Black Panther (M/12A/PG-13)

In a Word: Vibrant

Black Panther 

Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) and T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). PICTURE: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2018

 

"Sure, this film comes at you in a flurry of colour and action as we've increasingly come to expect with the Marvel franchise but it also ruminates on a couple of serious issues - the role of affluent nations in helping others and the closing of borders for 'protection' of that affluence as well as questions over how to redress oppression and whether violence can ever be the answer."

The Marvel juggernaut continues to produce films at a staggering rate (the next one comes out in April) but thankfully the last few in the franchise - I'm thinking Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 - have taken the franchise in interesting directions. Black Panther does the same.

Another offshoot away from the main Avengers storyline, it is as the title suggests, an establishing film for the character known as Black Panther who we encountered (albeit briefly) in Captain America: Civil War

This film begins with some history - about both the Black Panther and his homeland Wakanda - so we will too. Wakanda, a small nation in central Africa, was founded by five tribes which happened to choose a site on top of the world's only - and massive - deposit of a rare and technology enhancing metal known as vibranium.

The Wakandans exploited this marvellous resource to create a high tech nation centred on its skyscraper rich capital city which, if it were known, would be the envy of the world (and thus the desire of the world to dominate). So to keep the secret safe, Wakanda presents the image of an improverished farming nation to the world while hiding its true, advanced, idyllic and CGI self, behind shields.

Vibranium, which affects plant life in the area where it is found, is also the key to Black Panther's identity. By drinking a special syrup made from the plant, the king of Wakanda gains extra-ordinary powers thus becoming the Black Panther.

The film centres on Prince T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who grapples with being made king following the assassination of his father. With the support of those around him, however - including his tech-head sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), his former girlfriend (and a spy) Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and members of a royal guard known as Dora Milaje - on ascending the throne, he immediately sets out to put a stop to an international arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who has joined forces with a US military asset turned criminal named Erik "Killmonger" (Michael B Jordan) in an attempt to sell the nation's vibranium to the highest bidder.

In this case, that happens to be the US Government and so it's here that Martin Freeman pops up as a CIA agent Everett K Ross. He quickly becomes an ally of Black Panther who soon realises that it's not just the vibranium which is at stake but the future of the nation of Wakanda and, indeed, that of the world itself.

Sure, this film comes at you in a flurry of colour and action as we've increasingly come to expect with the Marvel franchise but it also ruminates on a couple of serious issues - the role of affluent nations in helping others and the closing of borders for "protection" of that affluence as well as questions over how to redress oppression and whether violence can ever be the answer.

Much has been made of the fact that the leading lights are black (certainly overdue for a superhero film) and the fact that it is set largely in Africa (although we did have flashbacks - there's a just touch of the fictional nation of Zamunda, from the 1988 film Coming to America, in Wakanda). But, while it is certainly refreshing to see a a more diverse cast and a superhero film where the action takes place outside New York City, Black Panther stands on its merits as an entertaining and visually stimulating ride with a strong cast (and that includes Jordan, who, despite being a baddy, at one point almost steals the show).

An exciting and interesting chapter in the unfolding Marvel story.