‘Black Panther’ Film Review: This Time the Black Guy Gets to Be the Hero
“Black Panther” has a certain ring to it. The most famous use of the word derives from the Afro-American political organization, The Black Panthers, in the ‘60s — an organization that represented the black power and pride above anything else.
According to “Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party,” the figure of the panther represents an animal that when pressured moves back until it is cornered, then it comes out fighting for dear life.
But not many people outside of comic geeks have heard about another character related to the cunning beast: Black Panther, the king of a fictional African nation Wakanda, a Marvel comic book hero, who made his first appearance during the peak of the aforementioned political party.
Here’s what we know about Black Panther: he drinks magic potion from a plant to get his superpowers that work in harmony with his weapons and suit of high technology. He can also drink another plant juice that will strip his powers away. This is useful if someone with the privilege wants to challenge the reigning king.
Above all, Black Panther is a protector of his kingdom and a guardian of peace. It is strictly forbidden by Wakandas’ ancient tradition to use any of their tech or weapons to bring war upon other nations. Their policy could be changed only by a rotten soul becoming the king who would want to bring blitzkrieg over London or Paris for hors d’oeuvres.
Like many other superhero films these days, Ryan Coogler’s adaptation of Black Panther, which he also co-wrote, is backed by the Disney engine. So, Coogler, who is best known in Finland for Rocky VII, also known as Creed, is given the reins of an elephant-tusk-seize production team. In result, we can expect high-quality CGI with all the latest bells and whistles and less artistic control from the director’s chair.
But what at times feels like a modern Blaxploitation film greased in butter and rolled in the pages of a Ron Hubbard novel, the film really stands out from its contemporaries by the fight and action scenes that are artistically synced with the score of a long-haired Swede, Ludwig Göransson. “I took a month off and traveled to Senegal. I got connected with this artist, Baaba Maal, and traveled around with him while he was on tour. After, I was able to get into a studio and just record amazing musicians for weeks,” he said in an interview with Pitchfork.
In result, the chanting and bongo drums, the talking drums and fierce flutes, can all be heard in the score, which is backed by strong house music beats and bouncing drum ‘n’ bass. The score outperforms the sloppy rap soundtrack by Kendrick Lamar and friends, which accompanies the film in streaming services and those few record stores still standing.
In Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman plays Mr Panther, known for his role as the soul and funk icon, James Brown (Get on Up, 2014). The bad guy is Michael B. Jordan, best known for the lead in the previously mentioned Creed, also scored by Göransson. Coogler is one of those directors, who likes to surround himself with the same family of composers, actors and cinematographers.
While the male lead gives a decent performance, one of the strong points of the film is the strong presentation of female characters. Letitia Wright, for example, who plays gun blasting tech genius Shuri, is one of the notable ones. Lupita Nyong’o as spear-waving warrior Nakia is another example of a powerful female figure.
When Coogler was young he was introduced to Black Panther comic book in a store across the street of his elementary school. He was looking for a superhero comic book where the main character would look like him. He walked in, and so it happened that the guy at the front desk pointed him to Black Panther.
And look at him now.
‘Black Panther’ premieres in cinemas February 16.