Black Panther (2018) – Film Review
The Marvel super-hero juggernaut rolls on with the 18th in a hugely successful series of films over the last decade. Black Panther has threatened to go beyond its mere movie origins to become a blockbusting cultural film moment containing many excellent black actors and the finished film – directed by Ryan Coogler – is worthy of the hype that’s preceded its arrival.
Despite getting nods for several years through various films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Black Panther remains a largely stand-alone film in the series and one that concentrates largely on the fictional African country of Wakanda which has thrived in secret unencumbered by the cultural, historical and economic colonialism that shaped the direction of the the African continent.
T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has returned to Wakanda to be crowned King and take the mantle of protector of his people – The Black Panther – but his kingdom is soon under threat from arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and a dangerous enemy with a mysterious past called Killmonger (Michael B Jordan).
Wakanda is a clear ‘what-if’ black civilisation within the MCU which was never visited by colonialism and Black Panther addresses two sides of a serious question posed within the film while wrapping the plot up in a cinema-friendly super-hero storyline mixing elements of James Bond with serious drama with a dash of Lord of the Rings saga too.
Black Panther actually uses action relatively sparingly, spending more time carefully setting up the dramatic conflict and fleshing out memorable characters which pays off handsomely later, especially in a hard hitting final speech by the villain Killmonger and a mid credits scene which comments on the world we live in today.
Well formed characters in Black Panther – a super-hero drama
Before all of this, though, a well judged two minute opening story exposition explains the history of the nation of Wakanda which was hit by a meteorite containing a rare and powerful metal – Vibranium – which has served as the basis of technological advancements made by the forward thinking but secretive and isolationist African nation.
As mentioned before the characters are very well drawn, there’s plenty of them and all present strong characterisation with the women at the forefront of the supporting characters with the striking Letitia Wright a high point in her role as a Wakandan Q to T’Challa’s Bond.
There’s a striking set of bald female elite soldiers who serve the king and are pivotal to the drama.
It wouldn’t be a Marvel film without a bit of humour and this film rightly steers away from the outright comedy direction taken by Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy but there are fun performances by Andy Serkis’ Klaue and Winston Duke as M’Baku.
It’s notable that each character in the ensemble is given a decent role in the storyline which is both important and easy to follow – no mean feat for a modern super-hero film.
Wakanda looks fantastic for most of the scenes but some of the later action scenes are very lightweight in terms of CGI but this film was was never about the CGI – it was always about the drama and the cultural event – and it delivers.
Don’t forget to wait till the end of the credit for the obligatory post credit scene, of course.
We’re all now waiting for the Avengers Infinity War coming soon.
Black Panther (12A; moderate violence, injury detail, rude gesture; 134 minutes)
Director(s): Ryan Coogler
Cast Includes: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya
Summary: BLACK PANTHER is a US action adventure in which the king of a hidden kingdom must prevent a rival from unleashing war on the world.
Rating: **** (An important film, but more importantly a very good addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe)