“Black Panther” is a major turning-point in the history of pop culture.
Critic David Edelstein claims the new flick, starring a black superhero and “crazy-tough women,” is a nice departure from the Marvel’s traditional mold:
Maybe you’re about to line up, maybe you’re in line for “Black Panther.” Good news — it’s worth the wait!
I mean, Marvel superhero flicks are more similar than different from one another, and this one has a few sub-par CGI effects. But look, it’s a nearly all-black superhero movie from a black director, Ryan Coogler, that’s going to make a billion dollars. It’s a momentous event in pop culture history.
It’s largely set in the African kingdom of Wakanda, which isn’t real but looks on the surface like one of those nations our president doesn’t want immigrants from. Once you get under the canopy of trees, though, its hidden capital is both ancient and futuristic, fueled by a vast supply of the super-metal Vibranium, which Wakandans have protected for millennia.
Vibranium is the very substance that turns Chadwick Boseman’s King T’Challa into the Black Panther — his spirit animal, basically.
The villain he’s up against is a charismatic radical named Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, who was featured in Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed.” Killmonger wants Vibranium to generate nothing less than a major war of races. He’s crazy! But as a street kid with a chip on his shoulder, he’s more dramatically compelling than the regal, conscientious T’Challa — which is one way “Black Panther” is edgier than its predecessors.
Also, the film’s got insanely strong, powerful and proud women, a nice departure for Marvel, which is basically a men’s universe.
There’s T’Challa’s flaming-red Afro-haired on-and-off do-gooder girlfriend, Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o.
There’s his hilarious, tech-savvy younger sister, Shuri, portrayed by Letitia Wright, who’s like the tech-wizard Q to Black Panther‘s 007.
His strongest and fiercest female ally is Danai Gurira’s huge, bald General Okoye, who has samurai-like chops with a long spear.
The scenery, outfits, color scheme: outstanding, with roots in both pop sci-fi and African folklore. Call it Afro-futurism! The performances is flawless. The soundtrack is already at the top of the charts.
But once the dust settles, I expect there’ll be arguments – perhaps even heated — about why “Black Panther“‘s main conflict is within the black community rather than against larger racial injustice.
I say: Patience. King T’Challa is new at this. He has to get his own house in order.
But Killmonger has forced him out of isolation and into the real world. He’ll have to deal with bigger, badder stuffs — and I don’t just mean alien death rays. Plenty of superheroes can handle them. “Black Panther” is Marvel’s chance to be both fantastic and real.