BLACK PANTHER** Raise Your Awareness. Lower Your Expectations


THERE CAN BE no question of the sociological significance of this movie. Despite the best intentions of Sidney Poitier and the Huxtable Family, the Black cinema narrative is one that has co-joined them with drug dealers, crooks, police captains and slaves. Along comes the fantasy country of Wakanda that’s far more developed than any other country; that’s led by a strong, just, fearless (and attractive) king; and where everybody else is gorgeous and gorgeously attired. More than this, the women are robustly powerful. They kick ass.

Take that Trump!

If for so long, the (now ascendant, populist) White American narrative of Blacks is one that couldn’t quite get their mental picture out of the rut of slavery, civil rights and “why are they complaining?”, there has always been that reassuring Black fantasy that “Once we were kings”

So kudos on the producers (who took a $200m risk), kudos to the writers, to Marvel etc. for countering the narrative…and boldly going where no movie (that’s not Blaxploitation) has gone before. Here’s an image of the Black person as beautiful and imbued with a deep aura of power and honor.

What a pity that the vehicle for this historical recasting of image is such crap.

Here the characters are as leaden as the language.
The story, riffing on a highly relevant theme of loyalty (Is it owed to the person or the institution?) works itself into a fretted family drama (now becoming a Marvel trope) that’s silly and childish.
There is an interesting question posed: if Wakanda has all this magic power, why doesn’t it use its power to liberate all Black people? But this isn’t Black Power. It’s Black Panther. And like the crew of Star Trek, the mission is to avoid interference.
The action is certainly very kinetic…balletic even. But it never reaches the level of the adrenalin rush you expect from, say, a good car chase.

This movie is a great and necessary crowd pleaser. It’s wonderful to have such a big-ticket event pull together so much strong Black (and female) talent (not only the cast and director, but also the production designer, cinematographer, costume designer etc). And let’s hope that this embryonic renaissance of visible, celebrated Black talent will blossom

“Black Panther” represents a clear cultural shift. But as a work of cinema, it’s just not a very good one.

 

BLACK PANTHER. Dir: Ryan Coogler (“Creed: The Rocky Legacy”). With: Chadwick Boseman (“Marshall”) Michael B Jordan (“Creed: The Rocky Legacy”) Lupita Nyong’o (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) Danai Guira (“Treme”) Martin Freeman (“Sherlock) Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”). Written by: Coogler + Joe Robert Cole (“Amber Lake”). Production Designer: Hannah Beachler (“Moonlight”). Cinematographer: Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”). Costume Designer: Ruth E Carter (“Selma”)

 

 

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