Saturday, 7 July 2018

Black Panther ★★★★★

Wakanda forever?

Yes, probably. We can at least expect a slew of sequels from the unprecedented success of Marvel’s Black Panther. The on-screen debut of Marvel’s first hero of African descent has won over fans and critics alike, and absolutely smashed the 1 billion dollar mark at the box office. Alas, we live in a world in which Avatar is still the highest grossing film of all time, meaning finances aren’t always the best measure of a film’s quality. That’s why it falls to us, dear reader, to use our discerning taste to judge once and for all whether the tale of T’Challa and co is worth a watch.

The Good

Firstly, Black Panther’s biggest positive is that it provides something decidedly different to previous MCU offerings. For the first time, we see Wakanda and vicariously non-western cultures through the lens of Marvel for the first time, and it’s nothing short of breathtaking. Every set piece from the Wakandan market streets to the palace labs feel lived in and realised, deftly employing traditional African architecture and artwork. 

What’s more, this refreshing twist on the traditional Marvel paradigm is accentuated by the predominantly fantastic cast. Chadwick Boseman plays T’Challa with all the swagger of James Bond, without resorting to Tony Stark-esque one-liners like so many other Marvel heroes have done (we’re all looking at you, Thor). It’s also encouraging to see many female actors in meaningful roles, with Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o all starring in pivotal roles with aplomb.

A special mention must also be made for Michael B. Jordan’s seminal portrayal of Erik Killmonger. One of the persistent criticisms of the MCU is its distinct lack of engaging (dare I say relatable) villains; Killmonger bucks that trend in a big way. Forget relatable, you’ll find it hard not to root for him by the end, and with Josh Brolin killing it as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, we could finally be on the brink of a new age of villains worthy of their adversaries.

The Bad

With that being said, Black Panther isn’t quite the perfect movie that some might have you believe. For all it’s effort to break the mould, it almost undoes all this great work in the final climactic battle, which at times slips back into classic Marvel cliches.

And those CGI elephants looked unforgivably atrocious. The movie cost 200 million dollars, and that’s the best they could do? Ivory much doubt so.

The Verdict

Believe the hype, Black Panther is one of the most refreshingly different Marvel films and fully deserving of all its plaudits. It also serves as proof that a diverse cast of cast of heroes can draw at the box office just as much as established western characters, hopefully opening the genre to a brand new world.

Sir Thomas Baker

Black Panther at CeX

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