The Black Panther, up until very recently, was a Marvel comic book character who was relatively unknown to the larger masses of Marvel film fans. Unlike Iron Man or Spider-Man, Black Panther was not a character that amassed a huge fan base. That is very likely to change, now that Marvel Studios has brought Marvel’s first superhero of African origin to life on the big screen.
After months of eager anticipation and hype, I’ve finally managed to watch Marvel’s Black Panther, thanks to the folks at Disney New Zealand, who provided me an in season pass just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Black Panther is the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Directed by Ryan Coogler, the film is one of Marvel’s groundbreaking films, going beyond the traditional superhero film genre to act as a cultural movement of sorts. Featuring a cast made almost entirely of actors of African-American descent and highlighting a plot heavily focused on the African culture, Black Panther successfully portrays what’s often looked at as a minority group in a larger than life way.
Right from the get go, it is abundantly clear that the film is not your average run-of-the-mill Marvel film. In fact, the film showcases Marvel’s determination to provide the world with a film that is unique and significant, illustrating the company’s no-nonsense attitude to challenge the status quo and take their properties to new heights.
Being released during Black History Month, the film subtly encourages audiences to think back to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and of the Black Panther Party, highlighting the many challenges those of African descent had to overcome in order to gain equality. The theme of Black Panther is very much based on the way in which the Western society trumps over those they deem to be in the minority, as well as their colonising (and world domination) mindset, leaving these minority groups to feel the need to ‘hide’ themselves and their talents so as to not be taken advantage of.
As someone who thoroughly enjoyed studying about the Civil Rights Movement and has long been an advocate for minority groups, these more political and historical themes in Black Panther captured my interest and was captivating. I thoroughly enjoyed the way in which the film managed to infuse the African political, cultural and tribal landscape with modern practices and futuristic technology.
Black Panther was not simply about politics and culture. At its core, the film strongly focused on familial bonds and loyalty. It was heartwarming to see such fierce loyalty to the new King, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), to see the amount of love and respect children have for their parents, and to witness the true love the Wakandans have for their country. How often do we see a nation united, with its people willing to die for their country?
With such bonds being so moving, it was rather poignant, emotionally, to then bear witness to acts of betrayal in the film. The shock and unexpected nature of the conflict within the film only added to the narrative depth of Black Panther.
Whilst the entire cast played their respective roles brilliantly, I was absolutely taken with Danai Gurira’s portrayal of the fiercely loyal and protective General of the Dora Milaje, Okoye. I couldn’t help but feel some feminine pride each time Okoye was on screen.
The Dora Milaje are an all female group of warriors who act as the personal bodyguards of the King. The incredible depiction of how powerful and strong these female bodyguards are is a testament to Black Panther’s commitment to highlighting the strengths of minority groups. In fact, all women in the film, including Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia and Letitia Wright’s Shuri, played such strong roles that I have no doubt that young girls watching the film will feel absolutely empowered.
Next to Okoye, Shuri’s character portrayal intrigued me. Here was a young Princess who not only inherited the position of developing Wakanda’s advanced technology, including the Black Panther’s armour and weaponry, but could also challenge Tony Stark’s brilliance. Once again, the film manages to inspire young girls by illustrating the strength that women also have in the fields of science and technology.
Speaking of technology, the highly advanced technology used by the Wakandans were absolutely gob-smackingly brilliant. I was certainly kept on the edge of my seat, witnessing the endless possibilities that the fictional metal, Vibranium, provided in the development of Wakanda’s technology. The graphics and visuals that brought these to life were breathtaking and spoke of just how advanced CGI technology has come.
Not only were the technology and weaponry used in the film glorious, but the vibrant colours of the environment and traditional Wakandan attire were simply stunning as well. Marvel certainly lives up to its name of producing high quality films with impeccable and impressive visuals.
Of course, a film’s visuals aren’t the only aspect that makes a film memorable. The music and soundtrack featured in Black Panther was also immensely fantastic and rather catchy. Soundtrack isn’t something that I tend to focus on in a superhero film, however the fact that the Black Panther soundtrack were performed predominantly by African-American artists and were culturally significant made much more of a long-lasting impact and deserved to be mentioned.
Writing this review of the film, it’s been incredibly easy to explain all that Black Panther did right. However, what it did wrong, is a lot more challenging as there isn’t much that I didn’t enjoy about the film. If I had to mention one negative thing about the film, it would be that the final cut of the film did not include my favourite scene from the film’s trailer, in which Okoye calls out “Wakanda Forever”. There was just something about that scene that gave me goosebumps in the trailer.
Black Panther is by far a game changing film for Marvel and the superhero genre as a whole. Not only did it move away from traditional superhero film tropes, but it managed to depict the power and strength of minority groups, while remaining holistically true to its comic book origins. The brilliant way in which the film ties in with Black History, as well as its portrayal of female dominance and equality makes Black Panther a film worthy of every accolade. This film is certainly one that involves far more real world substance than any other superhero film.
I highly recommend this film to all, regardless of whether you are a superhero fan or not.