Black Panther: Film Review

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have superhero fatigue – I just can’t get excited for them anymore – so the hype surrounding Black Panther didn’t include me whatsoever. But amazingly, watching Black Panther somehow revived my interest and enthusiasm in the MCU, because it is so different and fresh.

We first met T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in Captain America: Civil War, and the main events in his solo movie start shortly after, when he is made king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, meaning he gets the powers of the Black Panther. The nation is hidden from the world as a means of self-preservation; they don’t want people to know about their massive supply of vibranium, which powers their city and makes them technologically advanced. Some outsiders know about the vibranium – Eric ‘Killmonger’ Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) and Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) – and they want to steal it or offer it up to the rest of the world.

It goes without saying that Black Panther is an important film in terms of representation – it is refreshing to see a film with a majority black cast that isn’t about oppression or racism. It is just fun superhero film! It’s nice to see kick-ass MCU characters being played by somebody other than white males (with the occasional female). The effect it is going to have on young kids is incredible, not to mention the effect on Hollywood – this will no doubt prove that films led by black actors can make money – and lots of it.

We rarely seen Africa portrayed onscreen as anything other than poor and impoverished, so it is also cool to see Wakanda as this thriving, self-sufficient nation, and its centre looks like a Western metropolis. The cast speak with African accents, they wear traditional dress and fight hand-to-hand or with spears (though obviously there is some fancy vibranium gadgets thrown in for good measure). These changes alone make Black Panther feel different to the usual MCU fare and enough to make me interested and excited.

Boseman looks incredible but he doesn’t have much personality so he is easily outshone by his supporting castmembers, like Jordan and Serkis, who seem to be absolutely relishing the baddie roles. It is nice to have some credible, human villains with decent motives in a superhero movie as I was getting fed up of these CGI monstrosities.

Even still, the stars of the show are the women. Black Panther not only empowers black people, but women too. T’Challa has an all-female special forces team, led by Okoye (Danai Gurira) and including Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), who are so fricking badass. I know we have had female superheroes, but it is usually two in a team of ten, whereas here the ratio is almost reversed.

The excellent supporting cast continues with Angela Bassett as T’Challa’s mum, Forest Whitaker as an elder statesman, Daniel Kaluuya as an (underused) border guard, Martin Freeman, reprising his role as agent Everett Ross, and my favourite – Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister Shuri, who is a tech nerd alongside the lines of Q from Bond but so much more. She is adorable, funny, sweet, intelligent as hell and not afraid to help in a fight. She’s the absolute hero of the movie.

Besides the incredible cast, characters and what it stands for, director Ryan Coogler has also co-written a captivating story with some interesting political messages. It takes a while to get going as we have a lot of introductions and world-building to do, but then it zips by and never outstayed its welcome. It is just over two hours long and it didn’t feel like it, which is always a plus. Wakanda looks glorious, the costumes and gadgets are amazing, the soundtrack is so good (I must give it another listen!) and it is self-contained, so you don’t need to have seen any other MCU films to get it. Highly recommend.

In cinemas from Tuesday 13th February

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