A review for one of the most anticipated movies of the year
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman
Director: Ryan Coogler.
Vuvu Rating: 8/10
BLACK Panther, one of the year’s most highly anticipated films, was released worldwide on February 16. It is directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler. The film is an adaptation of the Marvel black panther comics, the first African-American comic book series whose characters were first introduced in 1966.
The film starts in the aftermath of the events that transpired in Captain America: Civil War where we were first introduced to the Black Panther, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and his father, T’Chaka (John Kani) who is killed in a terrorist attack.
This movie is a fictional take on the possibilities of a thriving African nation, Wakanda, that exists free of slavery, colonialism and imperialism. A nation that has been able to do so partly because of its deliberate efforts to keep itself and its resources a secret from the rest of the world.
One of the immediately striking aspects of the movie is the attention to detail in costume and design. It is deliberate in its intention to boldly showcase and pay homage to multiple African cultures in its costumes, landscapes and language.
The stars of this movie are the female characters, Nakia (Lupita N’yongo), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) who were given more depth than female characters have often been afforded in film.
The women are physical equals of the male characters. They are sometimes even more intelligent and funny, as is the case with Shuri, Black Panther’s sister, a technologically savvy woman who also provided some of the film’s funniest moments and commands.
The film is also a political one. It explores the direct tension between Africans in Wakanda and the diaspora. It also speaks to a problem of intended liberators turned dictators that is familiar especially to Africans. One of the characters, an African-American of Wakandan descent, returns to the country and through a series of event, earns the leadership role.
He is intent on bringing liberation to black people around the world. He believes that Wakanda has a moral duty to lead, given the resources and power it has.
However, he seeks loyalty and absolute authority by deliberately trying to ensure that there is no opposition to his rule. His character confronts questions of self-interest versus moral duty.
There has been some criticism in South Africa of what some believed was a failure of the majority of the characters to make an effort to adequately pronounce isiXhosa words, the language chosen as the native language of Wakanda. This criticism would most likely exist no matter which African language was chosen. It does not help that the chosen language is arguably one of the more difficult to learn or speak.
Black Panther delivered beyond expectations, with a combination of great writing, visuals and characters. It effortlessly uses humour to get across some important messages. While it is not perfect, the reality of what was once only a possibility of a blockbuster black superhero movie is impressive, entertaining and highly recommendable.