Long Live The King!

This is, without a doubt, a film that lives up to the hype.  I was already excited to see Black Panther to begin with, and once I started hearing reviews and seeing social media posts I knew this was going to be an amazing film.  It absolutely was.

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After the release of Thor: Ragnarok there was a lot of discussion about the route the MCU films seem to be taking, and these conversations were not always positive.  I have read and heard arguments that the MCU films are primarily aimed at mass audiences rather than fans of the comics, and that the comedic elements are overshadowing the other aspects of the more recent films.  So how did Black Panther fare compared to these kinds of MCU films?  The comedy is not overdone at all.  Yes, there are comedic characters and hilarious moments, but these aspects do not overshadow the other aspects of the film as they did in the latest Thor installment.  And a lot of the comedy fits in so well that it does not seem as forced as some of the gags in Thor: Ragnarok.  Not only was this a fantastic film for comic book fans, but this film was also geared towards a mass audience; it was made for a specific audience that has been underrepresented in Hollywood and I think that that is what made this film so special.  In the end, whether it is made for the fans or for an African American audience, this film is delightfully unique.  I would argue that this is easily one of the strongest films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as so much thought has been put into every detail of the film.  It fits perfectly into the MCU cannon, and yet it also stands out on its own.

The music that is used perfectly conveys all facets of this film.  Unlike most MCU films, the overall soundtrack is not dominated by a grandiose, heroic, orchestral score.   Although there are traces of that present, the music in this film is a mix of tribal and modern that perfectly encapsulates the Afro-Futuristic vibe of Wakanda and its people.  It’s looking as if more and more Marvel films (i.e. Guardian’s of the Galaxy VOl.1 and Vol.2, and Thor: Ragnarok) are moving towards more unique soundtracks than a generic/heroic orchestral score and I am loving it.  The music for Black Panther was not only perfect for the tone of the film, but it was unique and memorable and I hope that future MCU films continue to move towards more interesting soundtracks.

The costumes continue this Afro-Futuristic motif in the most visually stunning way possible.  From the perspective of a comic book fan, everything is well done because the familiar characters appear exactly as we expect them to, and yet their appearances are elevated.  I have seen numerous social media posts about the creation of the costumes in this film and I highly recommend reading whatever you come across – the amount of thought put into these costumes is truly admirable.  Stylistic elements taken from African cultures as well as modern trends have been blended together to create some of the most detailed and colourful costumes in the MCU.  There are even scenes where the colours that the characters are wearing are meant to represent the Pan-African Flag.  I am truly in awe by the amount of thought that was put into these absolutely remarkable costumes.

And, of course, the most remarkable aspect of this film is the cast.  In Captain America: Civil War we already got a taste of what Chadwick Boseman could bring to the table as T’Challa / Black Panther, so I’m sure everyone expected him to do well in this role.  For me, however, it was the women who stole the show.  Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and Shuri (Letitia Wright) were powerful and bad ass and exactly what this film needed.  As important as this film is for African American representation in film, I think that this is also an important film for women as I would argue that no other MCU film has this many strong, well rounded, female characters. These ladies have their own strengths and are not merely plot devices; I would love to see more of them in future MCU films.

Interestingly, I feel that the only caricatured characters in this film are the two white men: Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) and Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis).  Ross fills the role of a sidekick since he is an outsider, and Klaue is a cartoonish villain who probably has the least amount of character development out of anyone in this film.  This is not necessarily a bad thing as these characters bring comedic relief and yet still add to the story.  However, to compare the main villains Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and Klaue, Killmonger definitely comes across as a a stronger character.  Killmonger’s presence within the film is a very political one as it is his circumstances that have turned him into a villain.  These circumstances echo current sociopolitical issues and really force you to stop and think about who Killmonger is as a villain and as a person.  He is not necessarily a bad person – he is merely reacting to his circumstances in a violent and fanatical way.  (Spoiler: His death does not strike me as the death of a villain.  I feel that audiences are meant to feel sympathetic towards him in the end as he is not necessarily wrong in his beliefs, even though his actions were wrong.)

Given the sociopolitical undertones of the film, it is no surprise that social media is filled with articles, and pictures, and tweets, and videos, etc. about the different aspects of the film and about audience response/involvement.  This is a movie that encourages discussion.  I have seen some amazing articles and videos about this film and I encourage everyone to read what you can because it truly adds to the experience.  But most importantly, it is a strong movie that has become very popular, so hopefully this has made it easier for this discussion to spread and reach more people.  Because that is what this is about: people.  This film was made for a specific group of people and every aspect of the film enforces this.  In fact, the story is not just about a lone superhero, it is about an entire culture; this is not just the story of the Black Panther, this is the story of Wakanda, its people, and their place in the world.

This is a very thoughtful film on many different levels but it is also a fun and entertaining superhero film.  I truly hope that future MCU films aspire to this level of achievement and I cannot wait to see the cast of Black Panther return in other Marvel films.

Only one question remains…  Will we ever get to hear Klaue’s mix tape?

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