REVIEW: Black Panther (2018)

The Verse’s Oliver Pendlington tells us what he thought of Marvel Studio’s latest release, Black Panther. 

Director: Ryan Coogler

Screenplay: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole

Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis

Story: After the death of his father, T’Challa (Boseman) is crowned king of Wakanda, the secret technologically advanced African nation. His position is soon put to the test when two old enemies conspire to bring down the kingdom and set off events that threaten the world.

 

Black people are severely overlooked within the superhero genre, particularly women. Although Marvel has already used heroes like War Machine and Falcon, they only really had supporting roles in white-led films. So it is justifiable that Black Panther carries a lot of expectations, being the first film both led by a black superhero and featuring a predominantly black cast. Thankfully, just as Wonder Woman revolutionised female-led films last year, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest entry exceeds its expectations in ways that makes it truly unique from all other superhero films.

A lot of this has to be credited to director and co-writer Ryan Coogler, whom Marvel gave free rein to inject his brilliant vision. Having already proved his worth with Fruitvale Station and Creed, Coogler shows his talent for displaying strong characters and vivid locations in Black Panther. His film is truly a beautiful piece of film-making that fully respects African culture and traditions previous films have failed at. The CGI and cinematography, the latter shot exquisitely by DP Rachel Morrison, for once combine almost seamlessly to give a pure triumph of artistry in Wakanda, a technologically advanced society untarnished by wide-reaching globalisation. Everything from the costumes to the production design makes it the most visually realised landscape of the MCU.

As well as triumphing on a visual level, Black Panther also excels at storytelling. Rather than stick to generic questions that dominate other superhero films, Coogler delves into much deeper themes that strike chords with the film’s own ground-breaking status. As well as the aforementioned idea of globalisation, it asks important and still ever concerning points about race and power. These questions are posed by the different stances of both hero and villain, who stand among some of the most well-rounded characters of the MCU.

Following his superb debut in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa, played powerfully by Chadwick Boseman, has now cemented himself as one of the franchise’s most important heroes with his complexity. His adversary Erik Killmonger, played equally well by Coogler collaborator Michael B. Jordan, also bucks the trend of the forgettable Marvel villain by having a well drawn-out motivation for once. But it is really the women who stand out in Black Panther and they are perhaps the strongest of any modern superhero film next to Wonder Woman herself. Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia and Danai Gurira’s Okoye head up Wakanda’s military forces with fierce loyalty and Letitia Wright’s Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, has a technological prowess that frankly surpasses that of Tony Stark. These three characters provide the film’s humour and heart and deserve films of their own.

In all, Coogler and the Marvel team have crafted an important and masterful achievement that finally features a hero and some superb heroines that can be role models to all black people, young and old. Despite the hype for Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel may have already created its crowning triumph. As they say so rightly:

“Wakanda forever!”

The Verse Staff

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