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  Black Panther A Prince Among Men
Year: 2018
Director: Ryan Coogler
Stars: 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, Isaach De Bankolé
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The nation of Wakanda is believed to be one of the poorest on Earth, not to mention one of the poorest on the African continent, and when its king dies it makes the news, but little else is heard of the place. However, as all Wakandans know, many centuries ago a huge meteorite struck their land, and it was made of the most valuable metal in the universe thanks to its incredible properties; by mining and using this material, they have secretly created possibly the most advanced civilisation on the planet. But what they choose to do with this power will soon place their entire people in peril, for there are outside forces at work that may not be acting as "outside" as those inside believe...

If nothing else, Black Panther proved that superhero movies, one of the biggest moneymakers of the twenty-first century, could be as inclusive as any other blockbuster genre. The previous year DC's Wonder Woman had demonstrated the heroes did not have to be white guys with special powers to strike a chord with the global audience, they could be women too, and this showed a black guy surrounded by black gals could be every bit the effective leads in this format as well. Some bristled at the results, either because this was not what they wanted from a traditional superhero flick (it was almost exclusively based in Africa), or because they simply couldn't take the race of the hero seriously.

Let the naysayers grumble, for if this was not a classic, it was one for the ages, as much or maybe more for what it represented as for such matters as plot and character. Many important films can also fall into the trap of being self-important too, but director Ryan Coogler and his team ensured there were enough of the Marvel trappings to have it slot into the studio's style while also allowing the African basis for its narrative room to breathe - a lot of room, as there were possibly more rolling landscapes here than in any other of their epics. So you had the stuff we'd all seen before, the big fights, the self-deprecating jokes, the nobility versus self-interest themes, but it was wrapped differently.

Black Panther himself was played by Chadwick Boseman, who had been introduced in a previous Marvel movie, as they had developed a knack of making their most promising characters part of the "universe" they peddled by easing them into the consciousness of the audience. Therefore if you were a fan, you would have seen Captain America: Civil War a fair few times by the point you had seen Black Panther, and therefore were familiar with Boseman in the role: Martin Freeman also returned as C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross, largely as comic relief though with an important role to play nonetheless, come the grand finale. Black Panther was inducted as King T'Challa when we met him, master of all he surveyed, but it would be a samey movie if his reign started out peaceful in his first solo outing.

Therefore someone is out to dethrone him, and initially he seems to be Andy Serkis with a South African accent as the opportunist criminal Ulysses Klaue, yet in his band of baddies is Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, who was not going to allow a name like that guide him into a career in public relations or social work. He has a connection to T'Challa that grows apparent over the course of the ensuing mayhem as he tries to take over Wakanda and turn it to a pro-African military force, destroying, or suppressing anyway, any whites who try to do the same to them, or indeed have a history of racist oppression, turning the tables if you like. This political element was refreshing as Marvel shied away from that usually, and its concluding thoughts that we were better together as the human race rather than warring factions was both positive and somehow not as banal as it might have seemed from many a white hero. With an array of talent before the camera who added personality to what often threatened to resort to the tried and tested, Black Panther may not have been perfect, but it was damn good as foundations. Music by Ludwig Göransson and Kendrick Lamar.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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