Black Panther (2018)

Posted in Reviews by - February 19, 2018
Black Panther (2018)

A defining moment, not just in relation to the Marvel Cinematic Universe – often criticised for its lack of diversity – but also for its wider representation of black culture. Disney (and by default, Hollywood in general) should be commended for taking such a forthright leap into the study of African-American identity, and equally lambasted for taking so long to make it. The film puts forth a hypothesis – the sort which has been prevalent in similar works of Afrofuturism – which is to imagine an African nation untouched by colonialism, where tribal traditions and culture have remained in tact (nay, blossomed) while simultaneously becoming one of the world’s most technologically advanced nations. This is due to an abundant alien metal known as vibranium; an indestructible property which is also fabulously versatile. The fictitious country of Wakanda is an idyll, a beacon of African prosperity which is kept hidden from the rest of the world, its riches shared only by its inhabitants and kept in check by a fearless, dynastic leader known as the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). It is also a society built on gender equality, where the throne is protected by an armed group of patriotic warriors, led by the fierce Okoye (Danai Gurira, who is just wonderful). And then there is Shuri (Letitia Wright), the King’s sister, who plays Q to Black Panther’s James Bond, designing his latest bulletproof costumes, virtual reality cars and things that go bang. Wakanda’s years of isolation is brought into question when a former US soldier known as ‘Killmonger’ (Michael B. Jordan) returns to his homeland to make a bid for power. Born and raised in Oakland, California, he is the embittered product of marginalised America, who grows resentful of his fellow Wakandans for not engaging more with the African diaspora. It’s a fair point, and he is positioned more as a villain by default because of his motives, rather than his beliefs. Unlike most mainstream superhero movies, this doesn’t become all-consumed by its own spectacle. But that’s not to say you won’t still find all the usual Marvel thrills and spills, like a number of crunchy fight scenes (courtesy of 87eleven’s Jonathan Eusebio), a great car chase, and a storming battle sequence with armoured rhinos. Its message is powerful, which makes the action more relevant, and it remains rooted in characters who are complex, conflicted and courageous. A vital, important movie.

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