So I watched Black Panther…
I watch a lot of movies and spend a lot of time at the local movie theatres so I think it’s fair to say I’ve gained an understanding of the movie-going culture in my part of the world. People go watch a movie, like it or not and that’s it for them. Even when blockbusters like The Avengers or Fifty Shades fill the cinema to capacity, you still always feel that this is a passing event that people aren’t going to take home and treasure. Enter Black Panther…never in my life have I experienced the electricity, the excitement that I did as I waited in line to enter the theatre. It was remarkable, I’d even go as far as saying historic.
Okay, basic plot: After the death of his father, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) must accept his new responsibilities as king of Wakanda. Seeking to be as good a king as his father, T’Challa must decide where his nation’s future lies – in the shadows as has been their tradition or in the light where they can do the most good. His right to the throne is challenged by Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) – an American mercenary nickname Killmonger who has a surprising understanding of Wakanda and its traditions. Killmonger wants to disrupt the current order of the world and free the oppressed and he doesn’t care how many lives he has to take in order to achieve his goal.
As a rule, I never read reviews before writing my own. I also generally avoid reading comments on social media about movies I haven’t properly formed my opinion on yet. With Black Panther, this was absolutely impossible. EVERYBODY was talking about this movie. People who’ve told me repeatedly that they’re not into movies were raving about it and quoting pieces of dialogue from the film. This movie is a phenomenon, the likes of which I haven’t seen before. But maybe you haven’t seen it yet and you’re wondering, is it worth the hype? HELL YES! The question isn’t, ‘is this another good Marvel movie?’; the real question is, ‘ is this the greatest Marvel movie ever made?’
Well it certainly is the most important. As I was scrolling through twitter and reading the never-ending stream of praise this movie was receiving, I came across my favourite tweet of the lot. The tweet basically said that this movie isn’t even about all the adults enjoying it, it’s about the twelve year old kids who are gonna watch this movie over and over again the way we watched Spider-Man and Batman. There’s going to be a whole generation of black children who look up to the screen and see a hero who looks like them, faces the same struggles as them and who they can relate to in a way that they simply will never be able to with anyone else. Imagine that! Black people are no longer just slaves or maids or plucky comic relief. We’re the heroes, the stars, the main attraction!
Watching this movie as a black person must feel like how women felt when they watched Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman showed just how irrelevant men are. Here you have this civilisation of badass warrior goddesses who are thriving without patriarchy telling them what they can and cannot be. In a similar way you have the marvel of Wakanda – a nation unsullied by the thieving and destructive presence of white people. It’s a dream.
So yes, this movie functions well as a political piece and delivers great social commentary but is it also a good superhero movie? It’s so much more than that though. It reminds me a great deal of Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy, in that, it doesn’t feel Earth-bound. The movie and its story almost exist in another universe – a better universe, where the mundane everyday issues that you see in every other Marvel movie are non-existent. Its different and that’s the point (and beauty) of this movie. Its story is rooted in Wakanda and the internal conflict among its citizens. It’s a new narrative and one essential to keep the longevity of the MCU going.
This film’s script is amazing but a good script fails without good actors and this film has some of the best up-and-coming as well as established talent. Chadwick Boseman is a force in this film’s lead. There’s a stoic gravity and regal presence to everything he does in the film. He is King of Wakanda! He is the Black Panther! It’s a performance without doubt and without flaw. But you can say that about everyone in the film. My personal favourites were Letitia Wright as Shuri – T’Challa’s younger sister with one of the smartest mouths I’ve ever seen. She’s a scene stealer and will have you in absolute stiches. Danai Gurira as General Okoye is also an absolute hit. She is an absolute badass! I also really enjoyed the work of the likes of Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett who injected class and quality from the film’s periphery.
I was also really impressed with Michael B. Jordan in this film. I think his character – Killmonger – is one that’s going to inspire a lot of healthy debate about the difference between a hero and villain. He’s very well-written but also equally well-portrayed. I think he’s probably the best Marvel villain since Loki. He’s layered and complex and even though he is this movie’s ‘bad guy’ you really can relate to what he’s saying.
I also have to praise this film’s soundtrack because just like everything else in this movie, it’s UNAPOLOGETICALLY BLACK! There’s a swagger, a nonchalance to it. At times, it feels like you’re sitting in the VIP section of a club just living your best life. This film’s costume design is also spectacular. The way they blended different African cultures into one is remarkable. This all just creates this idea of the harmony and happiness Africa could have been if our paler brothers didn’t decide to get on ships…
I’ve said a lot about this film and I think I’ll end it with my final word of praise and only criticism which goes to director, Ryan Coogler. Coogler does fantastic work. I want to go back now and see his other films because the man has such a great understanding of filmmaking. I’ve only watched one of his other films – Creed and in that, just as in Black Panther, the visuals and the sound just come together so well to create a poignant piece of film. Bravo, Coogler! The only fault I can find in this film is that the action sequences aren’t as well shot as I would have liked. Shots are often too tight and you don’t get a sense of what’s happening overall in the scene. It’s a common problem in Hollywood but one I think directors really need to correct.
Overall, Black Panther lives up to and surpasses its hype. It’s a perfect example of the excellence that black people are capable of when giving the tools to shine. There’s so many more good things I could say about this movie but bottomline is that it’s brilliant and if you’re a person of colour, you must go see this! 8/10
P.S. Anyone have directions to Wakanda?