superhero film. And we’re not just acknowledging its largely black cast and empowered female central characters. Tonally, Ryan Coogler’s movie is a world away from anything we have yet to encounter in the MCU. We’re no longer in New York or the like. Wakanda is a very different place and one that Black Panther is keen to establish almost as a universe unto itself, given its seclusion from the world as we know it. Coogler, along with his production designer and co, do a fantastic job of bringing this world to life, notions of Metropolis expounded into a future vision of Africa and beyond. It is a gorgeous film to look at.
And it has a tale to tell – albeit one that is often awash in ideas and debate, from colonialism and slavery, to human rights, to equality, to disenfranchisement, to militant black power, to the very basic notions of idealism versus life in the real world. All of these discussions are touched upon but it’s fair to say the majority are presented rather than developed.
Instead we have a tale of power and kingdoms, fought for and rent asunder by historical and familial divides. As T’Challa (an excellent Boseman) assumes the Wakandan throne, he finds his kingdom, and its power source vibranium - think some all-powerful all-purpose mineable alloy that can advance technology and provide Captain America (not present here) with his shield, and it’s not long before the outside world comes nefariously in pursuit of the wealth this resource offers. Cue Andy Serkis in splendidly slimy form, reprising his role as Ulysses Klaue from Age of Ultron.
When Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger – a dispossessed Wakandan – shows up straight outta Compton however, things get even trickier. And even more involving, with the always terrific Jordan bringing a depth to Killmonger previously lacking from just about all other Marvel villains.
As you can see, there’s a lot going on in Black Panther – so much so, that a whole heavily trailed action sequence involving a car chase through Seoul almost feels like it belongs in another movie altogether. It also has a lot to carry on its shoulders and a lot riding on it in terms of how the superhero movie moves forward from here.
Or does it? It’s a really good solid movie. And yes, the fact that it has a largely black cast (bar Martin Freeman getting his Han Solo moment) and a strong array of female roles is important and progressive. And incredibly timely – like #oscarsowhite and #metoo got together and had a Marvel baby. But that’s not a movie in and off itself.
Black Panther needs to stand alone as a strong film. And, for the most part, it does. It just feels a little too alone in the MCU right now. As if it had so much to prove that it’s hard to accept it just for itself. Full marks for a third climactic act that involves personal conflict and not dozens of city blocks collapsing though. (Even if the entire Wakandan population seem the most disloyal bunch of shits ever!) It reinforces that Black Panther is a very strong film. But it’s still a superhero film. And it may not be quite the game changer it’s been hailed as.
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