The Marvel Cinematic Universe demands your respect. You either do this through the dumbstruck route and be quiet or the more pronounced word of mouth and tell your loved ones that yes, yes indeed “Wakanda Forever”.
Just as last year we began 2017 with the best superhero/comic book movie of the year with Hugh Jackman’s “Logan”, we may already have the best with 2018’s Black Panther. I say this with full knowledge of “Avengers: Infinity War” being just three months away and Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool a few months further than that. But man, they have a lot to live up to.
We first met Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther nearly two years ago in “Captain America: Civil War” another great work from the Russo Brothers. And in that, even with the undeniable appeal Spider-Man has to all age groups plus he’s comeback to his universe, Black Panther was the one who stole the show with Boseman’s eye-catching delivery, one liners, charisma and charm winning audiences over with finesse. Boseman is great in Panther but not the greatest and that’s not bad in the slightest; its down to the film’s many great strengths.
From the get go we learn the proud history of Vibranium and how Wakanda came to be through Boseman’s T’challa after which, if you weren’t satisfied enough, you get a flashback to 1992 in California were we see T’challa’s now deceased father, T’chaka, young and his Black Panther gear with decades long guards the Dora Milaje. Straight off we are reminded not to mess with them not through action but advice from T’chaka’s brother, N’jobu, Played briefly by Sterling K. Brown. He’s been there on an undercover mission and has gone rogue; stealing Vibranium from Wakanda through the aid of Ulysses Klaue. N’jobu has lost his way and so would his son eventually.
Michael B. Jordan. Man how great is he? Even greater, how talented is Ryan Coogler? One look and you won’t believe they are both 31. This hollywood swashbuckling duo have made three movies together all of which were hits. It’s difficult to imagine they can do wrong at this point. Who knows maybe with Coogler at the helm of the fatal fantastic fo…nope.
Michael B. Jordan plays the son of N’jobu. Eric Stevens A.K.A Eric “Killmonger”. Guess what you will on how he got the name. A trained Black-Ops agent and graduate of MIT. He’s come to overthrow T’challa as King. To the surprise of the Wakandan people, T’challa included, he really is the son of the disappeared prince N’jobu. The level of acting and depth Jordan shows in this movie is absolutely ridiculous. He’s definitely the most realised and fleshed-out villain in the MCU and there’s no performance better than his. This is not reactionary, its facts. His motives and ideals were clear although misled and he even managed to get Daniel Kaluuya’s “W’Kabi”, a trusted friend of T’challa’s on his side. There’s so much Marvel can learn from Killmonger moving forward; a villain made by the heroes of the story and a villain who changed the approach of these heroes.
Black Panther works so well because of the supporting cast on hand. When they were cast, I should have envisioned what was to come. The people who stood out most were Letitia Wright’s “Shuri” and Danai Gurira’s “Okoye” but mostly the former. She (Letitia) already had a standout role in last year’s Black Mirror episode “Black Museum”. Her humour, intelligence, relationship with her brother, T’challa and with Martin Freeman’s “Everett Ross” was fantastic. Then talk of Winston Duke’s “M’baku” with a presence so capturing, you rooted for him though he was against T’challa. His accent was great as with the rest of the cast but his was just pleasantly different.
Black Panther is an experience and a lesson. A cultural phenomena that engulfs you for two hours and leaves you wanting more. The visuals alone are delightful but the representation and plot is vastly different from anything Marvel has delivered since Winter Soldier and Last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
I made a point on how Wonder Woman last year missed the chance to fully develop the other Amazons like the animated version did or better still let the Amazon warriors fight alongside Diana in the final battle but it was a missed opportunity. With the Dora Milaje and the female cast of Black Panther however, we have better realised and fully layered characters whose importance to the movie can never be understated.
Every thing can be said about Denzel, Will Smith, and other great black actors portraying black heroes or people we’d love to root for. But the truth is none of those have strictly at their core been about African representation/culture and more importantly are not better movies. To see a black hero, a fictionalised African country and it’s indigenes both innovatively and financially independent and free from oppressors is not just a message told through this medium but a marvelous euphoria that upon the film’s final act left me with a cathartic experience.
Only problems I had with this film was Marvel having to kill off not one but two villains yet again. I can understand Klaue’s death but I had hoped Killmonger would be left for future movies. To use a performance and story like that for just one movie seemed like a waste. Florence Kasumba’s “Ayo” was left out almost completely after her scene stealing line in “Civil War”. Also the CGI was not the best but with everything going on, it doesn’t deter one from the experience and finally the fights scenes could be better.
- Daniel Kaluuya put in a good performance after his even better (oscar-nominated) performance for “Get Out”. His interactions/motives with Boseman and Gurira was exciting to watch.
- The dialogue is brilliant. We have Coogler and Joe Robert Cole to thank for that.
- Parts of the aerial shots of this movie were taking from Uganda (Kasumba, Kaluuya), Zambia & South Africa(John & Atandwa Kani). (via popsugar)
- T’chaka played by John Kani is portrayed by his real son “Atandwa” in a flashback.
- The soundtrack goes perfectly with the tension and pace of the film.
- Angela Bassett is 59 years of age.
Although sometimes Coogler had to use his directorial guile to drive his African set-up home, it still worked mostly in part to some wonderful piece of dialogue acted out with class by his cast. A class act.
A decade after Marvel Studios launched, 2018 has brought the studio’s 18th film to our pleasure and it’s without a doubt the best the studio has to offer and finally because something had to kick The Winter Soldier off and I taught it would be May’s Infinity War. It may well still be but till then?
Long Live The King.
Vibranium Power : 9.6/10
*All images are credited to Marvel Studios/Disney