FILM REVIEW:Black Panther (Non Spolier)

Black Panther Film Poster

After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

Last night I attended the European premiere of Black Panther at the Hammersmith Apollo. I have to admit that I found myself excited by the exuberance and celebratory atmosphere outside the venue. There was a strong black contingent, many representing loud and proud in traditional African dress and the sense of anticipation was high.

I can truly say I’ve never been to a premiere like this. Entering the auditorium I walked into a sound and light show like you wouldn’t believe. Over in the right corner next to the stage was a hip hop DJ s throwing sounds into the auditorium while the stage just blew up with a light show.

Eventually the host for the evening mounted the stage and introduced the DJ, who then went on to play a short set. That was cool and all but seriously I was there for the movie,I didn’t really need that and was kinda impatient by that point.

Then the cast came to the stage and damn they were an impressive and majestic looking set of people.

At last the film started, quietly, almost before you realised, a serene moment that developed into something more, something with grave foreshadowing for the whole movie. A good enough opening sequence that resulted in applause – all before the opening credits rolled.

From this moment on the movie was a feast of beautiful visuals. The first time you see Wakanda is amazing – a beautiful fusion of technological influenced and traditional architecture that makes you just want to go visit.

The actors are fantastic, brilliant casting throughout. Great characterisation that is faithful to the Black Panther mythos. I felt the weakest actor was Michael B Jordan and that wasn’t even something that threw me, although sometimes I struggled to understand what he was saying, his accent was too hard and fast whereas none of the African accents threw me at all. Every member of the Dora Milaje, The Panthers personal guard was amazing and none more so than their leader played by the Walking Dead’s Danai Guriria (Michonne)whose commitment to the role was stunning. Letitia Wright has to get a mention. She played T’challa’s little sister and her inspired irreverence was brilliant, her comic timing genius. I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything before but if this is anything to go by she’s got a bright future.

I struggled with some of the fight scenes which were of the “this is so fast and visceral you can’t quite make out what’s going on sometimes” school.But that being said it was a joy to behold….when you could see it. There was also one plot point which seemed a little too neat to me but five minutes later I really didn’t care.

I initially had a problem with how ridiculously cool and advanced the tech was but then I realised it was no more ridiculous than Shields helicarrier or any version of Tony Stark’s armour so that little objection just reeled it’s neck back in and took a seat. I have to say there was more than a touch of Bond involved in T’Challa’s tech acquisition

But here’s why I loved this film. I realised about half way through that I’d forgotten I was watching a Marvel movie. This felt like the producers said to the director “make a good movie and oh by the way let’s not forget that it belongs in the Marvel Universe.”The integrity of the Black Panther came before it’s loyalty to the MCU and in that respect it reminded me very much of the Phase one movies. This was evidenced in its humour. There was a lot of humour in the movie but very little of it was played for laughs. The humour that was there was derived very much by some of the power play in the movie and I can’t say more than that in a non spoiler review. In regards to the power play, the movie made many references to the racial and gender dynamic but in such a way that it wasn’t too heavy handed, was for the most part wrapped in humour but never fell short of hitting its mark in an understated but devastating fashion.

I have a philosophical point that caused me some discomfort but again this is not something I can raise in a non spoiler review.

There is both a mid and end credit scene and while far from essential they are nice viewing.

This film is not just great entertainment it’s also culturally important and here’s why. They could have set this film anywhere. A lot of the early Black Panther comics have this monarch playing around in America but they chose to set this film at home, in Wakanda. In so doing they celebrated a black history that existed pre slavery and gave us a glimpse of a possible Africa without European domination. Every continent has had its day as a leader of the science and arts, every continent has had its day as the originator of impressive Empires and this film allowed us to ruminate on Africa’s role in World history, on what it might have been in a way very few major films ever have.

This is something I’ve been asking for for a long time, a film with a black lead that isn’t defined by its relationship to Europe or the Americas. And they did it with a superhero film.

Is this a black movie? No. It’s a human movie with food for thought for everyone.

Was I entertained? Yes. Was I impressed? Yes. Did this movie feel….different? Yes it did. Should you make the effort to see it in the cinema? Hell yeah!


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