DIR: Ryan Coogler • WRI: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole • PRO: Kevin Feige • DOP: Rachel Morrison • ED: Debbie Berman, Michael P. Shawver• MUS: Ludwig Göransson • DES: Hannah Beachler • CAST: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker
After more than two decades stranded in the depths of Development Hell, the much-anticipated Black Panther has finally made it to the big screen… which it graces with style.
The premise is refreshingly off-beat when compared to the rest of the Marvel Universe; Wakanda is an uncolonised and secretive East African nation, teaming with futuristic technology due to their resources of Vibranium. To the rest of the planet, they don the appearance of a Third World country, while behind their borders, they have spaceships, magnet trains and super snazzy spy-gadgets that would make Q drool.
After his father dies tragically, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) must go home to take his rightful place as King of Wakanda. His first act as his nation’s leader is, naturally, to go on a mission to South Korea to catch a manically gleeful South African smuggler, Ulysses Klaus (Andy Serkis). T’Challa enlists the help of his ex, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o); badass warrior babe Okoye (Danai Gurira); and his genius sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) – who steals every scene with her cheeky grin and one-liners. When their extraction plan fails, bloodless violence and neon-lit car-chases ensue, starting T’Challa down a path navigating levels of dissonance and betrayal he certainly wasn’t prepared for in King school.
In the great tradition of the superhero genre, Black Panther suffers from too interesting an antagonist. Uber-baddy Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) is complex, engaging and ultimately eclipses Boseman’s T’Challa. But it’s only a minor offence that’s easily forgiven. You know a casting director has done their job well when you only casually refer to co-stars with the calibre of Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker towards the end of a review.
What Black Panther does exceptionally well is to create an immersive and bountiful world. The distinct soundtrack elevates and modernises magical visuals, from ice mountains to the visceral glowing sunsets to the contrasting cityscape of Korea and Wakanda’s futuristic nod to space mountain. There’s something to keep everyone engaged – light self-referential comedy, fight scenes, action, on-point political commentary and Shakespearean-esque family drama. The scope of the aesthetics and the notably restrained violence mean it’s perfect for a family outing to the cinema in this ever-delayed Spring of ours.
Black Panther, a gleaming example of Afrofuturism, provides a unique perspective on a well-worn genre. As a piece of cinema, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it certainly delivers a polished spin on it.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Black Panther is released 13th February 2018