Here it is! Spread to the Edges’ first superhero movie article. And neither Dan nor Adam could bring themselves to do it so hi, my name is Elise. I’m just a girl who likes films and has somehow not lost complete faith in the Marvel universe yet. So prepare yourselves for very little technical review and lots of personal response.
First things first, let’s deal with the ‘H’ word. Black Panther has been incredibly hyped, however, it’s all for good reason. The representation in this film is long overdue, both in superhero movies and Hollywood as a whole. I don’t want to get too into the politics here, but films such as Black Panther, Get Out and Lady Bird just goes to show the power and complete sense behind letting people tell their own stories, instead of letting rich white dudes dictate it for them. Black Panther is nuanced, thoughtful and beautiful to look at, as well as having a gripping plot and set of character dynamics. The one word I keep coming back to, though, is genuine. A superhero movie about a technologically advanced city, built on a mine of the strongest metal in the universe, which has grown into the wildlife so you can drink it to obtain power, hidden by a cloaking field in the heart of Africa, is the most genuine Marvel (and DC) film in years.
As far as the writing goes, the dialogue is cheesy in parts, but there are certain generic conventions to honour and the evil speeches are one of those. The difference being, though, that the character of Killmonger has been so well constructed that you genuinely feel for him. They say the sign of a good villain is that you understand why they are the way they are and that they truly believe they are the hero of their own story. This very much goes for Killmonger, and later for T’Challa himself. Lines are blurred and roles reversed throughout, but you never question the motives for a moment. It is completely possible I was just distracted by Michael B. Jordan’s… everything, though.
While we’re talking about “everythings”, I can’t not mention the ladies in this film. THE LADIES. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, a Wakandan spy who turned down the queendom, is witty and precise; Danai Gurira as warrior extraordinaire Okoye is a force to be reckoned with; and Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda just, well, makes utter sense. But the frequent scene-stealer for me was Letitia Wright as Shuri, the young princess who runs the Wakandan tech development. She is vulnerable, her sibling relationship with T’Challa being one of the highlights of the film, but her intelligence is unrivalled. Not to mention she has some of the best lines in the film. The comedy works with the tragedy throughout, not fighting against it, another testament to the considerate, carefully toned writing.
Aside from the writing and directing, Black Panther is a really well-rounded experience. The music features The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar, and had us grooving in our seats. Interspersed with ritualistic chanting, the soundtrack straddles authentic Africa and modern-day California, following the movement of the plot and tying it all into one coherent narrative. The visuals are gorgeous, bright and vivid. But one aspect of the design that blew me away was the costumes. There’s a post floating around the internet detailing all the inspiration the costume designers found in traditional African tribal dress, and you can really see the research and care taken behind every piece. Panther’s suit is pretty cool, sure, but I loved the everyday dress of the Wakandan people and the armour of Okoye. Not to mention that fight scene where the women do it all in floor-length dresses and heels. Whoowee.
To finish then, I really enjoyed this film. Like Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther feels like a standalone, not so much in line with the rest of Marvel and probably better off for it. Of course, we’ve seen T’Challa in the Avengers before and will again in Infinity War, but Black Panther really does stand its ground as a great piece of cinema without relying on in-jokes and fan-service. The writing doesn’t rely on creating a moral grey area to give character depth (i.e. Tony Stark), instead using this universal ambiguity to show the strength in making the right choice. There are areas to be improved – you can still sense some anxieties and preoccupations with adhering to the Hollywood template – but I can’t fault it for that. It is still unbelievably rare to get a film produced, directed, written by and starring people of colour, and unheard of in this particular genre. I applaud this movie overall for what it has done, is doing and will continue to do for the face of Hollywood.
Objective Score: 4.3
Subjective Score: 4.6
Overall Score: 8.9/10
Words by Elise Jackson
Elise is a good friend of Spread to the Edges and she has her own blog called ‘Books for the Mad’. On her blog, Elise talks about books, TV shows and has insightful things to say about mental health and well-being, all presented in a voice that feels like she is talking to you personally. We thoroughly recommend giving her stuff a read. You can find Elise’s blog here: https://booksforthemad.wordpress.com