August 20, 2019

The MCU Project: Black Panther [2018]

Here we are stepping outside of the film release chronology and into the MCU chronology for the 2018 movie Black Panther, a standalone story that overlaps very slightly iin terms of plot with Captain America Civil War. With a black director (Ryan Coogler) and a cast of almost entirely black actors, this Black Panther takes an enormous stride away from the stunning lack of both gender and racial diversity that we have seen so far. Of the two white actors in the film, Andy Serkis plays a thoroughly nasty villain, and Martin Freeman a surprisingly heroic token white; roles which the Slate Spoiler Special pointed our are usually reserved for the black actors. Meanwhile Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira absolutely rule this film, with sharp dialogue and engaging onscreen presence. The male actors are ok too.

Much of the film is set in the fictional African country of Wakanda, which is a beautifully realised almost magical place, where incredible technology has been developed using an important substance found only within their borders, called vibranium. This is the special material of which Captain America’s shield is made, and Tony Stark’s suits are powered. Wakanda is gorgeous to look at, combining the bright colours of busy traditional marketplaces with the sleek lines of high speed transport. Hoverbikes are, at one point, referred to as some sort of old technology. The question – one of the questions – this film is trying to answer, is: is there an obligation on the Kingdom of Wakanda to use these advanced technological powers to improve the lives of the black population of the world in general, and the small Wakandan diaspora in particular? Wakanda has so far held a firmly isolationist position, protecting their secrets so that they don’t lose their land and resources to larger colonising powers. Villain Number 2 of this film, played by Michael B Jordan, is the son of a Wakandan prince, growing up without his father as a black kid in the USA; he is firmly of the belief that Wakandan tech should be used to defeat white supremacy, and takes steps to further his cause.

It wouldn’t be a Marvel Movie without long fighty bits and car chases; however the fighty bits are written with story-telling power, and the car chases are cleverly remote-controlled and this made them interesting enough for me to stay awake through most of them. You’ll note that I haven’t shown you the view from my window once during this post.

I do get that you, dear reader, enjoy my snarky reviews more. But I did enjoy this film and felt it was an important and necessary addition to the body of work. Why can’t they all be like this, with real and relevant politics, and women who don’t just leap around attacking people with their perfectly toned thighs, or need to be rescued on a regular basis?


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