Review: Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther (2018)

Directed by: Ryan Coogler | 134 minutes | action, adventure | Actors: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Florence Kasumba, John Kani, David S. Lee, Nabiyah Be, Isaach De Bankolé, Connie Chiume, Dorothy Steel, Danny Sapani

Sigh, another superhero movie… Just open a can of superheroes, and we can move forward for years. You have the Avengers, the Defenders, the Justice League… and they all consist of unique characters, who in turn get their own films or series. Who come into contact with other heroes or villains again and… you get the idea. Not a problem in itself – a superhero movie can be very enjoyable – but sometimes it all starts to look very similar. It can’t be big or bombastic enough, with alien invasions, half-planets colliding, and one incredible superpower after another. And the different superheroes also come together nicely, so that almost every superhero movie is an Avengers movie in disguise. It’s one big hero universe with no surprises. But then a panther comes by and you sit up…

A breath of fresh air, that’s what you might call ‘Black Panther’, the latest addition to Marvel Studios’ superhero repertoire. ‘A personal sound’ or ‘a unique voice’ is also an excellent qualification. From quite an unexpected quarter. Because who would have thought that the Black Panther, a hero we saw briefly bouncing through the screen in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ – when his father was killed in an explosion at the United Nations and he came to demand his share of revenge – but who nevertheless didn’t leave a big impression. It certainly wasn’t such an amazing villain or intriguing story that you’d like to see a separate movie devoted to it. Rather not even maybe.

But we can all be very happy that this film has been made. Because what a fascinating world and beautifully told story has been built around this Black Panther! And yes, the Black Panther itself probably isn’t even the most compelling element in its own movie, but that’s actually the power – and message – of the film. Because on the one hand it is about what the Black Panther stands for – just as many people (would like to) wear the mask of Zorro – and on the other hand it is about the sense of community. The great strength of the Black Panther is that it is a complete, universal, and perfectly self-contained story that really needs no reference or thought to any superhero or powers.

To a large extent, The Black Panther doesn’t feel like a superhero movie either. It is so pleasantly intimate and local. This is truly the story of Wakanda, the homeland of the Black Panther. And from the community there, or rather: communities. The different, colorful tribes that live there, the way they interact with each other, and the main problem that prevails: namely: should the Wakandeans stick to their isolationist attitude or become more involved with their neighbors and the rest of the world? . Wakanda appears to the outside world to be a primitive people, but in reality they are the most technologically developed country on earth. This is because of their possession of the special, versatile metal vibranium, which harbors many powers and possibilities. But they keep it hidden from the rest of the world, mainly because they fear the material will fall into the wrong hands. However, a critic would rather call it ostrich politics, or turn a blind eye to injustice in the world. Waranda has the possibilities to really do something about injustice in the world, but they decide to let everything take its course.

This is the bigger story that lurks beneath the surface and is emerging more and more. At first, there seem to be other issues at play, especially the succession policy – ​​which will later become a problem – of the kingdom of Wakanda. T’Challa / Black Panther’s (Chadwick Boseman) father has died so logically he will become king. Formally speaking, he can be challenged, but nobody really assumes this. Anyone who dares to do so is somewhat disrespected, but hey, it’s tradition. This happens in the film as well, and it seems to be the first crack in the empire, the first critique of the natural heir or the policies of the eternal rulers of the land. Although T’Challa’s ex showed early in the film that she would like him to do more humanitarian aid. but she didn’t want to look at the chair legs of his leadership.

The critique of self-evident leadership and its interpretation – increasingly focused on attention and care for the outside world – increasingly prevails in the film and makes The Black Panther somewhat resemble ‘The Lion King’ or, perhaps a little less irreverently. , a Greek tragedy. Family, jealousy, betrayal, revenge, forgiveness, the yoke and responsibility of leadership… it all comes back in the film and makes it a film that really has something to say. Without being too bombastic or having the feeling that these themes are being dragged in by the hair, like in ‘Superman: Man of Steel’, or ‘Captain America: Civil War’. It also helps that the whole world and issues feel authentic. It really feels as if you are part of the power struggle in an intimate community, a lived-in world, complete with credible traditions, costumes and languages. It’s not often a superhero movie reaches this level. It also helps that the characters believe in their world and rarely, if ever, stop for a one-liner or wink at the camera.

What’s really interesting, and further to the effectiveness of the themes, is that there aren’t really any real, downright bad villains in the film, but that it’s about people who have chosen a wrong path but have basically understandable motives. An exception might be Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue, a fairly cartoonish, thick-set arms dealer with a bionic arm with an integrated firearm. But even he comes ‘from somewhere’ and has an argument for his actions. The main antagonist, Erik Killmonger (not a very subtle name), is admittedly slightly over the top in his methods, but his conviction and opinion are completely understandable. He also wants Wakanda to do something about the injustice in the world and to use the wealth and power it possesses – in the form of vibranium – to promote the well-being of the oppressed. Okay, he wants to go one step further, but the essence is good.

This Erik is played compellingly and credibly by talent Michael B. Jordan, who previously worked with director Ryan Coogler in ‘Fruitvale Station’ and Rocky film ‘Creed’ and can therefore be seen as his muse. Jordan knows how to put down his heartache as well as his hatred and ‘swagger’ with great conviction. His 1-on-1 confrontation with T’Challa is unusually exciting and in many scenes it is painful to see how disrespectful he treats his surroundings, but you can’t help but keep your eyes on him. It is a force to be reckoned with.

But there’s plenty more to enjoy, including great female roles, including javelin-throwing bodyguard Okoye (Danai Gurira) and T’Challa’s feisty, prankster sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright). The latter takes care of the best, most fun moments. But Okoye is also funny and great to watch in action, because of her kick-ass moves. And then there’s Lupita Nyong’o, who as the socially conscious Nakia the Black Panther knows how to arouse not only romantically but also intellectually. You can actually say that the women – there’s also Angela Basset as queen, not to mention – play the most important and entertaining roles. Moreover, in a fantastic, substantive strong high profile action film. In addition to the already very fine, progressive development by the predominantly black cast, this can really be called a feminist film. Joss Whedon, eat your heart out!

Now, it is perhaps striking that the Black Panther itself has hardly been mentioned. That’s not to say he’s colorless or poorly portrayed by Chadwick Boseman—certainly not—but it’s true that the strongest, most powerful characters and elements move around him. In the end everything comes together in him, he has to go through a very important development, and his actions and decisions are very important for the future of Wakanda, but without his immediate environment he would have been nobody and nowhere. Still, the question is how interesting the Black Panther character will be if he has to become part of the Avengers team. How decisive or distinctive will he then behave?

To say as a footnote that there is certainly some fun action in The Black Panther might seem obligatory, but the film is absolutely laced with successful spectacle, albeit usually of the less awe-inspiring kind than usual in superhero films. There is a very entertaining action sequence in a bar in Seoul, which continues into the streets, where fighting is done with both high tech and low tech weapons and again with a lot of humor in it. Because, despite the important themes, there is fortunately more than enough air in the film. Furthermore, the action is often small-scale, but no less nerve-wracking. On the contrary. It is also nice that this direction has been chosen, because it shows that it does not always have to be bigger and more massive. With a tight focus and a good eye for drama and authenticity, the rest also falls into place much better.

No criticisms? Yes, villain Killmonger could have deserved more attention by the end of the film, and the story is a little too predictable from a certain point on – lessening the tension and involvement – but it doesn’t detract from what one of the best Marvel movies is. to date. Who would have thought that?

Comments are closed.