The worldwide blockbuster, the Marvel/Disney Studios’ Black Panther, is a must-see movie.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, who shares writing credits with Joe Robert Cole, the movie stars Chadwick Boseman (King T’Challa, the Black Panther), Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger) and academy award-winner, Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia).
I have seen this stellar movie twice already and will likely go see it again. There are so many ‘fantabulous’ special effects, CGI, glorious costumes, plot surges, background scenery changes and pure fighting action that you cannot possibly grasp it all in one viewing.
Note: there are spoilers in this review.
As a political animal (excuse the pun) I see Black Panther in a wider view than just a hit action film that follows the plotlines in the Marvel Universe superhero movies to date.
In 1966, just after the assassination of Malcolm X and just before Martin Luther King was murdered Stan Lee, who has a cameo in the movie and Marvel Comics, created the Black Panther as a fictional comic book superhero. Many powerful people castigated Marvel for creating T’Challa back then. They felt Marvel was praising the revolutionary Black Panther Party at a time when full out race war was a real possibility in America.
By the time I began to understand things in the mid-1970s the Black Panther Party was hot stuff in urban USA, particularly in Oakland, California (the centrepiece ‘hood in the Black Panther movie as well).
The black berets, black leather jackets, dark sun glasses, big Afros, ‘Free Huey’ campaign, fists in the air, and shotguns-in-plain-sight were empowering. Many felt that the time for singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ had passed and ‘By any means necessary’ was more relevant.
The term “Black Panther” means something in urban America that it will not mean around the world to those seeing this hugely important pro-Africa film. Check out www.thenation.com/article/rage-and-ruin-black-panthers.
That said, this new Marvel movie follows the comic book origin of the Panther, but with a modern twist.
As always, the Black Panther is the protector of the fictional African nation called Wakanda. Along with the super powers achieved through ancient African ceremonies, T’Challa also relies on his intelligence, leadership savvy, severe physical training, extreme wealth and advanced technology to combat all enemies.
The modern twist adds the back drop of a vibranium (a mythical metal) meteor hitting the earth in Africa (ergo Wakanda emerges) and mixes that with the myth of the well-hidden golden cities of Eldorado, and voila! you have the backstory of the Black Panther.
For the Marvel novices out there, vibranium is the strongest metal in the universe from which energy can be generated and anything can be made. Yes, my fellow Marvel geeks, it is a bit stronger than Wolverine’s adamantium claws. Captain America’s shield is made from vibranium as are T’Challa’s claws and his suit. In fact, the Panther drinks it and it infuses his body – home boy is bulletproof! Take that in the eye Superman!
The interesting proposal put forth by the plot of the Black Panther movie is that the protagonist and the antagonist are fighting over ‘how’ to achieve black power, not ‘whether’ black power is needed.
Stretching my mind a bit more, I hear a slight echo of the clash between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Dubois or Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and main stream civil rights groups vs the Black Panther Party – all supported the advancement of black people, but none agreed on how to get there.
In the movie, when T’Challa fights for Wakanda’s throne against Killmonger, his cousin who was abandoned and raised in the ‘hood of Oakland, California, the arguments for and against Wakanda revealing its real power, resound in powerful script dialogue. Should a high tech, super rich African nation, thrive in isolation, when they have the ability to end the suffering of hundreds of millions of people by revealing their treasures?
Though it is a myth, it is an interesting debate.
By the end of the movie, T’Challa decided that the time for closing itself off to the world in order to ‘Keep Wakanda Great’, is over. They have a tight lock on their tech and vibranium (and they have the Panther as their protector), that they feel strong enough to resist all who will covet their riches.
Ok…I admit, hearing the fake African accents from some of the key actors made me laugh out loud initially. The mix of African languages, cultures and clothing choices are not obvious to most of the world that ignorantly sees Africa as one single country anyway. Still, it works.
The power of a mainstream, first release movie (with a bumpin’ soundtrack!) that can challenge the never-ceasing negative images about black people world-wide, on balance is a good thing.
Other than T’Challa, my favourite character in the movie is Danai Gurira’s character General Okoye. She is the kickass, take-no-nonsense head of the Dora Milaje, Wakandan Special Forces.
This movie features woman-power to the max! The Dora Milaje is full of badass, well-disciplined, tough, beautiful, black women-soldiers.
Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, played by Letitia Wright, is the most vivacious character in the movie. She is a high-tech designer scientist who is young, funny, super intelligent and very ‘now.’ I love her line: “Don’t scare me like that, colonizer!” when white CIA agent (Martin Freeman) Everett K. Ross walks up behind her while she is working.
Showing now at Ster Kenikor Grove Mall and Maerua Mall in Windhoek, the Disney-Marvel Studio’s US$200 million Black Panther production tab has had a super-heroic US$218 million revenue debut over its four-day weekend at 4,020 North American locations. With international receipts, that figure may double (or more) by the end of February.
The film had the fourth-biggest superhero opening day in history at US$75 million, behind The Avengers (US$80m), Batman v Superman ($81m) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($84m). (variety.com and forbes.com for the movie money data).