T’Challa/Black Panther: You’re so stubborn you won’t make a great queen.
Nakia: I’m going to make a great queen BECAUSE I’m stubborn.
Black Panther is a film that is audaciously bold in its cast and story and executed with sleek sophistication. Swag and substance come together in sync. It’s probably no coincidence that the film was released in the same month as ‘Black Lives Matter’. I appreciate how the story makes no apologies about highlighting the black lives experience with struggle and slavery – a point that is driven home when the villain decides that death is better than being rehabilitated and punished.
Black Panther – Many Firsts
The script is bold and intense, as the actors deliver dialogues that reverberate beyond the silver screen, engaging the audience to find parallels in the real world:
Shuri: ‘Don’t scare me like that, Colonizer!’
Killmonger: ‘They knew death was better than bondage.’
I wasn’t aware of the hype surrounding Black Panther when I went to watch it, and that was a good thing. My mind was a tabula rasal (clean slate), without any preconceived notions of what to expect. All I knew was, that it’s a Marvel movie with a predominantly black cast. The director Ryan Coogler is also a black thirty-something with superb vision. To say that I was mesmerized was an understatement. The thrill of witnessing a number of
firsts was exhilarating – that the super heroes were black with characters that were fleshed-out and meaningful in their roles, meant the story went beyond paying lip-service to the underlying cause. These firsts made the film so refreshing to watch – In all fairness, Wonder Woman may have started this trend. Bravo Marvel! Bravo Hollywood!
The Characters – Many Shades of Grey
There’s the hero T’Challa or Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and the anti-hero Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Both are a product of their circumstances and no one is completely heroic or villainous. One sees shades of grey and vulnerabilities that beset the characters along with their strengths. This is also true of the CIA agent Everett K.Ross (Martin Freeman) who turns from foe to ally.
The hero is very much human and supported by a strong line of women. Each has a personality of her own and indispensable to the hero’s success. There is the beautiful Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) – Black Panther’s ex-girlfriend, whom he still loves, Ramonda – Black Panther’s mother (Angela Bassett), Shuri- the king’s sister and a scientist (Letitia Wright), and my favourite – Okoye the General ( Danai Gurira).
My favourite character is General Okoye – a woman of few words. You know that when she speaks, she has something important to say. Okoye gave the most electrifying performance. She is Black Panther’s guide and mentor. Her role is more pivotal in saving Wakanda than Nakia and Ramonda, because she is a strategist and holds previous war experience. She thinks with a cool head. I love that she held a strong self- identity as witnessed in choosing not to converse in English with the ‘colonizer’ until she wanted to.
Everett (regarding Okoye): ‘Does she speak English?’
Okoye: ‘When she wants to.’
The fact that this strength was played out in a female character, made it even more potent.Okoye also depicts a sentimental side to herself – her expressions in the battle between Black Panther and Killmonger in the waterfall, tend to add a completeness and realness to her character – a trait, I surmise, that made her even more endearing to her audience.
The cinematography in Black Panther is worth a mention. The fight scene to ‘watch out for’ features Okoye at a casino. It’s all very James Bond style. Okoye is equally comfortable in a sexy western dress as she is in traditional, tribal attire, warding off the bad guys.
The Missing Element in Black Panther
High-tech moves delivered to the audience’s expectations – a big chunk of what Marvel audience wants to see. However, the fight sequences on the ground were far more engaging and exciting to watch than the drone ship scene from above. The person-to-person contact battles were far more thrilling. Also, Ramonda’s role was disappointingly bland, played by veteran Angela Bassett. I expected more from her as she usually delivers stronger performances with meatier character roles to support her performances.
Black Panther Verdict: 4.5/5 stars
Bold and courageous – Go Watch!
The film revolves around other meaningful themes as well, where a father tells his son that, becoming a king is not enough, and there is more to consider:
T’Chaka: ‘You’re going to struggle so surround yourself with people you trust.’
It’s realistic advice, and that’s what makes the story so strong and likeable. The film addresses deeper issues in the guise of an action movie. Black Panther should be lauded for what it is – a breakthrough film, and a first, at echoing the voices of minorities in a novel way.
On the look out for more film reviews from FUCHSIA? Then read what we have to say about Star Wars: The Last Jedi