Welcome one, welcome all, to a new feature to this blog which I have decided to call: Weekend Watching. This will be a hopefully regular post uploaded on Saturdays or Sundays (hence the “weekend watching”) where I talk about a film, TV show, or maybe even YouTube channel/video that I’ve particularly enjoyed recently. I’m hoping to spotlight at least one thing to watch each week and hopefully someone at least will get a kick out of these posts – I will, if no one else does!
Last week’s Weekend Watching showcased British sitcom Lovesick and this week I’ve decided to highlight the first film in this feature. To anyone who knows me at all or knows what films are out at the cinema right now, it’ll come as no surprise that the film I’m talking about today is (of course) the incredible latest offering from the MCU, Black Panther.
“Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life. “Black Panther” stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, with Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis. The film is directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Nate Moore, Jeffrey Chernov and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole wrote the screenplay.” (Synopsis from Marvel)
I think one of the things I liked most about this film was… it didn’t feel like a Marvel film. Hear me out because I’m aware that a film so centred around “vibranium” is of course an MCU film. It didn’t feel like a Marvel film because it didn’t feel the need to constantly reference the rest of the Cinematic Universe and its various incarnations – it didn’t constantly name-check, say, Tony Stark or Captain America, it let an audience draw their conclusions and connections if they wanted to, but it didn’t demand that you have seen every Marvel film offering prior to this one in order to keep up with the plot. I like that, it’s refreshing, and it’s nice to see an MCU film that could pretty much stand on its own as a standalone film on its own merit.
For all the incredibly charismatic and charming Chadwick Boseman well and truly leads the film as the eponymous Black Panther, defender of Wakanda, I’d say that the women are where this film is really at. I hate the term “strong female character” because it seems to have implications I’m not entirely comfortable with but this film had badass ladies in abundance. The Dora Milaje, the elite personal guard for the King of Wakanda, is lead by Florence Kasumba’s Ayo and made up entirely of women who can (and do) hold their own in a fight, and then some. Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia also adds an interesting angle as she is positioned as a spy who goes outside of Wakanda and infiltrates mercenary gangs, all in the name of helping other nations (in her own small way) rather than sticking to the status quo of Wakanda which is to be isolationist and purposely hide itself (and its true level of development) from the world at large. This tension is laced throughout the film as the secretive nation decides whether it could (and, more importantly, should) share the knowledge they have with the outside world, or welcome people into Wakanda who are in need of their knowledge and expertise. It is obviously a question that holds massive political implications and you don’t have to think too hard to draw comparisons to the current situation in the world.
On the subject of Wakanda’s secretive status, the technology that they have developed is astounding, but thankfully it did not tip too far into the ridiculous territory where it became unbelievable. Instead, Wakanda has done what every nation does – it has harnessed its native stores (in their case, vibranium) and put that at the forefront of their development, resulting in an extremely technologically advanced nation. What I loved most about this was one of the key players in the development of tech in Wakanda was Prince T’challa’s younger sister, Shuri. Funny and fierce, she was all too willing to call out his bullshit and make fun of her big brother in equal measure, whilst also serving an extremely important role as the tech expert. Letitia Wright has well and truly demonstrated her acting ability as never once did the part seem like the token techie, and she was never relegated to just this role in the overall plot. The weapons and tech in this film are indeed something else but I won’t say any more for fear of ruining the moment when you see it in the film and go “woaaaah, so cool!” Suffice it to say, it’s Marvel, so it’s pretty damn cool looking.
The landscape and scenery in this film is astoundingly beautiful. The sunsets and sunrises across the Wakandan plains and glinting off the tops of the trees are picture perfect, and the film really held up in IMAX 3D, which is how I saw it at the cinema. The true Wakanda underneath the canopy “shield” is nothing short of astounding – with high-tech hover bullet trains, towering futuristic-looking spires, and glossy state-of-the-art laboratories full of tech. The further landscape too is stunning – in particular, key ritual trial-by-combat scenes take place on the shelf of a cliff, perilously mere metres away from the edge over which plummets water into a deep gorge. Similarly stunning is the intricately hewn face of a panther which adorns the side of a cliff and clearly showcases the Black Panther’s intrinsic importance to the Wakandan people. The urban meets the rural with ease that shows that the design team behind Black Panther have really put some thought into incorporating the two to showcase a rich culture that is at once in touch with its ancestors and tradition as well as forward-looking and enterprising.
I can safely say that, if it wasn’t for my own penchant for pretty shots of space, Norse mythology, and a certain god of mischief, Black Panther would have cleared away all competition to become my favourite offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. If you’re tiring of Marvel by this point, I highly implore you to give them one more chance with this film because you will not regret it and you will return from the cinema with faith well and truly restored in the superhero action film.