MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Black Panther’ blurs the lines of African Fantasy, Fiction & Fact Beautifully
The thing(s) about Marvel Studio‘s Black Panther that has everyone’s tongues wagging is not just that it has appealing-to-watch and meticulously carved out action sequences, or an abundance of sophisticated tech and bad ass good girls and bad guys, but that, just like the panther itself, it’s a melanin-laden, stand alone, yet part-of-the-pack, growling, rousing, aggressive yet calmly domineering body of inclusivity and inspiration.
The Black Panther superhero was brought to life in one of Marvel Comic’s first graphic novels, Fantastic Four #52 released in July 1966, and over half a century later, following a failed Wesley Snipes attempt about 20 years ago, asserts itself as supreme. As at the end of the lengthy President’s Day weekend in the United States, the film is angling for a top 5 of all time finish worldwide.
We seem to be in a generation of (in film at the very least) bringing back the marginalized into the fold: last year’s breakout film was Warner Bros/DC‘s ‘Wonder Woman‘ which shattered all expectations while giving feminism and equality a boost. This year, with those thematics intact, Director Ryan Coogler, who’s 2015 Box Office hit ‘Creed‘ which also starred Michael B. Jordan, has moulded a cornucopia of fantasy and fact, intertwined with such precision and honesty that it would be almost insane not appreciate the brevity and the uniqueness of the film.
A number of easter eggs hidden in Black Panther reveal that its correct placing within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, would be some time before last year’s Spiderman: Homecoming and right after Captain America: Civil War, because an end-credits scene (yes, you should stay on until the very end to witness 2 additional scenes), reveals a pleasant surprise from Cap’s bestie-turned-foe-turned I’m not sure exactly.
An initial scene of 1992 Oakland sets the stage for a violent confrontation which T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman), and the entire Kingdom of Wakanda, did not foresee. His father, T’Chaka (played by SA’s John Kani) may have been killed in a terrorist attack in Vienna in Civil War, but his actions previously in Oakland are what evoke the purpose for vengeance by Killmonger (Jordan).
The Dora Milaje general, Okoye (Zim’s Danai Gurira) is flying the King, and his love interest who’s also been a spy, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) back home to Wakanda. Beneath a facade of a rural farming community lies cloaked the world’s most technologically advanced nation that has earth’s most previous natural resource, vibranium. While the globe changes, thanks to politics, alien invasions, terrorism and a constant threat to the normal order, Wakanda chose to move at it’s own pace and comfort, confident in its traditions, its wealth and the security of its citizens, albeit oblivious to the goings-on around.
T’Challa seems to have had a taste of this evolution with the loss of his father on foreign soil, and it’s evident that he has some turmoil with what to do in order to keep his people, and his dominion safe. To affirm his authority, he has to duel the leader of the Jabari tribe, M’Baku (Winston Duke) in a ritual combat by some glorious waterfalls. It’s a proud moment for his mother, Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), who know without a shadow of a doubt that he will emerge victorious.
Shuri herself is the technology behind the King, manipulating vibranium to power machines, aircraft and vehicles, enough to shock American agent Everrett Ross (Martin Freeman) back to his senses that indeed they are not the most powerful nation on earth afterall. The agent gets drawn into a Wakandan mission to Korea in order to retrieve a stolen artifact from Klaue and Erik Stevens. This results in a run-in with Killmonger. It’s pretty genius really; a cast and settings touching far reaching continents of Asia, Africa and the Americas.
The past comes to haunt T’Challa with the return of a long lost son of Wakanda who had been living in exile and is drawn back to take the place he never got to call home. His plan is to establish Wakanda at the top of the food chain by using Wakandan sleeper cells to take over the world using the power of vibranium.
It’s as if Disney gave Coogler a blank cheque and told him to do his ‘worst’ with it. The Dora Milaje, an elite squad of femme fatales tasked with protecting the King, are a sight to see in this wonderland. Never before have we seen Africans and the complexity of their different cultures blended so beautifully and believably on the big screen as it has now. The accents may have been a bit stereotypical but the 2 hours 14 minutes of the film traverses the depths and the heights of language, culture, attire, tradition and technology.
What would an un-colonized continent rich in natural and human resources look like? Look no further than #WakandaForever.