BEIRUT: Marvel president Kevin Feige announced late last year that there will be a noticeable difference between Marvel Films Pre-Infinity War and Post-Infinity War, and the latest release from the studio quite clearly proves this point.
Black Panther, mistakenly labeled as the first African-American superhero in cinema: Blade, Storm, War Machine, even Frozone from the Incredibles, has turned into the banner for diversity in the Marvel universe.
Yes, the culture and political standpoints that the film tackles are very relevant and downright powerful at times, yet the mass media seems to want to pigeonhole the film to serve its own political agenda.
The fact of the matter is, Black Panther is a great film because it is a well-executed, well-acted, heartfelt genuine film – that’s all.
The film follows T’Challa who returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to become king, but when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk.
One of the first elements that draw attention is the film’s beautiful color palette which is chock full of vibrant African colors, patterns and ultimately captures the African tradition and weaves it throughout the film’s visual landscape and narrative.
Veteran costume designer Ruth Carter’s designs are immersed in the African custom while reflecting the fantastical elements inherent to the mysterious country and culture.
On a visual level, the film is the epitome of an epic, transcending every Marvel film that has come before: from landscapes to costumes, colors, and cinematography.
Ryan Coogler ensures that his paw-prints are all over the film with many of his now established cinematic language clear in Black Panther, which is another first in the MCU.
Utilizing his signature long takes, and a hand-held camera, Coogler enhances the Marvel experience by truly placing the audience in the middle of the action taking place.
However, some of the CGI work in some of the fight sequences, and the warrior rhinos was noticeable and felt a bit like watching a computer animation film – this may have been an effect of budgetary purposes due to the film’s high production value.
The second most powerful element in the film was its narrative.
Taking on narrative beats that are more akin to Greek Mythology and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey than typical superhero tale, Black Panther again breaks out of the formula that its predecessors had established.
It trades in two-dimensional heroes and villains, global threats, and rushed weighty moments, with complex characters, focused inner threats, and earns every beat it delivers whether it be a laugh, a tear, or a whoop of excitement.
Yet some of the ideologies within the film to cater to the globalist, let’s all join hands and sing Kumbaya mentality, which is fine in a feature film, but much more complicated in real life.
The dialogue smooth and fun also uses African dialects to enrich and ground the film in the world of Wakanda, though two or three lines did refer to real world YouTube jokes (the “what are those” moment) and political situations (refugees and barriers) which in a way is a bit jarring.
Xhosa, one of the official languages of South Africa, was the language of the fictional Wakanda and subsequently, the Xhosa culture lent itself as a touchstone to the Wakandan citizenry.
The decision behind the language choice was made during the filming of Captain America: Civil War, when celebrated South African actor John Kani, who portrayed King T’Chaka, used his native accent and Chadwick Boseman who plays T’Challa, in turn, picked it up.
Building off of that, the film’s cast is then given enough material to truly dig deep into their performances.
This leads to the third powerful element: Black Panther has one of the best performances from an all-star cast ensemble in a Marvel film.
Both Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan carry the film as protagonist and antagonist, respectively, and give it their all – Boseman as the tortured new ruler of Wakanda, and Jordan as the revolutionary violence prone forgotten son of Wakanda.
The score, a team effort from Kendrick Lamar and Ludwig Goransson, is a vivid audible masterpiece due to its fusion of African culture and instruments.
Overall, the film is a much more than a super-hero film. It is a film about family, duty, and country. Black Panther is a most-welcomed new direction for the MCU and does bring a new level of excitement for the new entries to come.
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