Film review: BLACK PANTHER, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’
The seemingly endless parade of Marvel Comics cinema adaptations continues with Black Panther, a film that should elicit more than the average level of cinephile interest for a superhero film because it’s directed by Fruitvale Station’s Ryan Coogler. Set predominantly in Africa, Black Panther at first seems like a welcome departure from Marvel formula but it ultimately succumbs to the franchise cookie cutter.
First appearing in 1966, the Black Panther comic character actually predates (by a few months at least) the African American political activist group most commonly associated with that name. Still, the character appears to have been informed by the mood of the times and the growing African American political consciousness. Similarly, themes of African identity resonate throughout this film as warrior king T’Challa aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) leads his technologically sophisticated but secretive nation of Wakanda in a battle against aggressors both black and white. The film also has resonances beyond the 1960’s activism and invokes contemporary issues of terrorism, radicalisation and attempts at African continental unity.
While the African setting gives the film a fresh look compared to many of the other Marvel offerings, the story soon drags us into familiar territory as it transforms into a war movie with the requisite cgi enhanced smack-down finale. Along the way it dabbles in Bond-like espionage but there’s nothing revelatory in its story telling and there are too many slow patches.
Boseman gives T’Challa strength and nobility although he’s not especially charismatic. He’s actually outshone by female cast members including Lupita N’yongo as a clever, witty, kick-ass Wakandan special forces operative and T’Challa’s former lover Nakia, The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira as the ferocious spear-wielding warrior Okoye and particularly Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sassy funny tech-genius sister Shuri who seems to run the entire city. At one point she transforms into Q from the Bond films as she fits the Panther with a series of deadly gadgets. Michael B Jordan is also a potent if obnoxious screen presence here as the angry former soldier and CIA assassin, Erik Killmonger who wants to usurp T’challa’s throne and embroil Wakanda into a global conflict.
As an action hero Black Panther’s dynamic fighting style and cool costume – which looks like sleek ninja meets bondage gimp – make him an impressive site. Add some inventive depictions of Wakandan technology and attractive African vistas and this is often a visually arresting film.
It’s unfortunate the story can’t sustain maximum interest before its 134 minutes are up.
Nick’s rating: ***
Genre: Super hero film.
Director(s): Ryan Coogler.
Release date: 8th Feb 2018.
Running time: 134 mins.
Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM. Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show