(CREED, FRUITVALE STATION)
Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira.
What a long way we’ve come in terms of Superhero movies. Long gone are the days of George Clooney’s rubber nipples in Batman and Robin, or the complete abomination that was Halle Berry’s Catwoman. In the past 12 months we’ve been treated to two very special and incredibly important films; the first of which was Wonder Woman, and now, Black Panther. The key theme to both of these films is that previously under represented ‘side heroes’ are now equalling (if not eclipsing) their white-male counterparts. What Wonder Woman did for women in 2017, Black Panther is undoubtedly doing for persons of colour in 2018. The best thing about Black Panther isn’t just that we finally have a strong, uncompromised, black hero that children all over the world will look up to, but that in this film, he was almost entirely supported by other fiercely magnificent black men and women, with everyone from Lupita Nyong’o to Forest Whitaker’s lazy eye.
In this latest film offering from the Marvel Comics universe, we see the story of T’Challa‘s (Chadwick Boseman; 42 and Marshall) rise as the newest ‘Black Panther’ (first introduced to us in Captain America: Civil War). Following the explosion that killed his father (the previous Black Panther) in Civil War, T’Challa must earn his position on the throne of the fictional nation of Wakanda by defeating any challengers from the five tribes that are privy to the regions power and wealth, a secret hidden from the rest of the world.
Boseman was an inspired choice as the titular hero; his juxtaposition of strength and almost sweet vulnerability was both refreshing and convincing. The relationship between he and Nyong’o’s character, Nakia, was a nice change of dynamic where there was no ‘masculine savior’ story arc, instead the two were very much equals. A favourable feature of this film is that even the villain of the piece (played magnificently by Michael B. Jordan…aka Nick Cannon’s beefed up doppelganger) is not over the top (a usual pitfall of any superhero film). He’s a regular guy, driven by a feeling of abandonment and a desire to empower the oppressed, which in itself is a far reach from any motivation we’ve seen from a ‘bad guy’ in the past. The way he seeks to achieve this is what defines him as the villain, but these character layers that are revealed throughout the film, prevent it from being your typical ‘good vs evil’ fare.
Whilst the film isn’t perfect in every aspect (the dialogue lacked punch at times), its strengths outweigh any negligible weaknesses. It’s an exciting film not just for the action packed sequences, cool gadgets or special effects; it’s exciting for what it stands for. It’s a film that raises questions about race, poverty and oppression and it’s not subtle about it either. At its best the movie symbolises a shift in the narrative that we’ve all become conditioned to expect; perhaps best demonstrated when the first character death shown WASN’T a black man *cheers*. The challenge now for all of Hollywood is to make movies like this with such regularity that these themes aren’t even noticeable.
Black Panther is definitely one of the must see films of 2018. Even if superhero flicks aren’t your cup of tea, some of the visuals along with the above mentioned themes, are enough to make the trip to the cinema worthwhile.