Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Black Panther

"I never get tired of this" says soon to be King T'Challa as his craft flies through a cloaking device that hides Wakanda from the rest of the world. Me neither T'Challa, me neither. Black Panther is the latest installment from Marvel Pictures and it proves there's still life in the old dog yet.

Wakanda is a African country that hides itself from the world. It accepts no aid and doesn't take part in world politics. Because it doesn't have to. It's built on a massive source of Vibranium. The wonder metal that can do anything. Unknown to the rest of the world Wakanda is thriving and is way more technologically advanced than anywhere else on Earth. T'Challa is going home to claim his birthright after the death of his father but little can he imagine the obstacles facing him.

This rocked. It's Marvel through and through and hits every beat you expect it to but like the Taika Waititi directed Thor Ragnarok before it, it does it all with bucket loads of style, aplomb, freshness and fun. It also adds a big splash of colour to the Marvel universe. Literally. To this generation of Black children this will be their Star Wars, the film they'll remember growing up. It really is a first. A true cultural event. A $200 million blockbuster headlined by black actors and actresses. It's fucking desperate that it's taken this long but it's here now and it's going to mark it's mark in a big way. It's Afrocentric through and through. The actors, the writers and director Ryan Coogler ( It's actually hard to believe this is only his third film after Fruitvale Station and Creed. Both fantastic. ) its clothes, designs, music, down to the brief glimpses we get of posters on walls. Even the prologue of the film set in Oakland is a knowing nod to the revolution started there in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, the original Black Panthers. 

The character of Black Panther appeared in Captain America : Civil War, but this is his real origin story. No no no, wait, come back. I know these origin stories put a lot of people off but it's done well here. The opening scene set in the past is a great way to explain the mythology of the character and it's all done economically and in a way respectful to both the character and the culture of the character. There's no waiting until the halfway point of the film before we see the main guy in action like so many other of these stories. He's fully fleshed out straight away and the film doesn't waste time in showing what he can do. 

The cast is splendid. Chadwick Boseman nails the regal poise and physicality of T'Challa. His relationship with his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) and mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) gives the movie it's heart and it's impetus. Wright is infectious fun as the Q of the movie and provides an array of gadgets that would make Bond jealous. Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger may just be the best Marvel villain yet. So much better than any CGI creation. He's a snarling, ferocious, nearly animalistic enemy but one with a grievance that's actually some bit relatable and refreshingly for a comic book baddie his humanity does shine through in places. Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira also rock as a pair of women warriors. Two characters worthy of their own film and I hope we see loads of them in the upcoming Infinity War. And here's where I have an issue.

This is the 18th film in the Marvel series. They are pumping them out hard and fast and amazingly the quality of the series seems to be improving with each film released. Infinity War is out in 3 months time and here's what's causing a problem for me. If you've seen the Infinity War trailer you've seen characters from Black Panther in it. Seeing them in that trailer can only mean they've survived this film and thus kills a lot of dramatic tension. It's silly and I hope it's something Marvel deals with going forward. Sorry I despise that phrase but needed to use it here. Other that than there's only a few small annoyances. Martin Freeman's character Everett Ross adds little and is only in the film seemingly to tie it into the bigger universe. The opening section is a bit all over the place too. It jumps around a bit too much but thankfully settles down.

This is a great way to spend a couple of hours in the cinema. It's 135 minutes long but feels half that length because it's so entertaining. And fear not, even if you haven't been following the Marvel universe story you can still enjoy this because it's pretty much a stand alone movie aside from a few small scenes. 

I can't wait to see what King T'Challa does next.

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