We live in muddled times. For every technological or medical advancement we make there seems to be some sort of cultural regression.
So my initial feelings on Black Panther are mixed. A part of me feels that it’s taken Marvel far too long to make this film (there have been other comic book films starring black characters before), whilst another thinks that as a direct rebuttal to that regression, both in it’s approach to black people and women, it’s the perfect time.
I’ve mentioned before how the MCU has built up a reputation for undercutting serious scenes with wit or sarcasm. They do it well, but sometimes I wish they’d ease up. I don’t remember seeing any of that in Black Panther. A sign of emotional growth from Marvel? Perhaps not, but Wakandans have no need to downplay an emotional scene by and I’m thankful for that.
Another difference to most films in the series is the lack of connectivity; this is no prelude to Infinity War. T’Challa’s story is his own, full of so many interesting and cool characters that not only would outside characters make it crowded but they also might not come off that well in comparison.
Add in the fact that Jordan has charisma and presence for days and you’ve finally got another great MCU villain.
But that’s not all. The MCU has a well-recognised villain problem. Mirror images of the hero that are only there to help the on their way to being what we expect. With that in mind I was fully prepared to lump in Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger with the Whiplashes, Yellow Jackets, and Abominations of this world. But he’s much more than that. Like the best villains, he’s got a point, and it’s pretty damn valid one. Disagree with his methodology for sure, but can you say he’s 100% wrong? I’d be surprised if you could. Add in the fact that Jordan has charisma and presence for days and you’ve finally got another great MCU villain.
I love the casting of this film. Boseman (what a name), is strong, intelligent and wise in the main role. There’s the usual hurdles to overcome but he does so directly; no hitting the booze or punch bags to sort his problems out. A lot of this is no doubt due to the strong women he is surrounded with. At this point I have to mention Letitia Wright’s Shuri; a 16 year old capable of creating tech that makes Tony Stark’s best look like it was made in a cave with a box of scraps. That she’s also sharp and not willing to back down from a fight just makes her more awesome. In her and Peter Parker I see a bright (in both senses) future for Marvel. Martin Freeman pleasingly avoids becoming the token white man and an exposition repository. He’s not a huge character but he’s capable and does his bit.
For all the stunning Afrofuturism on display there are some problems. Popping two guys in dark costumes and then having them duke it out in a dark area with choppy edits does not make for entertaining or easy-to-follow action. Considering other scenes in the films, and Director Coogler’s very own Creed, this seems like an odd misstep.
Trying to summarise my feelings is tough. At no point during the film did I feel blown away, but every time I reflect on it there’s a hell of a lot to like. Black Panther brings so much, I can’t wait to see what else it has in store for us. Now we finally know something about that dot on the map in Iron Man 2! I just wish there was a real Wakanda out there to step up and show us how it’s all done.