Black Panther represents the first superhero film of any sort to boast an almost exclusively black cast. A groundbreaking tale set predominately in Africa and a film that addresses key real-world issues such as colonialism, slavery and racism.
Black Panther revolves around the African nation of Wakanda. A nation that to the outside world is a poverty-stricken third-world nation but behind an impenetrable rainforest lies a thriving city rich in vibranium (the same metal that makes Captain America’s shield just FYI) riches and technological wonder. The whole city runs off the metal and it’s used for everything from driving trains to healing wounds. It’s used for absolutely everything. I wouldn’t even put it past the scriptwriters to make little vibranium viagras! I thought this one suit fits all approach was a little lazy but as far as the plot goes and other little niggles in the script, lazy becomes a rather appropriate term.
The Black Panther is the sworn protector and king of Wakanda and Chadwick Boseman takes the role in his stride. Michael B Jordan plays the role of Erik Killmonger, a man who has grown up outside of Wakanda but is still linked to the nation through his own family lineage. A man who wants to dethrone the king and exploit Wakanda and Vibranium for a military purpose to show the world how powerful the nation really is behind their wall of secrecy.
Black Panther’s cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking with a brilliant display of vibrant colours and brilliant landscape shots of the jaw-dropping utopia that is Wakanda. The same applies to the costume design with easily one of Marvel’s best display of costume variety and detail on show here. T’Challa’s black suit with high-tech purple impact absorption highlights is incredible. This contrast of costume alongside other tribal style fabrics in all varieties of colours really makes for some stunning visuals.
A wonderful cast mixed with the love and passion of creating something truly unique on offer but as I mentioned before, for me, there were a few niggles and just some that may cause a little debate. Bear in mind I’m not a critic, just a fan. There is no way on God’s green earth I could make something as wonderful as this but as a fan, I watch it and come up with my own opinion accordingly and this is what I picked up on.
For me, the weakness in Black Panther was casting Michael B Jordan as the bad guy Eric Killmonger. A guy from the streets in America who is linked through family to the people of Wakanda. A man who’s arrogant attitude and unconvincing ‘bad guy’ portrayal had me disconnected in every scene he appeared. Don’t get me wrong the showdown fight sequences were cool, a little too fast paced and blurry at times but still interesting to watch. Especially the cliff fighting sequence to gain control of the throne. There was just something about his performance that didn’t feel convincing or deserving of a stereotypical Marvel bad guy. He felt out of place to me and his glorified spoilt brat persona didn’t really match his supposed backstory of this ‘killing for fun’ mercenary. They seemed like two contrasting people. It didn’t really make much sense to me but I know many people out there loved his performance. I just couldn’t see it. The real villain of the piece for me was Klaw, a South African arms dealer who stole Vibranium to make weapons in the real world. Portrayed by Andy Serkis this character was the stereotypical Marvel villain I was crying out for but his limelight was stripped away when Eric Killmonger entered the fray. A shame really as Klaw for me was the much more dominant and believable character.
The standout cast member for me in this movie was Letitia Wright who plays T’Challa’s sister Shuri. She essentially plays the 007 Q role in Black Panther as she designs all the gadgets and gizmo’s any ass-kicking panther could desire. She has that charm, the know-how and steals a great many scenes away from the more central characters. Easily the most dominant woman on the screen which is a refreshing change of pace for Marvel.
A huge step forward for superheroes and a step forward for not only women in film but for predominately black cast members to take centre stage and be heard. If Killmongers character was developed better or portrayed better (Sorry Michael) I would have absolutely loved this movie. But when the plot is as simple as Good Guy Vs Bad Guy and the bad guy doesn’t feel convincing or believable, the whole illusion falls down around the story no matter how pretty the picture or how good the supporting actors may be.