Well, I told you there wasn’t anything I was really interested in this year until Black Panther. I never got around to seeing Proud Mary (which I should have) and I don’t watch a lot of stuff these days outside of internet videos because whenever I’m not at work (which takes up most of my time and I spend most of it listening to YouTube (mostly) on my IPhone), I’m playing one of the Dragon Age games (I’m currently in Act 2 of DA2). The Doctor Who Christmas Special is on the way, for realsies this time.
So, be honest with me, before the late nineties, how many black superheroes had you (the causal movie goer) heard of that weren’t members of the X-Men? Chances are not many. The first ever black superhero film, at least from one of the Big Two, was DC’s Steel in 1997 followed closely by Marvel’s Blade in 1998. Afterwards, outside of the three Blade films and whatever X-Men films decided to include Storm (Who was never a main character so they don’t count), the next one was Catwoman in 2004…which doesn’t count because that’s not a superhero film. It’s an abomination. I’m not gonna go into the recent Fantastic Four movie, but I don’t need to because you get the point. Black Panther is the best film about a black superhero in a long time. Better than that, it’s an amazingly good movie…which comes as a shock to no one as a, this is a Marvel film, and b, this has been anticipated for a long time and is an even longer time coming.
For those unaware, Black Panther, T’Challa, is the first ever mainstream black superhero, debuting in 1966 far before DC’s first black hero, John Stewart of the Green Lanterns. In his first appearance, he invites the Fantastic Four to Wakanda and beats them up basically just to see if he can, though in return for helping to test his skills, and defeating Ulysses Klaw for the first time, he helps them out with their own villain. Since then, he’s had his own book several times and has been an on and off member of the Avengers. He’s one of the smartest men on the planet, the ruler of his own nation, and is a master martial artist with extra powers coming from his suit and a heart shaped herb he ate upon becoming king that enhances his abilities. Black Panther is awesome. After the massive positive reaction to his portrayal in Captain America: Civil War, which basically also gave us his origin story, fans have been waiting eagerly for his solo film.
I highly recommend Christopher Priest’s run on the series as well as the more recent series by Ta-Nehisi Coates. He’s the current writer for the comic. I’d also recommend the excellent six issue mini series ‘Black Panther: World of Wakanda’, which ties into Coates’s series. Black Panther comics are on sale right now on Comixology until March 1st. Get them while you can. Also, read Reginald Hudlin’s run where Shuri was Black Panther. Shuri’s awesome!
Set after the events of Civil War, T’Challa returns home to take his place as King of Wakanda after the tragic murder of his father King T’Chaka. Wakanda is a technologically advanced African nation that has hidden itself away from the rest of the world for thousands of years under the disguise of a third world country. On a mission with his ex Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o, and his general Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, to capture Ulysses Klaw once and for all, he runs into an old friend, CIA Agent Everett Ross, who is injured when Klaw escapes prompting T’Challa to take him back to Wakanda for medical help. Meanwhile, Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens, played by Michael B. Jordan, comes to Wakanda to settle an old score between him and the royal family, that being T’Challa, his younger sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, and their mother Ramonda, played by Angela Bassett, all while T’Challa must answer the question of is Wakanda’s isolation really for the best?
It’s nice to see Michael B. Jordan get a second shot at superhero film stardom after the disaster of Fant4stic. Even better is that his character has the best reason for being a villain out of all the Marvel villains, and yes I’m including Loki. Honestly, I agree with him. I mean, I wanted T’Challa to win of course, but Killmonger’s motivations and goals are just kind of stronger than his, even if I wouldn’t necessarily agree with his methods. I can’t go into more without hitting spoilers, but it’s refreshing to have a villian that doesn’t just want power or just to take over the world.
Boseman is still excellent as T’Challa. Everything about him just screams “I am the King. Now bow.” Not in a bragging way, but in a ‘we both know I’m better than you so why gloat?’ way. His performance oozes self confidence, is what I’m saying. But he also has problems and worries. He is now the leader of an entire nation and he needs to decide what is best for them, following his father’s way or forging his own way by ending their isolation as some want him to. Tradition vs Progress. It’s a problem we wrestle with today. Also his interactions with Shuri are adorable and I want more, damn it!
Shuri is a delight as both the younger voice in T’Challa’s life as well as his resident smart tech person, basically his Q. She easily outclasses anything Stark has ever done. Sorry Tony, but there’s you and then there’s her and her is on a completely different level. She was easily one of my favourite parts of the movie. Again, Shuri’s awesome. Actually, all of the female characters were: Nakia as a Wakandian spy who wants to help the rest of the world (and I’m really glad they decided to not go with the comic obsessive stalker turned villain version of her), Okoye as Wakanda’s most loyal general though not to the point of American overzealousness, who also gets some great action sequences including one where she proves you can fight in a dress, Ramonda as a source of support for the characters, not to mention the rest of the Dora Milaje, T’Challa’s all female bodyguards who are on par with Wonder Woman’s Amazons in terms of amazing and yes give us more. The cast is just all solid.
Also, Ramonda is his birth mother instead of his step mother now. It’s fine. It streamlines the film.
I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced afrofuturism in a film before, but I like it. Speaking as a stupid white girl, it was interesting and new. I’d love the opportunity to see more in the future. Wakanda is beautiful and the technology Shuri creates is amazing. I found myself many times throughout the movie wishing it was real. Hell, all the settings are beautiful and beautifully shot, except for that first fight scene which was poorly lit and I couldn’t see much of what was happening, but that was the point so it’s okay.
I still have no ear for music so no real comment other than to say the music’s a lot more distinct than the other films. I actually noticed it more.
You know, I’d have actually called this film more ‘World of Wakanda’ then ‘Black Panther’. Yes, ultimately it is about the conflict between T’Challa and Killmonger, but most of the work is done by Shuri, Nakia, and Okoye (and Ross in a good action scene, but he had Shuri’s help so the win is hers). It’s because of them that T’Challa is able to do what he does. They drive the plot.
Boseman apparently does all his own stunts and considering the stuff going on in this film, that’s impressive. Although, I will say that the times when T’Challa is CGI during certain scenes is really obvious and took me out for a second. Nobody’s perfect. Hell, if I can notice that then a lot of the movie is done without the need for CGI fighting. If I had to pick a favourite scene, I might have to say the South Korean casino fight/ car chase. Yes, the big climactic fight is amazing, but honestly, the South Korean one is more fun. Also, fighting in a dress. Always a win. To that guy who said there wasn’t enough action in this film…did we see the same movie?
I could go into how much this film means culturally, not just to a generation of fans, but to people all over the world just as much, if not more so, as Wonder Woman does for women all over the world, but I’m not sure I’m the best person to be talking about this subject. Again, stupid white girl. Princess Weekes from The Mary Sue goes into it a lot better than I ever could and that’s just the start how important this film is. It’s fascinating listening to the reactions of Africans who saw it. To me, this is an excellent film, even by Marvel standards, and a milestone as the first Black led superhero film of the MCU/ Golden Age of Nerdom Post-2008 Era. To them? It is so much more. Just following the building hype as the release date approached, with people raising money to take low income children to see the film and celebrities buying out theatres just so kids can see it. It was heartwarming.
The hype is real. Black Panther is an amazing film and easily one of Marvel’s best. If there was anything that was going to beat out expectations for the big 10 year anniversary blow out that is Infinity War, this would be it. Hell, in one weekend it managed to make back double its $200 million budget. If this becomes the first non Avengers related film to reach $1 billion, I would not be surprised. It is a breath of fresh air amid our currently messed up political climate. I don’t care if you’ve never seen a Marvel film in your life. This is the one you want to see. Though, chances are you already have. Go see it again. Go!
This better get nominated for some technicals at next year’s Oscars.
Next post should be Doctor Who….oh god I hope. Also, my friends and I are thinking of starting a Let’s Play series and we may post it here.