Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966, the eponymously titled Black Panther actually pre-dates the political party's naming, that so many fragile, reverse racism, idiotic criers, attached to the character's name. Stan Lee cites that the idea for the name actually came from a pulp adventure hero, who as a sidekick had a black panther. Making his debut in Fantastic Four issue #52-53, Black Panther continued to make guest appearances in Captain America and The Avengers, until 7 years later in 1973, BP finally got his own lead story in Jungle Action #5.
The first noticeable element about Black Panther, is that it is very much its own film. There is no urgent rush or pressure to open up with some amazing spectacle and let us know that this film is a contender in the MCU. In fact, BP goes in the other direction. Paced out slowly, the very first significant event in the story, is designed to anchor us through our humanity, setting the tone for how director Ryan Coogler wants us to engage - with emotion before adrenalin. Like the very best story elements in films like Star Wars and The Godfather, it is the narrative surrounding family matters, that sets the stakes higher and taps into our own personal saga. And so with the relationships between father/son, brother/sister and mother/children portrayed so naturally and with their own complexities, there are quite a few endearing moments where I was able to see myself and my own family on screen. The second noticeable element about BP, is that though the events of this adventure take place on Earth, Wakanda itself has a fascinating, other-worldly feel to it, separating it from anything we have seen before.
The story (and it is a good story) manages to address both small and larger issues in a cleverly constructed circle. The smaller family issue directly connects to greater social ones, which in-turn bleeds into worldwide politics and finally completes the circle, by landing us back at the history of Wakanda's formation. The screenplay isn't afraid to talk about the realities of African history, there isn't a head-in-the-sand approach when explaining the fierce guarding of Vibranium-tech from the outside world. Oraclised by historical context, the Wakandan kingdom can forecast what sharing their advances would do, by simply looking at how the rest of the world has related itself to African resources before. And so the concept of protecting their current Afro-futurism, is used as a metaphor to show the real life injustices of a people who have been massively exploited in the past.
The action sequences in Black Panther vary in their potency, everything about the Dora Milaje is fantastic! I would gladly pay money to see a spin-off just about them. Their fighting style and movement as a unit, their strength, their beauty and their loyalty was a long time coming, much needed visual to be seen on screen. In regards to Black Panther's action, the suit this time around is predominantly CGI controlled and it shows, as there were a couple of occasions, where my eyes couldn't pick up the detail of what over-the-top action was going on. If you watch the Black Panther fight with The Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes in Captain America: Civil War, you'll find more realism in the movement and better choreography. There were also a couple of moments where the lighting bothered me, as some scenes seemed way too dark, but for the most part all the action was fulfilling and funny. The cinematography in conjunction with the set design was fantastic. As mentioned before, Wakanda has a otherworldly mise-en-scene due to the mix of advanced tech, African landscapes and traditional patterns. Coogler and team did the African nations proud by displaying what makes the cultures unique and by not being afraid to combine more than one African style. The costumes, rituals and languages all furthered the richness of the overall tapestry.
The casting was spot on, every actor played the role they were suppose to. Chadwick led the film gracefully, never overstating his presence, Jordan displayed a seething hatred, born of betrayal and alienation. Lupita sincerely showed her dedication to safeguarding humanity and Danai imbued the notion of duty and command through integrity. I could say something good about every single actor, as not one performance brought the film down.
Overall Black Panther is a good stand-alone film, that should warrant a sequel. There has perhaps been too much hype around it, especially from those who have never engaged with a single BP product or output and therefore are new to every concept, that for the rest of us, have been engaging with since the 20th century. *Makes the folded-arm Wakandan salute*.