Muhammad, Muhammad Ali ‘the black superman’.. this song by Johnny Wakelin sung for the immortal Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali kept on haunting as I left the auditorium after watching BLACK PANTHER. Superheroes either in comics or in cinema be it Hollywood/ Bollywood or anywhere else are men with fair complexion, they may wear a black uniform in their duty assigned by the American military to save the world and their country. Before BLACK PANTHER we have heard of the black superman mostly in Johnny Wakelin song.
In its 18th birthday (read feature) Marvel Studios comes of age and reinvents the superhero genre dominated by SUPERMAN, THOR, SPIDER MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA etc with a super dose of escapism by having a black superhero and a cast predominated by blacks who are out not to save America but a fictional third world African country Wakanda.
The intentions of producer Kevin Feige and Marvel where clear when they introduced ‘BLACK PANTHER’ into their superhero mix in 2016’s all-star CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, the loyalist of the genre waited to see how a black superhero finally appears on screen. Veterans may recollect a fact that way back in mid 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the first African superhero in Fantastic Four No. 52, but never ever on screen we have witnessed a superhero marvel at this level which is breathtakingly exotic, thrilling, exciting with insane action and human pathos making BLACK PANTHER a marvelously realized superhero picture that not only satisfies all the demands of the genre but also leaves a profound impression.
It’s a refreshing change to see a superhero flick caring a damn about the safety of America. Writer director Ryan Coogler after FRUITVALE STATION and the Stallone, Jordan starrer CREED, along with his co writer Joe Robert Cole create a spectacular world in Africa by the name Wakanda that is ruled by royal traditions and it keeps its technological wonders close to its heart as a secret. The land is blessed with a mined substance called vibranium, and possesses ultra-advanced technology. The power of vibranium is equal to nuclear but the traditions of Wakanda have kept it safe for their land and its people. The kingdom of Wakanda is ruled by dynasty. After the death of his father T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) becomes king of Wakanda. T’Challa is surrounded by loyalist and family which includes his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett); younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), chief counsel W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), mentor Zuri (Forest Whitaker), fighters like Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).
An unexpected old enemy reappears in the world of T’Challa’s Wakanda and the power of BLACK PANTHER is challenged which puts the King in a conflict between humanity, duty, responsibility and faith.
Ryan Coogler compellingly keeps it exotic, vivid and successfully maintains the emotional appeal. Some scenes are breathtaking like the coronation ceremony of T Challa, the man to man fights and the final show down. Those who are eager to know how better is BLACK PANTHER from THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA etc, well we assure you that he is different and more human for sure.
Criticism like the operation in South Korea initially appears like a spy adventure and the story getting predictable later are bound to come in but nothing can take away the joy of watching a superhero flick with an African twist from this winning Marvel Disney collaboration.
Chadwick Boseman is fantastic as T’Challa. The bad guys make quite an impression Andy Serkis is menacing as the arms dealer Ulysses Klaue. Michael B. Jordan who has appeared in Ryan Coogler’s previous two films, reserves his best for this one, as Erik Killmonger Jordan is the villain that every comic book/superhero film dreams of. He is just terrific.
Veterans Dorothy Steel and Forest Whitaker leave their mark. The settings, designs courtesy production designer Hannah Beachler are brilliant. Rachel Morrison’s cinematography is a treat. Ruth E.Carter’s costumes are terrific.
Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o hold the key responsibility to make BLACK PANTHER break the shackles and they do it smartly. The ladies over here redefine the superhero genre radiantly as they get chance to fight, take sides and be a part.
It seems to be a season for superheroes on screen who claim to be different and are willing to break the norms and quash stereotypes. Last Friday we had Akshay Kumar in PAD MAN playing the role of Arunachalam Muruganantham, interestingly the role of the real life sensation from Tamil Nadu is played by the handsome Akshay Kumar whose complexion is wheatish which is in contrast to the actual complexion of Arunachalam.
Marvel’s fictional superhero BLACK PANTHER not only wears a black mask, he is a black superhero in this Ryan Coogler directed film which crushes the racial stereotypes and gives women considerable weight in the genre dominated by white man till now. Colour, race, community continues to play an important part in the politics of our world, the entry of a superhero from Africa in BLACK PANTHER should be celebrated with the applause it deserves cause the legacy of superheroes has now got a welcome change. This superhero may not possess the most deadly weapon but it certainly has a bigger heart that bleeds more.