entertainment movies

Does Marvel’s Black Panther live up to the hype?

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After the death of his father during the events of 2016 blockbuster Captain America:
Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the secretive African nation of
Wakanda to be crowned king. When a powerful enemy from his family’s past suddenly
reappears (Michael B Jordan’s amazingly-named Erik Killmonger), T’Challa’s mettle as
leader – and as Black Panther – is tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the
fate of his country and the entire world at risk. Also in this movie: a cavalcade of
impressive acting talent, including Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman,
Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and
Andy Serkis.

The world of Wakanda is incredible, beautiful, delightful: an afro-futuristic fantasy
that deftly blends high-tech design and vibrant African culture. Director Ryan Coogler
(who previously helmed the excellent Fruitvale Station and Creed) gives this Marvel
movie a fascinating, fantastical society you truly believe in, despite its ‘anything is
possible’ comic-book pseudo-science. The way it’s done, you just care: about each of the
five key Wakandan tribes and their leaders, about the pressures the country faces globally, about how T’Challa will handle the crown and all the pressures it brings. There’s a lot to get your head around, but it’s so deftly done, you’re really into everything you’re
seeing.

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The entire cast do sterling work, from our inspiring lead Chadwick Boseman to his spear-spinning
general, played by The Walking Dead’s utterly awesome Danai Gurira. Angela Bassett is a
treat as T’Challa’s mother, Ramonda, as is Britain’s very own Letitia Wright (as Shuri,
T’Challa’s super scientist sister), not forgetting the Oscar-nominated Get Out star
Daniel Kaluuya as the king’s confidant, W’Kabi. In short: the cast is brilliant,
though there are two stand-outs: Andy Serkis as the mad-as-a-bag-of-spanners black
market smuggler Ulysses Klaue and Michael B Jordan as the superbly messed-up villain
Erik “Killmonger” Stevens. I can confidently say that Killmonger is one of the best bad
guys Marvel has ever enjoyed – maybe as good as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.

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This movie has been a good while coming, and arrives at just the right time. Whereas in
previous Marvel movies, characters have tended to be the ‘black best friend’ – see The
Falcon and War Machine – here is a film that hits the bullseye socially, a seminal
celebration of black culture that delivers, wrapped up in a slick superhero bow.

Cons:

As is sometimes the way with big-money blockbusters of late, the action is good but not particularly
inventive. The Q-from-James-Bond-like design of the high-tech equipment is great, as are the Star Wars-esque
jets and dropships, but in the two films we’ve seen Black Panther in, he’s hung onto the
top of a car and then crashed it twice. Perhaps some more wham-bam action sequences,
with a smidge more humour, would give audiences a few more punch-the-air celebration
moments.

Black Panther takes a little while to get going. Or, rather, it takes some time for the
audience to settle into what is properly going on: who is related to whom and how
everyone is connected to one another. This is an intricate web Coogler is weaving,
and if you’re not properly switched on, some stuff may pass you by. And as a side note:
Black Panther doesn’t always feel like a Marvel film, for good or ill – it’s more of a
standalone special that makes its own rules. So, you know, there’s that.

“Vibranium”, the amazing metal that powers the tech in Wakanda, is a bit ‘magic wand’
when it comes to how and why and where any of the amazing stuff happens. Seriously,
this mega McGuffin of an element can do pretty much anything you can think of, from
deflecting bullets to making things fly. If you think about it too much, you’d… ah,
never mind. This is Marvel! There are giant green rage monsters and walking tree-shaped
space aliens! It’s all cool.

 

 

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