Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman
The best part about Black Panther is how you could think of it as a stand-alone film and it’d be just as amusing and gratifying to watch. Unlike last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming which rebooted the Spidey franchise (once again) and featured Iron Man too, there isn’t another Avenger here as a failsafe option and that has worked rather well in the advantage of the Black Panther, the last film featuring a solo avenger before they all team up against Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War later this year.
Just like Marvel’s last release Thor: Ragnarok, the change in tone is evident and if you expect Black Panther to be yet another film from the MCU that solely relies on the major showdown between the good and bad guys at the end, you might want to reconsider your weekend watch. The trailer might sell the impression of Black Panther being a hardcore action flick, and it did ruin a few scenes for me. The film may have its fair share of combat sequences but this is mainly a script that focusses on the characters.
Beneath all the layers of action and comic-book goodness, Black Panther is undoubtedly a political film too. Retaining the quirk and vision of the superhero’s creators, artist Jack Kirby and writer Stan Lee (who nails another cameo), director Ryan Coogler has penned a story that transcends stereotypes often associated with people of colour. Even while showing the technologically advanced nation of Wakanda, we don’t see a real-life version of Jetsons but a place that stays true to its African culture and origins. And while we’re at how the studio has introduced its first black superhero, we can’t disregard the girl power this film packs. Be it the Academy award-winning Lupita Nyong’o as T’Challa’s ex Nakia, The Walking Dead-fame Danai Gurira as Okoye — the king’s guard head or T’Challa’s sister Shuri (played by Letitia Wright who you might remember from Black Mirror), the film features a number of strong female characters.
Chadwick Boseman, as T’Challa and the Black Panther, shines with his subtle acting and carries a regal swag without ever coming off as cocky. His evolution from a prince to a young king who’s riddled with diplomatic dilemmas, makes him sometimes even look vulnerable — a trait our heroes rarely have in this genre. Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) stands out from other Marvel villains thanks to the fact that he’s got a motive, for a change, that makes sense. Be it the reason he becomes the bad guy or his intention to take over the throne from T’Challa, his side of the story comes with justification and he isn’t another villain who simply wants the world to burn to ashes. Jordan might’ve been the lead in the directors’ previous films, Fruitvale Station and Creed, but here he proves his mettle as an antagonist with a taste for power and recognition. And for once, we also get a decent backstory for the villain.
Be it the slick costumes, powerful performances, jaw-dropping action sequences, or the peppy soundtrack curated by Kendrick Lamar, the technical finesse of Black Panther sets a new standard for superhero films. With its first coloured superhero film out and its first female-led film — Captain Marvel — releasing next year, Marvel is moving in the right direction, even while expanding its universe and story line to lead to its no-holds-barred extravaganza, Avengers: Infinity War.
PS: This review was written for the cinema wing of The New Indian Express. Read the same here.