Black Panther: Yes, no, maybe?

Black Panther is the new film on the tips of everyone’s lips.
So what’s the verdict?
Mixed, according to our three Hatch reviewers.

YES … What are you waiting for? Nicole Iliagoueva 

During Black History Month, for the first time in Marvel Studios’ 10-year existence, a stand-alone box office-breaking movie with a black superhero and an almost entirely black cast has risen from the vibranium-rich soil.

Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther transports us to the mythical African nation of Wakanda – a futuristic and flourishing alternative reality where Africa wasn’t colonised but poses as a third-world country. When the humble T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), also known as Black Panther, is crowned king shortly after the death of his father, the sheltered realm risks being exposed by enemy forces and plummeted into a world war.

For some, the film is being dismissed as political: raising a middle finger to white people. But the fact the entertainment industry is predominantly white means directing a movie with a black cast is a political statement in itself. For this to become the norm, more movies and TV shows about black history and culture need to be made. Coogler’s vision is inclusive: instead of alienating viewers through the themes explored, he chooses to engage everyone. Sure, there are white jokes here and there, such as T’challa’s younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) calling Agent Ross (Martin Freeman) a coloniser. But in my opinion, people shouldn’t let their fragile egos get in the way of looking at Coogler’s overarching message, which is, “That which separates us can also unite us.” And isn’t that what superhero movies are supposed to do: look at the greater good?

Movies are a unique and captivating platform to educate viewers, encourage dialogue and inspire change. And in my opinion Coogler has successfully done that, as people have gone from talking about the movie to taking action as part of the #blackpantherchallenge. New York resident Fredrick Joseph started this challenge by raising more than $40,000 on GoFundMe to take Harlem children to see the movie in theatres. Those kids can finally have a superhero to look up to who looks like them. This #blackpantherchallenge has people all over the world buying kids movie tickets, with Disney Studios even covering the costs of Shareena Clanton’s GoFundMe project in Melbourne for indigenous Australian and black kids.

Black Panther also gives excellent representation to black women with T’challa’s humanitarian ex-girlfriend Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o),  the strong-willed leader of armed forces, Okoye (Danai Gurira) and T’challa’s innovative sister who designs most of the technology in Wakanda. My favourite part of the film is the women, who outshine the main hero. It also gives women in general good representation, showing women can be beautiful AND smart AND funny (who’d have thought?), unlike the usual one-dimensional damsel-in-distress characterisation. So instead of waiting to be rescued, it encourages women to speak up for what they believe in and be the main character in their lives.

Besides these and other important themes, Black Panther stole my heart through Rachel Morrison’s cinematography. The filming takes place in Atlanta, South Africa, Zambia, Uganda and South Korea.

Seeing the exquisite aerial shots of the golden plains, rocky mountains and waterfalls is like taking a breath of fresh air and feeling the sun on your back. The environment felt strangely familiar (apart from the futuristic visual effects), reminding me of the Australian outback.  The screen swims with royal hues of red, purple and blue. Whether it’s nature or clothing, combined with regal acting, it truly did make me feel like I was being introduced to a place of importance.

The soundtrack was something that also stood out, with composer Ludwig Goransson employing drums and hair-standing ceremonial outcalls that very much remind me of the epic feel of Lion King. The movie also featured several songs from hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar’s curated playlist which, as a fan of Kung Fu Kenny, I’m always happy to hear. – Nicole Iliagoueva

NO … Nothing (much) to see here: Keanu Villavicencio-Prado

Since his 2016 debut in Captain America: Civil War, audiences have been awaiting the first feature film based solely on the Black Panther. Reviewers of the new movie have been raving, but is this pussy as perfect as people say? Or should marvel have pressed “paws” on production?

T’challa (Chadwisk Bosemen) is pitted against Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who is, by far, the highlight of the movie. A villain with motives that make sense and who challenges the morals of both the audience and protagonist is refreshing, compared with the repertoire of uninteresting villains Marvel has presented.

Another positive and stunning point were the costumes – a nice blend between traditional African accessories, modern style and vibrant colours.

But as the movie went on, I realised an interesting motive and cool clothes could only get you so far and would definitely not outweigh the bland characters and flat humour accompanying this movie.

Besides Killmonger, characters failed to distinguish themselves or create any emotional attachment, leaving much to be desired.

Another huge issue for me was the fact that from quite early in the film, the Black Panther proves to be literally bulletproof, which removed all necessary tension from the movie, rendering its finale a predictable chore.

All in all, I think the movie would be entertaining to kids, and especially beneficial to young people of colour. It was nice to see strong female warriors. But alas, that was overshadowed by terrible jokes, forgettable characters and a generally bland experience. I recommend Marvel fans enter with low expectations. – Keanu Villavicencio-Prado

MAYBE … If you can survive the slow start and corny jokes: Jack Kelly

Whether you’re a casual Marvel movie watcher or a die-hard fan, it’s hard not to enjoy Black Panther‘s stunning visuals, believable character arcs and unique take on African culture and mythology. But to be honest the film is not without its faults.

The main characters are unique and relatable, particularly so with the film’s bad-guy Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who, at the very least, is portrayed as an anti-hero. As a man betrayed by his heritage, who only wants the throne so he can rule Wakanda the way he sees fit, Killmonger’s motives are refreshingly understandable. With his similar way of thinking to hero T’challa, it’s incredibly easy for audiences to feel empathy for the villain.

It is also great to see strong female leads running the show – fierce, intelligent and brave black women are always present and momentous.

Through witty dialogue, particularly shared between T’challa and his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), to intense fighting scenes from General Okoye (Danai Gurira), Black Panther provides some powerful and engaging characters. And with T’challa’s demonstrable compassion for his people as he ascends to his throne through hardship, audiences are easily swayed towards good over evil. While Killmonger’s intentions may be understandable, it is T’challa’s overall leadership skills that portray him as the true King of Wakanda.

Costumes and visual effects are also undeniably amazing. The fast car chase through the streets of Tokyo, teaming with bright lights and neon signs, contrasted with the calm violet-skied silhouette dream state that represented the mythology of the culture.

The few complaints I have with this movie may be minor but they can’t be ignored. It started off a little slow with moments dragged out, presumably as a device to ensure plots were cemented in the viewers’ minds. This went on too long. Also, the tacky, badly-timed marvel quips we’ve all come to know have a way of ruining key moments in the film. Scenes that felt as though the audience should be emotionally invested were undermined by cheap one-liners or misplaced dialogue.

Having said that, Black Panther was an amazing movie and definitely a refreshing break from the usual MCU movie plots we’ve become accustomed to. It may not be the best film you’ll see all year but you won’t leave the cinema feeling you’ve just wasted two hours and fifteen minutes of your life. – Jack Kelly

Edited by Fiona West

Top: Marvel Studio’s Black Panther official movie trailer, YouTube