The release of Black Panther transcends the confines of being ‘just another superhero film’. In fact its release is hugely significant for many different reasons. Race, equality and diversity are hot topics right now and have all come under the media spotlight recently. Black Panther addresses these concerns in a confident, assured manner to usher in a brave new world for the way tent-pole movies are made, and how their stories are told to audiences who have historically been under-represented onscreen.
We got a fantastic taster for the character in Captain America: Civil War and now this movie fully establishes Black Panther, his futuristic and secret homeland and how it all fits into the greater Marvel universe. Returning home after the death of his father, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is now King to the people of Wakander. He is called into action quickly when a threat rises in the form of an old adversary Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), who has stolen precious Vibranium (which is used to power Wakanda and its technological advancements). This leads to a confrontation with Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan – Creed), an American mercenary with a secret past that will shake the very foundations of Wakanda and challenge everything T’Challa’s knows about his royal legacy.
This is a film proud of its heritage and it wears that pride exceptionally well onscreen. This is a film that looks gorgeous, with costumes and set design that frequently impress. The homeland of Wakanda is stunningly textured and detailed. Then there’s the characterisation which, broadly speaking, is some of the best set-up Marvel has ever done for a hero that isn’t a household name already. This is also a film that is brimming with powerful female roles and it’s amazing to see the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira command the screen. Then there’s Brit actress Letitia Wright who plays T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri (and a tech genius like Q from the Bond films). She is a joy to watch and her chemistry with Boseman is delightful.
There’s also great support from the likes of Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling K. Brown, Martin Freeman and screen legends Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). But it’s Winston Duke who steals the film as M’Baku, the leader of an opposing tribe who lives in the mountains, providing some of the best and funniest moments in Black Panther. Humour is well represented in the film.
Truth be told, Black Panther has a lot to set up – perhaps too much for just one movie – so as a result, the film does suffer in places. There’s a heavy reliance on CGI which is a massive shame because the human interest story is the best part of this spectacle. Some of the CGI is also too cartoony with a final set-piece that wouldn’t be out of place in a Playstation game. There were bits that really reminded me of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and his fights with Electro, and that’s not a good thing. Compare that to T’Challa’s scene-stealing turns in Captain America: Civil War which all felt relevant and breath-taking and you can see where this movie could have improved.
This concern is supported by the non-CGI fights, which are all stunning. The challenges T’Challa has to overcome to claim his throne are exhilarating and tangible. One of the films biggest set pieces involves a mass battle that has moments of brilliance, but then CGI armour-plated Rhinos run across the screen and this takes you out of the moment. They should have kept the action centred on the human characters, which are all interesting enough to not need too much CGI padding around them.
Then there’s T’Challa himself. If anything, I think Chadwick Boseman draws the short straw here because the script has so much to cover, it doesn’t afford him enough time to shine. He is as solid as you’d expect and doesn’t put a foot wrong but I feel I learnt much more about his personal character in Captain America: Civil War. Michael B. Jordan is possibly the best thing in the film and his character has genuine layers that make him a great villain. I feel he was greatly underused too, especially when the story pans out and you see his significance to the narrative. This puzzles me as to why the end fight relies so much on CGI when you have two great actors at your disposable.
It’s important to note just how beneficial Black Panther will be in the years to come. This will shape young minds and cultivate talent for the next generation and I feel the effects of Black Panther will really strike home in the coming decade as trends and projects reflect a bold new way of storytelling that demands more from everyone involved. This can only be a good thing.
Black Panther is best experienced in IMAX and it provides a great visual canvas for this story to be told. Exclusively in IMAX cinemas, an hour of Black Panther has been specially formatted to show audiences up to 26% more image than standard cinemas for a truly immersive experience. This is never more impressive than in the first establishing shot of Wakanda. The depth of clarity and the razor-sharp images really do this futuristic land justiceas Black Panther arrives back home for the first time.
Black Panther is game-changing cinema whatever way you look at it, and it’s long overdue. It’s certain to be a financial success and this should bring about real change in the way stories are brought to the screen. This also means that creative forces previously held back will finally get a voice now that they have a bankable hero in their corner, which will be exciting to see unfold. It’s just a shame that a few minor gripes affect the flow of Black Panther because for the most part, it’s very entertaining. I expect the sequel will fare much better now that the set-up is out of the way and the Panther can be properly let loose. We won’t have long to wait for more Black Panther either – he will next appear in Avengers: Infinity War. And remember to stay for the end credits of Black Panther too – there are two important additional scenes that set up the future.
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Andy Serkis, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Florence Kasumba, John Kani Director: Ryan Coogler Writer: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole Released By: Marvel/Disney Certificate: 12A Duration: 134 mins Release Date: 13th February 2018