‘Have you seen Black Panther? It’s amazing, you should watch it.’ Hyped up and well praised, the release of Marvel Entertainment’s Black Panther was a long-awaited breakthrough for the African-American community into Marvel’s action movie franchise. In the crux of black civil rights movements in the United States (US), Black Panther starred the first black superhero in Marvel history. Around the time of the movie’s release, I was a Marvel un-enthusiast. I was quite hesitant to visit the cinema to watch Black Panther. I held off and waited for the DVD release to watch it. I made a mistake. I can tell you first hand; the hype is well deserved. This movie led me to binge watch the entire Marvel franchise within the week. No regrets.
The Black Panther, T’Challa, returns home to take the throne of the secret and technologically advanced African kingdom of Wakanda, following the death of his father. Wilful opponent Killmonger spontaneously surfaces, revealing his blood relation to T’Challa and declaring his right to challenge him in a fight for the place of king. Upon the defeat and assumed death of T’Challa, the kingdom of Wakanda is faced with the challenge of protecting its citizens, maintaining anonymity to the outside world and ousting their new leader, Killmonger. As T’Challa resurfaces from near death, he assembles his forces to take down the ruthless new king.
The movie Black Panther was released in February of 2018, during a hightened time in the #BlackLivesMatter movement – the resistance to oppression of police brutality against African-American individuals in the US. Marvel Entertainment introduced the T’Challa as the first black superhero in a white-dominated scene. As belief in Christianity stands prominent in African-American communities in the US, T’Challa is not only gifted with god-like powers by the ‘Panther God’ but possesses an essence of god himself. Despite not being a Christian superhero, the Black Panther shares Christian values of peace and prosperity, not war. The enrichment of black excellence extends to the portrayal of the African nation of Wakanda.
Considered third-world, the movie Black Panther flips the perception of underdevelopment in African countries through portraying Wakanda as an incredibly wealthy and technologically supreme nation. Wakanda is fuelled by Vibranium. In the film, this is the strongest and most versatile metal on earth, possessesing the capability to reverse climate change, stabilise impoverishment and establish world peace. King T’Challa chooses to isolate Wakanda from the rest of the world, an opposing strategy to exploitation and colonisation that occurred around the world, most notably in the 20th century Scramble for Africa.
Directing, Cinematography and Videography
American actor Chadwick Boseman employs an African accent throughout the movie in his portrayal Wakandan ruler, King T’Challa. Boseman’s consistency and professionality in his role led many viewers to believe that his accent was legitimate. Director Ryan Coogler embraces the variety in accents through ensuring all Wakandan characters draw upon different influences, for example accents from Nigeria and Kenya. Prompting actors to occasionally speak in the Wakandan tongue, Coogler maintains the authenticity of the nation.
Director of cinematography, Rachel Morrison, spoke on process of filming Black Panther. Morrison addressed how the substantial level of computer generated imagery (CGI) and after-effects utilised in the movie provided editors with the creative freedom to elaborate and romanticise scenes. Morrison illustrates the unique nature of shooting Marvel movies, stating that traditional cinematography would shoot a scene and after-effects would only make minute changes to the scene. However, in shooting Black Panther, scenes predominantly comprise of CGI and after-effects, and are shot with relatively few props or objects with the intent to fill the scene using CGI. I’m sure Morrison loved shooting these minimal scenes; no hassle of props, outfits and backdrops to be concerned about.
Critique and Improvements
As a fundamentally sound production in most areas, Black Panther possesses its share of badly shot action scenes and clichés. In the opening portion of the movie, T’Challa engages with an African military convoy carrying human traffickers. Despite being shot at night, the scene fails to display critical fight scenes and occasionally, all that can be seen is gunfire. I would suspect that Morrison chose to omit extra lighting to mask difficult choreography scenes and to save time and money (cheeky Rachel).
The fight between T’Challa and Killmonger possessed a myriad of movie clichés. For example, upon winning the challenge, Killmonger chooses to throw T’Challa off a waterfall instead of ensuring his death through combat. We all know it’s possible to recover from a 50-meter fall into water, be stabbed and wounded in combat and return to finish off Killmonger, saving Wakanda. He’s the Black Panther!
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Black Panther. The movie had a great balance of humour, action, grief and triumph – quite a substantial feat for Marvel. The film stood as a symbol of progression in the black community, most significantly in the US. During a time of resistance and oppression, Black Panther is a symbol for peace in black culture, possessing the ideology of non-violence and unity in the rather divided ethnic landscape of America.