Black Panther (2018)
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Written by: Joe Robert Cole, Ryan Coogler
Starring: Andy Serkis, Angela Bassett, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o, Martin Freeman, Michael B. Jordan, Winston Duke
The latest in Marvel’s continuous cycle of interweaving comic book adaptations is perhaps its most visually arresting to date. Much like the Avengers and Captain America films that came before it, there’s a bit of globe trotting, almost enough to make James Bond jealous, but primarily the film is set in the mysterious African nation of Wakanda, which seems to be more secretive than North Korea. Wakanda is a technologically advanced country, the most advanced in the world in fact, due to the rich resource of Vibranium (the stuff that old Cap’s shield is made out of), but because of its advancements, shuts itself away from the rest of the world under the guise of a third-world country. For their own protection and the rest of the world’s. However, the story sees Wakanda on the verge of being revealed to the world and the struggle that King T’challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) goes through trying to keep everything in order.
The most impressive thing about Black Panther is its cast and characters. It may be the king’s name as the movie’s title, but this film is as much an ensemble as anything else. T’challa’s entourage is just as, if not more, interesting and kick ass as Black Panther. Okoye (Danai Gurira) is Wakanda’s military general and closest ally to Black Panther, joining him wherever he goes, not only on hand to offer advice, but can really hold her own in a fight. Part of the film sees them in South Korea, trying to intercept a black market vibranium deal. As we all know, these things never run smoothly, so it soon descends into fisticuffs, and it’s quite possibly the finest fight scene of the MCU we’ve seen so far, including a brilliant gag with a wig, which no doubt you’re aware of already. This then switches things up into a fantastic car chase sequence that’s as funny as it is exciting. Here’s where the Wakandan tech really gets shown off, and shows up Black Panther’s fellow superheroes. Also helping out are Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Shuri (Letitia Wright), the former being a love interest who has devoted her life to helping those less fortunate rather than Wakanda, the Latter, T’challa’s sister and pretty much Wakanda’s R&D department. Shuri puts James Bond’s Q to shame when it comes to showing us what tech is at their disposal, and the demonstrations can be quite amusing. The four together make a fantastic team and really are the driving force behind the film.
Antagonist Erik Killmonger (Coogler regular, Michael B Jordan), is criminally underused. He’s mostly seen in the third act, with only a couple of appearances in the rest of the film, but he more than makes his presence felt. He is quite possibly the most convincing villain so far. His intentions are almost noble and he does have a decent reasoning behind them, but it’s the way he’s gone about things that keep him from redemption. Jordan plays him with such conviction and self righteousness that it’s difficult not to be impressed with both the character and the performance. Once again, proving that the pairing of Coogler and Jordan are a perfect match. That being said, the majority of the cast give it their all, for an utterly convincing portrayal of a country on the brink of change and what they are willing to do to protect it, the rest of the world and their heritage.
There’s a lot going on in Black Panther, and for the most part it’s vibrant and exciting. From the amazing looking costumes, incorporating traditional African clothing, with futuristic technology, to the gorgeous locations, taking in the technological metropolis of Wakanda, and in comparison, Busan in South Korea. However, despite its aesthetic splendour and marvelous performances, it does suffer from being a bit bloated. For the most part it is engaging, some of the scenes could do with shaving a minute or two from them. In addition, a couple of the fight scenes could do with slowing down a bit. There are times where there’s so much going and the camera is moving so fast, it’s difficult to keep up with what you’re looking at, particularly with the inevitable, final dust up. On the whole it’s one of the better Marvel movies, and is an impressive debut for one of their lesser known characters and like Thor Ragnarock before it, has pretty much raised the bar in quality for the MCU.