Black Panther, the newest instalment in the Marvel Universe, is the ensemble piece that the Avengers wanted to be. Despite the title this is not a film about Black Panther. It’s not an origin story. Instead, Marvel have offered us a film which will bring Black Panther and the country of Wakanda fully into the Marvel Universe, setting another piece in place before we get to Avengers: Infinity War.
Wakanda has long been on the fringes of the earlier Marvel films, as it’s the source of Vibranium, the metal from which Captain America’s shield is made. We learn that Vibranium is particularly rare (sorry Howard Stark, you were misled) and that it has even more astonishing power than first thought. Power is a theme that runs throughout the film and although it isn’t a film directly about race or black history, it doesn’t shy away from those topics either. Black Panther sees T’Challa take on the responsibilities of king after the death of his father in Captain America Civil War at a time when Wakanda needs to decide whether to open up to the rest of the world, or stay hidden. Ultimately the decision is made for them as it turns out that the world outside Wakanda is coming in regardless.
So what did Black Panther get right?
The female characters have to be top of the list. There’s no solitary Smurfette here. The women are both strong and intelligent and there’s no sense of competition between them, with each having their own role to play. Stereotypes are flipped on their head as D’Challa is protected by a female bodyguard, Okoye, and his sister Shuri develops his suit and weaponry. Wakanda is repeatedly described as a third world country yet is shown to be far more modern in thinking than the America that the Avengers inhabit, which presumably is the point, and the African setting breathes new life into the series as a whole. It was also incredibly refreshing to hear so few American accents. There’s the Marvel humour that we’ve all come to expect, and the special effects are seamless.
It’s not without its flaws – armoured rhinoceroses and Martin Freeman’s dodgy American accent being amongst them – but it is well thought through and very entertaining, and will delight those who enjoyed the quirks of Thor Ragnarok. It’s also a must see for teenage girls who loved the female gaze of Wonder Woman and The Last Jedi and are hungry for more science fiction.
Jane O’Reilly would like to say that she’s the secret love child of Wonder Woman and grew up on a tropical island in the Pacific, but in reality she grew up in the north of England where it was quite cold and if anyone had any super powers, they kept them well hidden. After university and a brief and very misguided spell as a teacher, she decided it would be better for everyone if she stayed at home and looked after her children. But what she really wanted to write was a book about a space pirate in which she could blow thingsup .
You can find her on twitter as @janeoreilly, on Instagram as @janeoreilly2032 or at her website www.janeoreilly.com. Her latest novel, Blue Shift, is available from Waterstones, Amazon and in bookstores.