Hannah Parker reviews the newest addition to the current Marvel Cinematic Universe…
FINALLY! A superhero film with a black character as the main superhero, surrounded by a majority black cast. Let’s be real, we can moan as much as we like about the fact that it’s taken too long, but instead let’s focus on the positive – it’s happened. And the world is more than ready for it!
We were first introduced to Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War in 2016 as this very cool, awesome stranger who happens to fight like a big cat with the best black cat-like suit. He immediately took the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) by storm, and so became the huge anticipation for the first black superhero lead movie.
But, before we get into how awesome Black Panther himself is, we must look at how radical the film itself is. For starters, it celebrates the African culture in a way we haven’t seen since The Lion King in 1994. From the music, to the landscape, to the clothing. The film looks simply beautiful, with the most vivacious colours popping off the screen in every scene other than the one set in London (fair enough, it’s dull as hell here). The outfits are mesmerising, Wakanda looks magical, and the music has you dancing in your uncomfortable cinema seat.
It isn’t all about celebration though, with some of the script proving this film is not about to hide away from the horrendous inequality the black community has had to suffer. From a comment about ancestors of a white museum tour guide stealing the African artifacts on show, to a stinging joke about white ancestors colonising the world. It never for a second pretends that history didn’t happen – and so it shouldn’t!
There is another element to this film on top of ethnicity though, and that’s representation of women – women of colour, at that. It isn’t just a celebration of black men, but also black women. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Shuri (Letita Wright) and Ramonda (Angela Bassett) are such strong characters that at times they overshadow T’Challa/Black Panther, but you’re happy for them to do so, because they’re such well-written characters.
“It isn’t just a celebration of black men, but also black women.”
The cast isn’t 100% black. Andy Serkis plays Ulysses Klaue, one of the villains, and Martin Freeman shows up as Everett K. Ross. They play their roles well, and it looks like Freeman has officially joined the MCU for good. But essentially, the film isn’t about them, and the two white men never take away from what the film is truly about.
However, as politically radical as the film is, with Hollywood finally proving that they can in fact make films that aren’t all about white people, the movie itself stands out as one of the best superhero films ever. The celebration and integration of African culture gives it a completely different vibe than any other superhero movie. It feels new, unique and fresh. The fight scenes are entertaining, the story is unpredictable, and you invest in every single character.
One of the most stimulating parts of the film is being introduced to all of the different tribes living in Wakanda, including the Jabari tribe, lead by M’Baku (played by Winston Duke) who initially proves himself perhaps to be an enemy of T’Challa. But his character is in fact one of the most interesting in the film. He has some of the funniest one-liners, and proves himself to be a better man than any audience member would expect.
And that leads us onto the main man himself, Prince T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman). We’ve already seen him become Black Panther as his father was killed in Civil War, but now we see him in his ritual ceremony become King. He sets Black Panther up to be a superhero we look forward to seeing. Captain America can get annoying, Iron Man is a bit of an arrogant douche, and as awesome as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is, he’s definitely more for the kids. This superhero feels like he could become the favourite for adults and kids alike. He has so much good in him, not only does he want to protect Wakanda, he’s the first king that sees how he can help the world – and also sees why it’s necessary to do so. His cat-like movements when he’s fighting make his choreographed scenes with villains some of the best the MCU are creating right now. The technology his younger sister, Shuri is constantly upgrading, makes the special effects that bit more inventive. And the speech he makes in the first post-credits scene is simply magnificent.
This isn’t just a radical film in terms of politics and equality. It’s a radical film in terms of how it’s made, how it looks, and how it stands out amongst so many other films of the same genre. There isn’t a single character that you don’t enjoy seeing on screen. There isn’t a single scene that falls flat. If you look hard enough, you can find flaws in any movie you watch, but you’ll have to look very hard indeed to find any flaws in this one. Well done, Marvel. Go and sabotage the rotten tomatoes rating as much as you like, trolls. You won’t kill this buzz.
I have to add a personal note here: I’ve been reviewing films for a fair few years now, and never have I experienced an atmosphere in the cinema like I did with this one. Please Hollywood, I beg you to look at the reaction from Black Panther and do so much more of this!
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