Black Panther is worth the extra attention

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

AS the franchise gears up for the epic coming together of all its major characters in the soon-to-be-released Infinity War, the first 2018 film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe turns its focus to a character who's been around since 1966 and despite his undoubtedly iconic status, has never had his own movie until now.

Fans of this hero have been anticipating a big screen outing for over 50 years and I have to say, it will have been worth the wait. Ryan Coogler, the director of Fruitvale Station and Rocky spin-off Creed, has delivered not only one of the best Marvel films to date but also a memorable landmark for the genre.

To outsiders, the secretive African nation of Wakanda is an impoverished Third World country that does little trade with other states. In reality, it the most technologically advanced country on the planet, thanks to the powers of the alien metal vibranium.

The newly crowned king of Wakanda is T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) ascending to the throne after the assassination of his father.

When he dons his indestructible suit of armour, he becomes Black Panther, using his superhuman strength to protect the Wakandan people and their powerful resources. No sooner is he crowned king than he and his allies set off on a mission.

Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) a South African smuggler responsible for an attack on Wakanda in which he stole vibranium artefacts, has resurfaced. Their pursuit of Klaue however, leads them to an even greater threat.

Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), a former Black Ops soldier, reveals himself to be a long-lost relative of T'Challa and challenges him for the throne. He plans to use Wakanda's technology to assert global domination, taking over every country in the world, so as to assert his own brand of justice. Only T'Challa and his small band of allies can stop him.

The yearly glut of superhero films shows no sign of ending any time soon and in many ways, Black Panther is more of the same. It's an action-packed, exciting, CGI-fuelled, somewhat formulaic film that doesn't really break any fresh narrative ground. On the surface at least, the film doesn't find anything new to do with the genre, as Logan and Deadpool have done in recent years.

This is understandable of course, since it essentially functions as a follow-up to Captain America: Civil War and a prequel to the events of Infinity War, the latter of which threatens to leave all previous instalments in the franchise in the dust.

While Black Panther may not be remarkable in a filmmaking sense, it still represents a significant moment in film history. This is the first American blockbuster film to feature a predominantly black cast.

No matter how you look at it, this is an important landmark for the industry, much the same as when the Black Panther character was introduced in Marvel Comics. Allusions are made to this fact in the film, with the villain commenting on racism and slavery and Serkis's character arguably representing the ugly face of colonialism.

With this in mind, Black Panther is not a bad film for the occasion. This is a thrilling, visually stunning adventure, featuring a number of memorable sequences. The all-out battle finale is great but arguably the best set-piece involves an exhilarating car chase through the streets of Busan.

Black Panther is as fun and slickly produced as we've come to expect from Marvel, a film that's worth the extra attention.



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