After the success that was Wonder Woman and what it brought to women as proof that they can be successful parts of the superhero world, now comes Black Panther. Diversity is not just about opening up the acting world to all cultures, skin tones and nationalities, it is about young people looking up to the big screen and seeing characters that look like them. Identifying with what they see in films. Whether you are an African-American, a woman or someone who is seen by society as “average” being part of the film world should be seen as possible. Director and co-screenwriter Ryan Coogler (Creed: The Rocky Legacy, Fruitvale Station) has
T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman – Marshall, Captain America: Civil War) returns home to his largely mysterious African country of Wakanda. It is not a happy return for the Black Panther as it is due to his father T’Chaka’s (John Kani – The Ghost and the Darkness, Coriolanus) death. T’Challa, as the former king’s son, will take his place on the throne.
Wakanda is seen by the outside world as another poor African nation. In reality it is probably the most technologically advanced country on the planet. This is due to the alien sourced metal vibranium, which they have in abundance. They use vibranium to advance while keeping it secret from everyone else posing as a third world country. The five tribes of Wakanda have been united under the Black Panther.
T’Challa is challenged for the throne M’Baku (Winston Duke – Avengers: Infinity War), the leader of the Jabari tribe. After going through the ritual combat for the throne, T’Challa comes out the victor. He is now the king. The beginning of his rule is not a quiet one as the devious Klaue (Andy Serkis – War for the Planet of the Apes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) has stolen some vibranium from a British museum. With the support of tribal leader and friend W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out, Sicario), T’Challa along with his former lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and great warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira – from television’s The Walking Dead) go after the criminal.
Soon Klaue becomes the smallest of their problems as the Wakandas are tangled up with CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman – Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) and Klaue associate Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan – from television’s The Wire).
Coogler’s (Ava Duvernay was asked first) film has been hailed by many as a ground breaking/history making film. While in many ways it is, the celebration of it has to be tempered. It is a good film…even strong in some respects, but it is far from perfect.
To nitpick, at times it felt like they were trying to jam too much into the 2 hours and 14 minutes. Precious few “quiet” moments to be found. Wakanda is portrayed as a country of serenity and yet the film itself is rather frenetic. Odd paradox. Coogler is ambitious…maybe overly so. As such, some times things are strained.
On the plus side this is a monumental film in that it is almost entirely African-American. From actors to director to screen writers to musicians. On top of that it is set this weekend to clear the $1 billion mark at the box office. It is a runaway commercial success as well as being an entertaining film. A wake up call for the film industry as Wonder Woman was for women. Not only is the cast, etc. almost exclusively black, but many of the primary characters – Okoye, Nakia, Shuri (Letitia Wright – The Commuter) and Ramonda (Angela Bassett – Contact, What’s Love Got to Do With It) – are female. Women are not only there in numbers but also in quality. Meaning they have layers and add depth to the story. Equality and diversity…yay!
On top of that, besides just being another film within the Marvel stable it is a superhero film which attempts to go a little deeper than the usual good guys vs. bad guys stuff. It takes on moral and political issues (especially identity) within its story. Forwarding the idea of an African country that could show the way for the rest of the continent and even the world. Though provoking stuff and not what you would usually expect from this film genre. And by the amount of people going to see Black Panther it is obvious film goers do not have a problem with this.
The argument can be made that this is the best of the Marvel or superhero films. Right up there with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films. Black Panther features a strong story, depth, good action sequences, solid cast, great visuals/sets/costumes, and sage direction. Plus you get positive black role models. It is an action film that knows that to elevate the entire genre there must be more that fight scenes. This is a film with greater aspirations.