Black Panther: a review

I went to see Black Panther with my husband and teenage daughters last evening in a packed theatre. The patrons were of  all ages. My husband and I were eager to see this film more than our kids were, but no matter. We all had a good time. Even my youngest enjoyed it and she is the least enthusiastic about superhero films.

My knowledge of this Marvel Universe comic book hero was pretty limited to the overall positive buzz surrounding this films release.

This film is an origin story and succeeds beyond my expectations. The film opens with an GGI animated sequence and the voice of a father narrating a bedtime story which serves as exposition. We hear a brief history of (fictional) Wakanda, an isolationist African country that hides its technological sophistication from the world. The advancement of this society is possible due to a meteorite made of (fictional) vibranium, which is a powerful and desirable metal. The king of Wakanda is also a superhero, the titular Black Panther, aided by his suit made of this precious metal. Soon after the narration is over, we meet our hero, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as he is preparing to be declared king in the wake of his father’s death. He is challenged by others for the right to rule over a nation of 5 tribes. To complicate matters further, he has to deal with an attack from an outsider who risks exposing the truth about Wakanda’s technological advancement. To say more would risk spoiling the plot. Most of the film takes place in Wakanda. A country not only ruled by a superhero king, but also protected by an army of fierce warrior women, the Dora Milaje, lead by Okoye (Danai Gurari).

The acting is pretty outstanding and the cast is star studded (Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman, Sterling K. Brown, Andy Serkis, Forest Whitaker). The supporting characters are distinctly defined in their portrayals. I especially enjoyed that the women are fierce and strong, physically and mentally. There are no damsels in distress here.

There is a lot to like in this film. The plot is easy to follow, more so than the average superhero film. The narrative is well paced and  includes interesting action sequences (including vehicular chases that in lesser films bore me to tears) and well-choreographed fights that didn’t try my patience. Thankfully this film avoided scenes of endless urban infrastructure destruction that I find tedious. The CGI and cinematography are quite beautiful. There is clearly joy in the representation of different aspects of African culture that we see. The soundtrack by Kendrick Lamar is seamlessly integrated and catchy.

The many themes of this film include colonialism and systemic racism, protectionism, loyalty, revenge, complexity of family relationships and a there is even a hint of romance. The story is told in a relatively serious fashion with a bit of humour here and there. It is certainly not full of big laughs as one expects in other Marvel franchises (Guardians of the Galaxy).

I am glad this film is doing well at the box office and that my whole family was entertained by it. My only regret is that I waited this long to see it.

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