Film: Black Panther
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis
Director: Ryan Coogler
Rating: * * *
In this big budget extravaganza from the House of Marvel, pastoral Africa sits comfortably with a futuristic space setting through which the titular hero journeys as per the diktats of a politically-savvy narrative.
Black Panther begins with a prologue in Nigeria where insurgents abduct women for sex slavery and other horrifying ends, just like that real life evil group Boko Haram. There is also an episode in South Korea before the film gets down to the pivotal plot: King T’Challa (Chawick Boseman, sweetly vulnerable) who returns home to Wakanda which is coveted by his enemies, one of whom happens to be a near and not so dear relative.
Fortunately, Wakanda is defended by the most awesome modern Amazonians- the Dora Milaje, an all-female special force led by General Okoye (Danai Gurira, terrific) There is also King T’Challa’s tech savvy kid sister Shuri (Letitia Wright, impressive) the Queen Mother (Angela Bassett, regal) and his love interest, Nakia played by the gorgeous Lupita Nyong’o.)
Politically, Wakanda is a fictional Switzerland – neutral – but now willy nilly, the King must ally with CIA officer Everett K Ross (Martin Freeman). Somewhere in the film, during a barrage of funny one-liners, the King’s comely sister addresses the CIA official as a “coloniser.” I found this a bit odd since the fictional Wakanda reminded me of real life Ethiopia, an African country which was never colonised.
As it happens, Ross is a simpatico, helpful sort, most unlike the villainous south African arms dealer Ulysses (Andy Serkis, sensational) who covets a unique commodity that Wakanda has in abundance.
The other major villain, the half-American Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, (Michael B Jordan) covets the throne. He also steals an artefact from the British Museum which the Brits plundered from fictional Africans. (as they did in real life in Greece, Egypt, India and Heaven knows where else)
Black Panther hits all the right notes from honour, integrity, courage and heroism to woman power. Ultimately watchable with good special effects and a great star cast, it is a welcome standalone addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.