After witnessing the death of his father King T’Chaka (John Kani) in Civil War, Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his reclusive home nation of Wakanda to assume the mantle of not only King of Wakanda, but as The Black Panther, the country’s national warrior and protector.
But for the first time, the technologically advanced African nation has an outsider arrive at its borders, an outsider who threatens to not only change their way of life, but to drag Wakanda out of the shadows and into the dreaded spotlight.
Black Panther did not disappoint. It has everything a superhero fan wants and more, so much more, from its story, to its aesthetics, to how proudly African the film is.
Unlike any other superhero movie, Black Panther is almost entirely set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and just through the stylistic choices of colour, costume, and make-up, we get a real sense of the Wakandian’s heritage, history and culture.
Costume designer Ruth E. Carter deserves an OSCAR nomination for her magnificent blend of traditional African clothing and science-fiction looks familiar to Marvel fans, creating a wonderful Afro-futuristic blend that has never been put on screen before. Carter’s costuming is furthered by the hair designs: bald, afro, cornrows and dreadlocks, we see it all in it’s beautiful African glory. Black hair is on parade as it’s never seen in mainstream film before. Even Ramonda, Queen Mother of Wakanda (Angela Bassett) can be seen near the beginning of the film rocking a big pair of earrings shaped like a black woman with long hair.
As for the make-up, the designs helps flesh out the distinct differences between the five tribes that live within Wakanda, each bearing their own specific style with one tribe preferring face paint to another tribes preference of scarification.
I was surprised to see that Black Panther did not shy away with its references to the enslavement of Africans, which is seen at the beginning of the film and referenced at several points from that point on. A more pleasant note is the references to modern day black culture which included a very nice reference to a certain Vine video.
Teaming up with Ryan Coogler for a third time is Swedish composer Ludwig Görsansson who delivers what is without a doubt the best MCU score so far. Göransson seamlessly blends traditional orchestral action music with RnB, Hip-Hop, and traditional Sub-Saharan African music. It might sound like those four genres won’t blend well but oh how they do!
Chadwick Boseman is splendid as T’Challa; he really delivers the inner-conflict that his character is going through and the grief he must hide for the sake of his country.
Unfortunately for Boseman, he is out-shined by a number of characters: The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira who plays Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje, Gurira has arguably the best fight scenes in the entire film (wig-pulling and car surfing included); Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia, a Wakandan spy and T’Challa’s love interest, is delivered with both the grace and fire we now expect from Nyong’o.
But the real shining star of the film is T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri who is played by Letitia Wright. Shuri is the mastermind behind Wakanda’s ever-advancing technology and weaponry, and Wright is amazing in the role. When Shuri is not on screen you’ll start to crave for her return and thankfully she has quite a sizeable role to play. Wright is funny and the timing and delivery of her lines are on point.
I have a few problems with the film, the first being the CGI; mostly it’s great and the capital city looks amazing but it is when we see shots of the surrounding lands and the animals who inhabit it that it starts to look noticeably fake. It just made me wish that they had filmed at least some of the movie in Africa like they did with Avengers: Age of Ultron, which had scenes shot in South Africa.
My main problem is the villains, which has become somewhat of a Marvel tradition at this point.
While Michael B. Jordan is fabulous in the role of Erik Killmonger, the film does indeed suffer from the “evenly matched Marvel villain disorder” in which the villain has the same or extremely similar powers as the main hero. Think Ant-Man vs. Yellowjacket, Doctor Strange vs. Kaecillius, Iron Man vs. Iron Monger, Hulk vs. Abomination, sadly Black Panther joins that list.
Despite those criticisms Black Panther finally brings black superhero fans something they’ve been waiting a very long time for: a superhero who represents them, a superhero who is a flat-out superhero. Not an anti-hero (Blade), not a side-kick (every other black superhero in the MCU) and not an actor/actress of colour painted a different colour (Gamora).
With its mostly black cast, Black Panther is pure black magic on the big screen and if you have any African heritage it’ll make you feel even more proud to be who you are, and if you don’t have any African heritage then it’ll still make you appreciate the values of tradition.
Writer: Jordan Simmons
Editor: Trianna Nguyen
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.