Film Review: Black Panther (& The Original Soundtrack)
In Three Words: Essential, Bold, Beautiful
I recently realised that I haven't done a film review on this site yet, which is not something I have actively sought out not to do. I've done a few TV reviews on this fine site, shows that are usually categorised in some element(s) of Hip-Hop or Black Culture in general.
With that said, it is only right that I give some words about THE biggest film of 2018. (until Infinity War) Marvel's Black Panther. Directed and Co-written by Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o & Michael B. Jordan, let me say, straight off the bat that this is the best Marvel film from the lenses of character development, story and sound. I could name more but after watching the film twice, these are the things that separate this film from the others. Let's start with those three.
I need to read this script. As a screenwriter, I really admire what Coogler & Joe Robert Cole had done with this film. Its so well balanced, every scene is necessary and the dialogue really individualises all the characters. If you have seen the film, answer me this question. From a dialogue standpoint, what would seem to you the most insignificant conversation between two characters? If you said the conversation between Martin Freeman's Agent Ross & Letitia Wright's Shuri, after Ross came to after taking a bullet, then give yourself a pat on the back. When I saw that scene for the first time and they started talking about the magnetised trains, I was like "Okay then?". I was wondering why their conversation went that far. But then for Killmonger & Panther's last battle, that little fact about the train suddenly became relevant. And I know you probably don't care about that attention to detail, but that attention goes a long way. With this film, ESPECIALLY debut Superhero films, the script is everything and the research that Coogler & Cole have put in is amazing. I don't even read the comics but the way they took parts of some characters and made it fit into the vision is something the casual watcher wouldn't even notice. M'Baku?! Go look at M'Baku's origin and then watch the film. Major changes were made and he is a highlight.
Which brings me to character development. I. Love. Every. Character. Every character of significance gets their moment to shine and tell the audience who they are and what they're about. I honestly can't choose a favourite, because they're great in their own special way. Black Panther is masculine but it isn't toxic, even though he's king, he's surrounded by strong women and wouldn't survive without them. Speaking of the women, they're the certified highlight of this film. Name me a film with this amount of women. BOSSING IT on this level. A general of an all-female army. An International Agent. A STEM princess that is responsible for all the elite technology that we see. And since Marvel is under the Disney umbrella, can we nominate Shuri for the best Disney Princess? I'm counting that. Even the villains are great! Andy Serkis, as always, nails his role as Klaue. Delivering that Colonialist vibe. Killmonger... Damn, this villain is one of the best in recent memory. The undertones of being an African American in constant angst (shout out to James Baldwin) gives Michael B. Jordan the opportunity to be not just a villain, but a villain where we can see where he's coming from. He makes great points throughout the film! And with his final breath, saying "Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped the ships. Because they knew that death was better than bondage."
I nearly got up and clapped, because that is the realest final line. And it wasn't the only time he mentioned Black people's history with Slavery and Colonialism. I knew I would love this film when he schooled the British museum curator by mentioning British Colonialism. And also taking the old British Empire nickname "The Empire where the sun never rests" and associating that with his vision for Wakanda was TOO BOSS! Can we have a serious conversation about Killmonger being the best villain since Heath Ledger's Joker? I wish I wrote Killmonger, that's how much I rated him.
Now for the last thing I wanted to cover. Sound.
Whether it is the Original Soundtrack, curated by Kendrick Lamar, or the film score done by Ludwig Göransson, the music in this is so elite. The way Göransson takes traditional African music and mixes it with modern American Hip-Hop is something that has never been heard for a film of this calibre. And the way it switches up when Killmonger takes the throne, the trap beats are beautiful. The tone is constantly and perfectly set for every scene.
And the soundtrack... What a great taster the album was. I'm not one for reviewing music so I won't go into much detail but I really enjoyed the flow of the album and the eclectic mix of artists featured on this project. Shout out to Jorja Smith and having a song all by herself. The platform keeps on growing for her.
I could break this film down for another nearly 1,000 words but I'll end on this... This is a film that holds monumental weight. Even if you didn't rate the film, you can't be ignorant to the fact that this film is important for BAME artists and black people in general. This is a beacon in the fight for correct representation in the Cinematic Arts. Just look at the last scene of this film, where the young Oakland kid (Big up Alex Hibbert from "Moonlight" & "The Chi") looks at T'Challa in awe asking "Who... Who are you?". That is what it is all about. Inspiring the young black kids of the future.