“An important film, in every sense of the word; and something that does not disappoint in the slightest.”
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Written by: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
Runtime: 134 Mins
Release: 13th February 2018 (UK)
This is a very important film, in every sense of the word. There is a lot of stress riding on the shoulders of its creators, most of it put there by the racist, misogynistic movie executives that has kept Hollywood churning out their almost arian heterosexual agenda for most of its creation; citing that “It’s not what the public want.” when cries for any multicultural, diverse, gender equal movies are made. A lot of people needed this to be good, and Black Panther does not disappoint.
The fact that it is 2018 and we are only now getting such a powerful film for this world’s black community is unforgivable; but every sane person knows this, it’s just a shame that none of them are in positions of power within the industry to have made this sooner. Even though it took so long I am thankful that something like Black Panther is finally here, it is a long overdue step in the right direction.
I could go on about the importance of this film, at how having an almost entirely black cast in a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster is incredible, but I don’t believe that I would be able to do it justice, there is no way that I could adequately convey what this film is to many people.
As a white late twenties male – and therefore arguably the apparent dream demographic for the aforementioned Hollywood exec – I have no idea what it is like to not be represented in the media. I do not have to look out for the characters that are “just like me” whenever I watch something, I do not have to wonder what a film would be like if they just added one extra white male straight dude into it, almost every piece of media in my entire life has been engineered specifically for people like me, and that is a horrible truth when said aloud.
Anyway, as I said, I am in no position to discuss the implications of this film so let’s talk about the film itself. Writer/Director Ryan Coogler is at the helm of this entry into the Marvel universe and his expertise shines throughout the film. With only two other movies under his belt – both of which are critically acclaimed and sit comfortably above 80/100 on Metacritic – he brings that added excellence that has only just started to slip into the MCU. If you don’t know what I am on about then compare Black Panther and Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok to their formulaically presented kin.
Thankfully not trudging the well trodden path of other ‘origin story’ films, Black Panther manages to offer us a wonderful introduction to the land of Wakanda (something that will have massive implications to the upcoming Infinity War films), provide a harsh narrative on the troubles currently facing Africa, contain narrative choices that parallel the current situation within one of the largest powers on Earth, present a compelling story that celebrates culture whilst also examining the importance of personal and political growth, contain empowering performances for women, and provides us with a villain that is arguably the best in the entire Marvel cinematic universe. How Coogler managed to fit all of this into Black Panther without it feeling crammed into its run time just shows the skills he brought to the table.
Despite this being a male led film, the titular character (played by the brilliant Chadwick Boseman) almost takes a back seat to the wonderful characters and setting they all live in; most notably the women in his life. In addition to his mother Ramonda (played by Angela Basset, whose remarkable performance perfectly shows the internal strength of her character) and his spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o showing us that, in addition to being a love interest, a female character can have her own complexities, morality, and skills to rival any male) Black Panther introduces us to Okoye and Shuri.
Okoye, played by The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira, is a GENERAL and the HEAD of Wakanda’s forces. A character whose integrity to her role is only equalled by her fighting skill. Despite being a secondary character she does so much for female empowerment, arguably more than the much praised Wonder Woman. In addition to being an all-round badass – with a devoted action sequence that had my girlfriend whooping aloud in the cinema – Okoye is also shown to have a committed relationship, but one that is not the cause of her bravery or seen as a weakness in anyway. She is a complex character who follows her duty and is a wonderful addition to the film, only really outshone by the Black Panther’s younger sister Shuri.
Shuri (Letitia Wright) is 16, within the canon of the film, and is responsible for every technological advance within the timeframe of the film. She is the Q to Boseman’s Bond, if you will. Despite her young age and gender she is not resigned to the usual trappings of the Hollywood machine. Celebrated instead for her vast intelligence and incredible skills, and occupying a high ranking role in society because of it. If Okoye is in the film to show female empowerment, then Shuri is there to be the role model. Finally we have a film that has a character young girls can look up to, that isn’t fascinated with make-up and shoes, but instead uses her potential to make the world a better place… she’s also a badass too.
In addition to these wonderful performances; another aspect of this film that I absolutely loved was the character of Killmonger, the film’s villain played by Michael B. Jordan. Thankfully given another try in a Marvel property after his portrayal of Johnny Storm in the awful Fant4stic, Jordan gives an incredible performance, creating a character that is perhaps the best villain within the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. For the first time in a long time we are given a person with a proper motive, someone with a genuine reason for all of the actions they are taking. At times his decisions may be harsh but, if I was placed into the same position, I doubt I would do anything differently. THIS IS HOW YOU CREATE A COMPELLING VILLAIN! No end of the world fantasies, no sky portals. Just a need to make life better for the downtrodden and an opportunity to do so.
I am beyond happy at the reaction this film is getting worldwide. In addition to it being a great movie, it is also a powerful indicator that change is needed, a change that is hopefully marching full steam ahead thanks to the likes of movies like this.