In the cinematic race between Marvel and DC Universe, Marvel manages to stay ahead every single time with its wry humour, sassy attitude of the superheroes and crossover cameos that leave the fans excited for more. However, the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe lacks all of the above checkpoints. Black Panther is different and we are glad that it is. In the recent times, Marvel has gone ‘content light-humour loaded’ way after the success of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1 and Deadpool. Following the same path, even a dry Thor standalone franchise opened to showers of praise with Thor: Ragnarok making it the most hilarious and loved film starring the god slash alien.
Black Panther takes the path less trodden by the MCU. The film is heavy on content, makes radical statements, puts in perspective an idealistic world, and has no understated sass or ridiculous punch lines to tickle your funny bone. The first black superhero film is all that it needs to be - direct, political, empowering and a gateway to the second phase of Marvel after The Avengers pass on the baton to the younger, more radical and more diverse group consisting of Spiderman, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Ant-man and The Wasp.
Directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright, the film is a first of its kind — a Marvel film led by a black director and a primarily black cast. The film in itself is a flag bearer of diversity, a significant step especially in today's time and culture.
Opening in the mythical kingdom of Wakanda, Black Panther effectively anticipates President Trump’s alleged comments about “shithole countries” whose refugees prefer the American way of life ‘to their huts’. Without disparaging the rest of Africa, Coogler and his crew suggest what the continent might have become had it never been stripped of its resources — and if those resources would have included highly advanced alien technology and ultra-efficient energy sources. Hidden from the world, Wakanda is home to the world’s most technologically advanced city, protected by a ruler with special powers and a fearsome black panther costume.
The film for once doesn't focus on an All-American dreamland going to waste and doesn't aim at saving the whites. Ironically, it puts them under the term 'coloniser' and African land of Wakanda remains in focus through and through. There is a great disdain for white men in the film and that gives them a taste of their own medicine -- those men who have always shown the African-community as a sidekick or stuck to other stereotypical depiction.
The best part of this technologically advanced nation are the women. Fierce, bold, tech-savvy and decision-makers, the Wakandian women are the closest Marvel has ever come to portraying real-life females and that makes Black Panther a standout in a crowded Universe. The film upholds the tradition of celebrating strong and assertive black women.
However behind all the radical thought and being a well-deserved all-black feminist film, the film isn't flawless. It is a Marvel Superhero movie and thus meant for the 10-year-olds inside us. It is righteous to the core and the good-beats-evil attitude dominates the narrative along with finding one's own identity. At least from the surface. Of course, there are layers to characters that deserve their share of appreciation-from Jatari leader M'Baku to N'Jadaka's evil attitude in the film, everything has a reason that makes you choose your own villain in the end.
The film also gets preachy at times and even reminds you of Captain America (the first part) because of the protagonist’s journey to become a king and his findings along the way. No wonder, T'Çhalla and Captain Stevens share a good bond!
Talking about the cast, everyone fits the bill perfectly. While Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther is the star with his doubts and confusion, Michela B'Jordon brings to life the vulnerabilities of an abandoned child turned ‘Killmonger.’ The women in the film, however, take the cake with their attitude and strength, both emotional and physical. Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia is the perfect partner who doesn't want to give up on her calling, Danai Gurira as Okoye is the best Wakandian warrior, who is committed to her duty despite her heart telling her to do otherwise and last but definitely not the least, Letitia Wright as Shuri is a young girl with the best tech-mind, making fun of her brother, while keeping the funtioning of every tech in the kingdom of Wakanda on her wrist (literally).
Be it Marvel or DC, the comic books have always celebrated inclusivity and diversity in the pages, long before being entched on to cine-reel. The pages saw the presence of non-male, non-white heroes and though late, the screen is trying to fit itself into the progressive frame of comics. Though idealistic and at times, and a little stretched, Black Panther marks a beginning of a great era for diversity in MCU, which will only increase in the films to come, starting with Avengers: Infinity War in April. Till then, let's celebrate the Black Power in full Marvel mainstream fashion.
PS: The film has a cameo by Sterling K Brown and we all know all wrongs can be made right when touched by his presence! Amen.