Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Black Panther

Oakland, 1992. Opposing political ideologies fracture the relationship between two Wakandan siblings, giving rise to a succession dilemma that will manifest decades later. At present day, the aftermath of King T’Chaka’s untimely demise sets his son T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) ascension to the throne in motion, but becoming king is never easy. Facing stark opposition from one of the kingdom’s not so friendly tribes, the young king eventually proves himself worthy to lead the kingdom and assume the mantle of the mythical Black Panther. Meanwhile, the appearance of an old foe paves the way for the return of a prodigal son Wakanda never knew existed. With his legitimacy questioned and the threat of the country’s exposure at stake, T’Challa must play his cards right or suffer dire consequences.

Oops, Marvel did it again. Thor took us to Asgard. Doctor Strange gave us more than a peek of various realms of existence. Black Panther brings us to Wakanda, the most technologically-advanced nation on the planet posing as a third-world country. In terms of the wow factor as far as production design is concerned, Wakanda is far less foreign to us than any of the new locations in the MCU that we’ve already seen. Perhaps the beauty of it lies in the seamless fusion between traditional African values and Marvel’s familiar technological sophistication, two concepts we never thought could blend with one another so well. True enough you’ve never seen Africa like this before. Hold on to your jaw, it’s bound to drop.

Is Black Panther an Avengers movie? Not really. If you expect to leave the cinema primed for Infinity War, then you are watching the wrong film. Neither after-credit scene provides any hint on what will eventually lead Thanos and his Black Order to the reclusive kingdom. If an infinity stone was hidden somewhere in the narrative’s more than two-hour run, then it must have been so well-hidden because nobody noticed. More than anything else, this is an origin story. Expect something standalone and in the same vein as Thor’s or Doctor Strange’s introduction to the MCU.

The production values are probably what will make this film a runaway hit for Marvel’s fanboys, but what makes it a critical darling obviously has something to do with its take on socially-relevant issues that are becoming more and more polemic in Hollywood as of late. Women empowerment, you say? You only have to see either Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) or Okoye (Danai Gurira) kick ass with a chakram or a spear to convince you that the leading ladies here are no damsels in distress. You don’t have to rescue them. They will rescue you. The latter’s fight scene in Busan donning her red evening gown and a wig is arguably one of the best choreographed fight scenes in the MCU. It looks like Natasha is finally getting her own squad before Thanos arrives, and we await with bated breath.

We don’t even have to emphasize the irony of this setup. Africa has always been that continent white colonizers scrambled over to divide among themselves, drawing artificial borders as if it were as uncomplicated as slicing pizza. WHAT IF there was a powerful country there all along whose might can rival the west and give them a run for their money? This is the political theme openly discussed throughout the film and utilized as a plot device to maintain the flow of the story: Is the world ready for Wakanda, and is Wakanda ready for the world? Marvel has not dared come up with a movie with such strong political undertones since Iron Man came out ten years ago, and you probably won’t find another Marvel flick that empowers the marginalized on the basis of both gender and race like Black Panther does. It’s a popcorn flick alright but it’s a social commentary at the same time, and it’s awesome like that.

Maybe the only aspect where the film seems to fail is the generic plot. Following the tried and tested Marvel formula, there really aren’t a lot of surprises or twists, and most outcomes are predictable to say the least. Ideological underpinnings aside, the amazing combination of every little aspect is what makes Black Panther such a good watch. The splash of colors in the costumes keeps you distracted in a good way. Humor is there when needed be. And of course, the action scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat, guaranteed.

1 creature(s) gave a damn: said...

I'd like to watch the performance! It will be exciting! Thanks for the contribution!

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