PUBLISHED 15 FEB 2018
BUILT on an enormous meteorite comprised of Vibranium, the African nation of Wakanda has become far more technologically advanced than the rest of the world. Its population hide in plain sight, pretending to be a third world country instead of the most powerful. But when the son of a murdered Prince comes back for vengeance, they are pulled under the microscope.
BLACK PANTHER follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as he fights for his throne, his country and his family against a villain attempting to destabilise the world’s class system. Although this is a film about a man wearing an indestructible suit who also has superpowers, it is incredibly self-aware. BLACK PANTHER uses the two-hour run-time to explore a family dynamic like no other in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, his family steal the show on numerous occasions – more specifically, his sister Shuri.
Letitia Wright masterfully pinches scenes from underneath the stoic Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa’s sister and best friend. She is also the inventor of Black Panther’s gadgets, suits and Vibranium technology. BLACK PANTHER is full of incredible women; inventors, warriors, spies and queens. Ryan Coogler, who previously directed CREED (2015) and the superb FRUITVALE STATION (2013), presents a welcome shift in tone for a white-centric genre that is frequently steeped in misogyny.
BLACK PANTHER takes the time to look at the way people of African-descent have been treated across the world and offers a solution. That is largely why Michael B. Jordan’s antagonistic character, Erik "Killmonger" Stevens is one of the most entertaining elements of the film. Marvel is notorious for using throwaway villains that do not have any real character to them. With emotional depth and a complex internal rage, Killmonger is easily one of the most intricately written villains the studio has offered.
Although the film does strive to be something new in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it also manages to fall into some of the usual traps of the franchise. Even though Killmonger is expertly written and directed, he has the exact same skillset as the hero, something prevalent in films such as IRON MAN (Jon Favreau 2008), THOR (Kenneth Branagh 2011) and CAPTAIN AMERICA (Joe Johnston 2011). Even though some of the action sequences are thrilling - the South Korea piece felt close to a good James Bond film in places - they do not offer anything particularly spectacular or out of the ordinary. There are many quick cuts and CGI improved fighting skills. The action and the story are not particularly well balanced but, when we are exploring the wonders of Wakanda, it is hard to complain.
T’Challa is not the world’s first black superhero. But he might be the one we need right now. Other films like STEEL (Kenneth Johnson 1997), SPAWN (Mark A Z Dippé 1997), BLADE (Stephen Norrington 1998), CATWOMAN (Pitof 2004) and HANCOCK (Peter Berg 2008) all had black heroes at the forefront. But lazy writing and poor acting meant that some of those films have descended into infamy. BLACK PANTHER brings us a rich variety of characters that provide an important social commentary for the world as we know it.
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