Black Panther is unapologetically black. It carves out a new path for a Marvel film and finally shows movie studios, and everyone else, that films about powerful white men won’t bring the gold. 2017 brought us one of the biggest hits with a superhero film in Wonder Woman, breaking box office records and silencing doubters about a mainstream film starring a female. 2018 is the year of the Panther as Chadwick Boseman steps up to the plate in this visually epic and culturally relevant film filled with Marvel’s signature action/humour potion – one that leaves you feeling wholesome and maybe even refreshed about the superhero genre.
The events of Civil War have just occurred at the beginning of Black Panther, and T’Challa returns to the kingdom of Wakanda where he is to ascend to the throne after the passing of his father. The dangers of this post are all too known to him and those close to him, but take on the role he does to make sure his home stays hidden from outside corruption. Within the 5 tribes that make up Wakanda, there is growing unsettlement about the role of the nation in the wider world, but the throne and the present king opts to keep them secret. But other roadblocks to a steady rule crop up, and thus T’Challa learns of different paths that one can take to save the world, Avengers style.
There’s no denying it, this film is an incredible achievement from everyone involved. The acting, cinematography, script and yes, that cherry-on-top musical scoring by Kendrick Lamar all amalgamates to a story that is brimming with passion, love, attention to detail and overarching necessity in this day and age. The juxtaposition between African heritage and culture, teamed with the technological advancements that infest the Marvel world is both intriguing and enlightening; where Tony Stark’s tech suits him out with cockiness and self-righteousness, Wakandans build on their own community and preservation in a much more personal way. The film does hit some heavy notes and topics, but never in a way that brings its accomplishments or pace to a halt, instead highlighting issues that still happen in 2018 and reflect this within societies that date back thousands of years.
Representation and diversity is front and centre, not just in the story, but in the cast. From acting royalty like Forest Whittaker & Angela Basset (who take much more backseat roles) to awesome new talent like Letitia White (Black Mirror) & Daniel Kaluuya (Skins, Get Out), This incredible cast complement each other at every turn to, cradling the sense of community and family belonging that is sometimes left out of superhero flicks. Maybe the only loose end is Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross, a CIA agent that ends up as a complete spare wheel. Chadwick Boseman in and out of the suit portrays a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, bridging both his home nations and the wider, darker world that he knows he will have to face. A true leader, only to be brought back down to Earth by his sister Shuri (White). It’s these moments where the traditional tribal cultures clash beautifully with the modern day tech and mannerisms in a really homely feeling adventure (fans of ‘What are those?!’ will have a proper chuckle). Generational effects are still in place, but the modern world is leaking in, paying off in some of the funniest scenes in the film.
And then there’s Kendrick Lamar. His presence is felt throughout the film through the slick choices of beats and the mashups of the classic Marvel grand-scale orchestral pieces, and sonic masterpieces and bars. He was meant to write 2 songs for the project, but after seeing the film he pulled out a 14-piece epic, and it’s so easy to see why. Fast paced moments are scored with beats ready for a Friday night, and more modern settings utilise the popularity of some of the tracks you’ve already heard (Pray For Me, All The Stars). The score never feels like an afterthought, rather a part of the DNA running through the film.
This entire movie, as LA Times’ Tre’vell Anderson put it, is ‘a love letter to blackness’. It never paints anyone as the victim, instead highlights and honours the strength of communities and togetherness that is extremely overlooked in films. While well overdue, Black Panther sets up to ask ‘What’s next?’. Director Ryan Coogler has laid the gauntlet down to all movie studios to never think of an all-black cast or story as a risk. It doesn’t harm anyone – just those racist enough to think it couldn’t succeed.