From the moment Prince I’Challa’s airship flies into the cloaked metropolis of Wakanda, the adventure of the Black Panther begins.
Not since Marvel’s MCU Phase One movie releases have we been given a world filled with such incredible characters and spellbinding action. We’ve seen the tech of genius playboy, billionaire entrepreneur, Tony Stark, act as a nuclear deterrent. Legendary Shakespearean actor-director, Kenneth Branagh, brought the Norse-god Asgardian Prince, Thor, to life. And filmgoers witnessed an American World War II fighter-turned-super soldier survive being frozen to fight the evil Chitauri alongside The Avengers.
But despite all these great films, it took over a decade for audiences to get a superhero film with real fire and soul. Black Panther does what the others could not and it achieves this by embracing the rich history and diversity of African and Asian cultures in its world building and when creating an iconic costume look.
The warrior garb donned by the king’s all-female special forces, the Dora Milaje, are an eye-catching blend of gold and silver armour, striking reds and patterned beads which draw inspiration from African, Filipino and even Japanese Samurai designs and artifacts.
Just as striking are the ominous war chanting and tribal gear worn by the mountain tribe, the Jabari, as well as the threads adorned by the council and the prince himself. Seeing these costumed warriors in action as they battle to protect their nation’s wealth, ‘vibranium’ (kudos to whomever came up with that name!), is totally mesmerising and thankfully not totally lost in CGI. Filming the aerial views of the kingdom of Wakanda combined shooting locations in South Africa, Zambia and Uganda which helped to give it the feel of an African paradise city at its zenith of power and influence.
But you can’t have awesome costumes without great warriors to wear them. And the screen’s filled with them. Chadwick Boseman portrays a regal baring as King I’Challa and Danai Gurira adds more depth and true heart as Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje. Fans of Black Mirror may recognise Letitia Wright who plays the prince’s younger sister, Shuri. She’s a super intelligent, tech wonder child with attitude and she gets to show this off in many great scenes like where she plays Q to his Bond. Andy Serkis manages to yet again disappear into another unforgettable performance as South African Smuggler, Ulysses Claue.
But it’s the adversaries in Black Panther that give the film its teeth (pun intended). Mountain chieftain, M’Baku, engages I’Challa in a riveting ceremonial battle to prove his kingship claim, and the tribal-scarred Erik ‘Killmonger’ launches a ruthless vendetta against all of Wakanda which twists the righteous hero image right out of its lofty royal throne. There is enough colour, action, well-paced plot conflicts and spectacle to keep everyone entertained. J.K.A. Short
‘Black Panther’ is in cinemas now.