If you are not bursting with pride after you leave the theater, are you even African!
Creed director Ryan Coogler continues his hot streak and delivers a synergy of color, sound, cinematography and a classic Shakespearean story with a distinct local flavor. They even speak isiXhosa in Wakanda, how cool is that! What Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman did for female representation, Black Panther ramps it up a few notches, and smartly presents us with a rousing tribute to African culture wrapped up in a superhero movie.
An excellent cast mixes the best of old and new. Our guy John Kani holds his own against the likes of Angela Basset and Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis sans mo-cap gear has the time of his life as over-the-top villain Klaue opposite Martin Freeman’s straight man Agent Ross.
Chadwick Boseman is regally centered and has wonderful range as the title character, playfully charming with love interest Lupita Nyong’o ( how stunning was she in that Dora Milaje costume!), and believably conflicted about his new duties and familial threats to the throne.
Which brings me to what can only be described as the most three-dimensional, complex and mesmerizing villain in a superhero movie since Heath Ledger’s Joker. Yes, Michael B Jordan absolutely nails it in his role as Erik Killmonger, and he is certainly the cream of this new crop of actors. He earns the empathy of the viewer with a robust and emotional portrayal. The supporting cast is no less impressive, with strong contributions from Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke and the ever reliable Sterling K Brown.
All that being said, it’s the female cast that provides the most glorious goose-bump moments. Danai Gurira ( Michonne from TV’s Walking Dead) kicks some serious butt, whether she’s on top of a car in South Korea or in full-on Dora Milaje mode on home soil. Lupita is more than just eye-candy and eats up all her scenes showing why she is an Oscar worthy actress. But it is young Letitia Wright as Shuri who steals the limelight for me. This little sister, tech genius, wisecracking princess is a sparkling gem of a character, and she’s battle ready when the situation demands it as well, love her, and you bet we will be seeing more of her in Infinity War, Black Panther sequels and she could even don the panther suit in future installments ,wow, imagine that!
The soundtrack is spot on – rousing, tender, relevant and unsurprisingly features many local artists and traditional elements too. As much as the Wakandan landscape is a character in the movie, so is the music.
This movie is more than just a stepping stone in Marvel’s ongoing story arc, more than just an origin story, more than just a superhero movie – it’s a damn fine standalone flick, with solid performances, captivating characters and its not afraid to address social and political issues hitherto unsaid in other films in this genre. It showcases the best Africa has to offer – locations, wardrobe, make-up, story, culture, tradition, and Ryan Coogler and co deserve all the praise and recognition they are receiving at the moment. Looking forward to Black Panther 2!’