Black Panther

To its merit, a strong supporting cast and a terrific villain saves Black Panther from mediocrity.

Somewhere midway in the film, a character says “it’s not magic. It’s technology”.

You could say the same thing about Black Panther, Marvel’s latest superhero production to hit the big screen. It’s less a superhero film than it is a testosterone fuelled spectacle on kinship and rite of passage. For a film set mostly in the African savannahs, one can be forgiven for alluding to the thought that this is The Lion King all over again, only this time Simba is a human with a fancy suit that can do some nifty tricks.

Aka Black Panther, crown Prince T’Challa of the mythical state of Wakanda (where everyone speaks with Nigerian accents) is not the first black superhero we have seen in big budget productions. There was Spawn and the Blade trilogy followed by Will Smith’s Hancock. Perhaps the cultural and colour embrace going on in Hollywood has something to do with it, but could this be Marvel’s first black standalone superhero film? At one point the titular character played by Chadwick Boseman even says “It is wise to build bridges. It would be foolish to build walls”. Such is the geopolitical theme along with a racial slur about ‘getting back what was taken from our ancestors’ that the film’s notably good intentions are drowned out by the self-righteous cry for retribution (or perhaps an ode to the real Black Panthers of the 1960s?) With the arrival of villains played by Andy Serkis and Michael B. Jordon (who last collaborated with director Ryan Coogler in Creed), Black Panther turns a few shades darker, albeit quite literally. The lengthy runtime doesn’t help either which is why most viewers will be grateful for the few unexpected laughs that lighten the story.

Marvel Cinematic Universe, like production rival DC Entertainment, is in the process of fleshing out superhero sidekicks in their own feature films. Black Panther, while trading traditional fun moments in superhero films for mundane socio-political issues is one such film that puts a spin on spin-offs. To the film’s merit, and rescue, is a strong ensemble of supporting cast members that not only generate most of the excitement, their presence compensates for the somewhat boring void left by Boseman’s T’Challa. That’s because the titular hero’s reliance on fancy gadgets makes him more Bond-like at times, rather than a typical Marvel superhero. To that effect there’s even an elaborate action set piece in a casino, which to be fair, is one of the best segments in the film. The finale, back in Wakanda, is another CGI laden spectacle with an unexpected result – Jordan steals the show. After Creed, this wouldn’t be the first time but it does save Black Panther from mediocrity.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.