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Powered By Africa

Saturday, February 17, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Black Panther
Ryan Coogler
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B Jordan and others
Rating: * * * *

Hollywood is slowly and surely inching towards the diversity it keeps talking about. After female superhero (heroine?) Wonder Woman cracked the glass ceiling somewhat, comes the magnificent Black Panther, the first black superhero film. Without overtly meaning to, this Ryan Coogler film makes a political statement. It is no coincidence that Marvel’s comic featuring Black Panther (created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966) came around the same time — a few months before actually — as the Black Panther party that fought for civil rights for African-Americans.  So, the issue of racism hovers over the screen at all times, as if the predominantly black cast and crew were holding up an invisible Black Power banner.

On film, the sleek fighter Black Panther was introduced in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, and now it looks like he will get his own franchise. The heart of Ryan Coogler’s film is in the fictional kingdom of Wakanda in Africa, which produces the priceless metal vibranium (Captain America’s shield is made of it). It is a very advanced country, but cleverly keeps itself hidden from the world (read greedy white eyes).

After his father’s death, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) becomes king, with the support of his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), super bright younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), chief counsel W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), kindly mentor Zuri (Forest Whitaker). Then there are the Dora Milaje, a strong security force comprising shaved-headed women, among them the tough fighter Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the rebellious Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) — to firm up the powerful female contingent.

A nasty white guy, Klaw (Andy Serkis, introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron), is keen to get his hands on some vibranium himself, and there’s the good CIA agent Ross (Martin Freeman). But the biggest problem for Wakanda is the aptly named disgruntled villain Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who wants vibranium to be freely available, while T’Challa wants to keep it within the country.

The film has some spectacular scenery and the usual fiery action sequences that make up superhero films, but also a fair amount of emotional drama, humour and a dash of romance.

Chadwick Boseman is regal, well-muscled with a terrific screen presence, who holds its own amidst a fine supporting cast. Black Panther is gorgeous to look at, fun to watch and packs a message punch too. Hopefully, the audience will get to visit Wakanda again.

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