Hey everyone, it’s Jason on Jack-FM and last night I was fortunate enough to attend a sneak preview of Marvel Studios’ latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe: BLACK PANTHER.
I’ve been wildly anticipating this ever since they announced it years ago, and since T’Challa’s introduction in Captain America: Civil War, I’ve been chomping at the bit to get back to Wakanda...
For the uninitiated, Wakanda is a fictional nation in Africa that sits on the world’s only deposit of Vibranium, the strongest metal on the planet & the material that Cap’s shield is constructed out of. They’ve kept their resources, their technological advances, and their society a secret from the rest of the world by hiding behind a mask of third world poverty.
The King of Wakanda takes on the powers & mantle of the Black Panther, legendary protector of the people of his kingdom, who has been recently thrust into the public eye after the events of Civil War.
King T’Chaka is dead, his son T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman,) has taken the throne & the mantle, and this is where we begin the story presented in this movie…
As usual, I’m not going to delve into any spoilers in this review. Instead, I would love to talk about how this movie made ME feel, and what I think it will do for movies in general as we move forward.
First of all, the movie is phenomenal. Ryan Coogler has a really clear vision for the Wakanda he wanted to present, and the cast that he & Marvel Studios put together is simply wonderful, especially the enormous cast of women.
Every woman in this film is incredibly well portrayed, and every character has a really wonderful sense of agency. T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, is an engineering genius who designs the Black Panther’s entire suite of weapons & gadgets. Lupita Nyong’o is wonderful as the spy Nakia, Danai Gurira is fearsome & strong as Okoye, the General of the Dora Milaje (Wakanda’s elite royal guard, comprised of entirely women,) and Angela Bassett was both stunning & regal as T’Challa’s mother. The women of Wakanda were true equals in their roles, and commanded the respect of the men around them, which is a really welcome difference from so many of the portrayals we’ve seen on screen.
Entertainment Tonight has a pretty great article about the Women of Wakanda, check it out after you finish this review.
The relationship between the different tribes of Wakanda was really interesting to see too, with so many different African cultures represented both beautifully & respectfully.
Like most of the Marvel “origin story” movies, the antagonist is a mirror of the hero. In Iron Man, we had Iron Monger, Ant-Man gave us Yellowjacket, Doctor Strange had Kaecilius, etc. In Black Panther, we have Killmonger played by Michael B Jordan. If you’ve seen Creed, you got a first glimpse at how well Ryan Coogler & MBJ work together, and that chemistry is just as good here. Killmonger is flawed yet fierce, passionate and hungry. It’s a really interesting dynamic between him & T'Challa.
The only two white men in the main cast are both veterans of the Lord of the Rings movies, with Andy Sirkis reprising his role as Ulysses Klaue (who was introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron,) and Martin Freeman reprising his role as Everett Ross from Civil War. The “Tolkien White Guy” joke is ripe for the picking & I couldn’t pass it up. <laugh> But, this leads to an interesting dynamic. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a black superhero on screen. Wesley Snipes famously portrayed the Marvel hero Blade in a trilogy of movies, which I still love to this day, but those movies also featured a 99% white cast.
There’s something to be said about seeing that representation on screen, which is why I think this movie is being so well received even before it officially opens. We’ve seen fundraising efforts in the $400,000 range to give black school children the opportunity to go see the movie with heroes & heroines that look like them. As a standard issue white guy, I see that stuff every day, so I cannot imagine what it must be like for them, and I’m excited to see how well the movie does in that respect.
The movie is beautiful, the characters are wonderful, the story is great, and the implications for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially with Avengers: Infinity War on the horizon, are really impressive.
In the end, you should absolutely go see it. If you love superhero movies, you won’t be disappointed, and if you just like good movies, you’ll be happy you were part of this experience.
I’ve got tickets to see it again on Thursday night at the Cinerama… I hope to see you there!
Also, it's really cool going back & watching the original teaser trailer for the movie now that I've seen the movie itself, and understand each clip within its own context. It teases just enough without spoiling anything: