Marvel’s Black Panther marks an iconic cinematic moment for two reasons: naturally, it is the studio’s first superhero film to feature a predominantly black cast; and is in actual fact the first Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film – which began with 2008’s Iron Man – to have a black superhero in the lead role.
What would a present day Africa be like had colonialism never occurred? Black Panther makes this notion a reality with the fictional Wakanda – an untouched, prosperous and one of the most technologically advanced civilisations on Earth.
Ironically, the African nation is masquerading as a third-world country to the rest of the world, striving to protect its most valuable resource – vibranium.
Unfortunately, the aeons old secret is out as a portion of the resource was looted years earlier by a South African arms dealer named Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). Because greed is one of humanity’s biggest flaws, Klaue attempts to procure more vibranium and is joined this time by the fearless Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) – who seeks the mineral for something much more personal.
It’s all up to T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) – and his superhero alter ego Black Panther – to protect Wakanda and ensure that the vibranium doesn’t land in the wrong hands.
As Wakanda’s newly appointed monarch, T’Challa also has tough decisions to make following the death of his father, T’Chaka (John Kani), during the events of Captain America: Civil War.
We know what you’re thinking, Black Panther’s aforementioned plot sounds like standard superhero fare – but that’s just us trying to keep the film as spoiler-free as we possibly can.
On the contrary, director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) – who co-wrote the script with Joe Robert Cole – confidently crafts Marvel’s deepest film to date.
Aside from its thoroughly engaging narrative, Coogler’s tent-pole is packed full of thought-provoking themes and powerful political messages which question whether Wakanda should use the vibranium to help oppressed Africans around the world and risk their mineral being used for destruction, or stand by and do nothing.
Then we have the antagonistic Killmonger, a victim of tragedy and a villain one can easily sympathise with – a first for Marvel who has been plagued with villain problems over the years.
Overall, Black Panther’s release is perfect-timing as it explores African oppression and the consequences thereof in a time where movements such as Black Lives Matter are taking the world by storm.
However, the film remains respectful to the African culture due to its representation of the latter: from the colourful costumes to the mesmerising Wakandan set designs, and the depiction of the culture.
Rachel Morrison, who recently became the first woman to ever receive an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, brings the lavish African nation to life in an exceptional fashion with fine camera work.
With Marvel’s signature humour added into the mix, expect some snappy one-liners that will have you on the floor in stitches, particularly from Letitia Wright’s Princess Shuri – T’Challa’s sister – and Danai Gurira’s Okoye – leader of the king’s bodyguards.
The well-fleshed out characters are easy to root for as they are brought to life by an exceptionally talented (and charismatic) cast with Boseman, Jordan, Gurira, Serkis, Wright and Lupita Nyong’o. Their African accents, however, are a bit of a hit-and-miss – while they mostly hit the right notes, there are times where it falls through the cracks.
The splashy effects and high-octane action sequences are hard not to like, mainly because the latter feels fresh and unlike anything Marvel has ever done, particularly the fight choreography.
Deep, poignant, inspirational, well-acted and exceptionally well-written; Black Panther breaks new ground for Marvel, cementing itself as one of the studio’s signature films.
Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Angela Bassett, Martin Freeman, John Kani, Daniel Kaluuya
Age Restriction: 13V
Release Date: 16 February 2018
Pictures: Marvel Studios