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Film Review: Black Panther

22 February 18 words: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

The 93rd Marvel film of 2018 has landed to fairly widespread critical acclaim.  We went to see if Black Panther gets the LeftLion seal of approval...

Black Panther is the superhero we have all been waiting for. And I'm going to tell you exactly why.

Now firstly, you may feel like you're getting Marvel Fatigue, that slightly tired, slightly disinterested feeling when you see yet another Marvel film is coming out about another superhero origin story. And yes, it might be quite entertaining, it might even be pretty good, but when it follows on from seventeen other films that all feature characters with superpowers and super difficult situations meeting a supervillain and wrestling with their personal flaws, you could be forgiven for thinking, I'm not sure I can be bothered if it doesn't bring anything new to the table. Now, there are some familiar features in this new chapter in the franchise, I can't deny it. But try not to get weighed down with it, because the backstory doesn't take long. The origin is swiftly dealt with, allowing not only the time to get to grips with who the character is and where he came from, but allowing the plot to move quickly on to the main story.

After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to Wakanda, his beautiful but isolated kingdom buried in the depths of Africa. Not much is known about it - while the rest of the world dismisses it out of hand as just another poor and underdeveloped nation, the Wakandan people guard the precious secret of their technologically and economically advanced society. T’Challa must prove his worth and right as King and be elected to lead his people. But he must also protect against outside forces which threaten to bring down everything his people have fought for so long to keep safe. Here is where the mould is broken. There is more much screentime dedicated to T'Challa as the son, the politician, the brother and the friend, rather than the Black Panther. Within his country, there is no secrecy with regards to his identity. It is simply another aspect. He is not gifted with super strength and agility because of an experiment, or because of an accident, his gifts are granted to him as the leader of the Wakandan people. Technically anyone could be given the superpowers of the Black Panther. It is a mantle that must be earned. So, we get to spend time learning who he is as a person, and the internal struggle between duty and doing what is truly right. T'Challa is a superhero with a difference. 

Black Panther is also a huge triumph when it comes to launching a blockbuster with an incredibly strong, talented and diverse cast

When Black Panther first appeared in Captain America: Civil War, he was both enigmatic and elusive. Appearing almost out of nowhere to seek revenge for his father’s murder, refusing to fully reveal who he was, or to place his trust in anyone else, he remained remote.   It makes perfect sense that in this self-sufficient world the characters not only remain isolated from the world in general, but that they fight this personal battle of survival without the aid or support of any of the Avengers. In comparison to the might of the Wakandan science division, Tony Stark’s collection of tech appears clunky and toy-like, so it’s not so much a case of being neglected as being on a whole different level. There are links keeping the MCU together, but the choice of which characters become involved in this particular storyline are clever decisions and fit in perfectly with the direction of the plot, without overpowering the characters or taking the focus in the wrong direction.

As much as I don’t want to focus on divisional things like race, ethnicity or gender inclusivity, Black Panther is also a huge triumph when it comes to launching a blockbuster with an incredibly strong, talented and diverse cast. Not only are the majority of the actors not white, a greater proportion of them are also not male, placing a strong focus on the female characters who carry equally, if not more important roles in this storyline. Having a badass female General (Danai Gurira) in charge of the Wakandan army is definitely the way to go.

This is the future of Marvel, and I like where it's headed.


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