If you wanted to see a movie that shows off cool gadgets, James Bond style, yet has a strong political stance, Black Panther is a great offering.
A complete detour from the staple of action-packed Marvel movies we have come to know and love, does this movie do justice to one of the first ever mainstream African American superheroes that Marvel movies has to offer?
The first black superhero
The film takes off after the events in Captain America: Civil War. Prince T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), the reigning Black Panther, returns home to the fictional country of Wakanda after a bomb blast kills his father to take his place as the king of the country rich in vibranium (the strongest metal known to mankind in the Marvel multiverse).
T’Challa is not your average Marvel superhero of this day and age. He is not arrogant (like Doctor Strange) or a wise guy (like Tony Stark) and his feeling of righteousness only extends to the people of his country (unlike Captain America).
Just as he is trying to establish himself as the king and win back the love of his life, (played by Lupita Nyong’o), a new powerful enemy, Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens, is here to challenge the peace of the picturesque and secretive African country of Wakanda.
Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens (played expertly by the director Ryan Coogler’s favourite Michael B. Jordan) is one of the main reasons the movie works so well. Killmonger, as he is known to comic book fans, not only challenges T’Challa’s rule in Wakanda, but manages to bring forth an important political message here as well.
Coogler gets it right
Coogler uses Killmonger to make a statement about the political injustice faced by the African-American community in USA. Killmonger says in the film, “It’s time to show the colonisers what we are really made of” which brings forth the message of racial injustice faced by millions of Africans.
Killmonger is motivated to take over Wakanda, and distribute their stockpile of Vibranium to help fuel the black revolution.
Michael B. Jordan has been by Ryan Coogler’s side in his last two films too. Just like in Fruitvale Station and Creed, Coogler takes a look at the politics of race in the USA.
The cast and crew were lucky enough to rope in Kendrik Lamar to produce the soundtrack for the film. And let's face it, after Guardians of the Galaxy, whose soundtrack is more popular than the film itself, a kick-ass soundtrack has become a must for all Marvel movies. Starting with Lamar and The Weeknd’s Pray For Me, which opens the film, each and every song adds momentum to the scenes.
Black Panther, unlike the friendly neighbourhood Spidey depends on high tech gadgetry to show off his superpowers.The scene in T’Challa’s sister’s lab where she is showing him how he can upgrade his powers almost seems like a homage to James Bond. “It’s like from the movie that dad used to watch,” his sister says while giving him a pair of technologically advanced sneakers.
Director Ryan Coogler has an interesting superhero take on the race politics in America without coming across as too preachy and that’s where the movie wins. The actors too, fit effortlessly in their roles but Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger does seem like a focal point of the film more than the main man Chadwick Boseman.
But since this is a Marvel film and awesome fight scenes are to be expected, Black Panther disappoints. Ryan Coogler struggles with making the very few fight scenes look very cool, a feat that the Russo brothers managed in the Avengers which added to its cool factor.
The VFX too seems a bit too surreal to be taken seriously. The scenes showing the technological marvel that Wakanda is have a very Ghost in the Shell anime vibe to them.
The soundtrack though, is brilliant. Thanks to A-lister Lamar, each song beckons its very own listening separate from the film – but it seems frustrating that there is just a 15-20 second bit of each song rather than make more use of it.