Opening with a huge box office superhero movie and a epic debut that welcomes him to the Marvel Cinemagtic Universe, Black Panther kicking down doors in multiplexes all around the world and wowing audiences that range from wide eyed kids being taken to their first blockbuster, seasoned fans to entire families wondering what all the fuss is about. This sure exceeded expectations since Blade and an awesome way to start Black History Month.
Taking my own nine year old to the largest screen we could find in Sydney, we sat back and enjoyed the visual feast and emotional rollercoaster that is Black Panther. Director Ryan Coogler of Creed and Fruitvale Station fame runs a tight ship. The pacing was fast with a capital F but didn’t leave anything important out story-wise.
Essentially, it’s a Lion King reboot crossed with all the best Marvel origin films, a dash of James Bond and a light dusting of Charlie’s Angels.
The last one is pushing it, but I was hard pressed to think of another film which features so many strong female characters who do just as much – if not, more ass kicking than the male leads! There are at least four powerful women who make no compromises when it comes to fighting for truth, justice and the Wakanda way.
Not only is it a win for women in cinema but its been celebrated as a huge first for black representation with almost every black actor from American and English cinema sliding into a role somewhere in the film. We have Forest Whitaker, Chadwick Boseman, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Basset, Michael B. Jordan – the list is endless. So is the number of touching stories about kids coming out of the cinema, giggling excitedly about which character they identify with most and that is just one of this films most enduring legacies.
It’s been a long time coming but now finally we have a generation of young black boys and girls who can look up on the silver screen and see themselves, not only in a Hollywood blockbuster film but in THE lead roles and asking themselves, ‘That could be me one day’. They don’t have to spend decades in the stand up comedy trenches to become to the next Eddie Murphy or win ten Superbowl’s to become successful.
Who knows, they could be the next iteration of Black Panther or hopefully countless other headlining roles.
The big question on everyones lips though was, “Is it any good?” After all the hype it would be a huge disappointment if it became another huge flop like Battlefield Earth, Green Lantern or Jupiter Ascending. As you probably know by now, it was definitely not a flop and it was certainly critically acclaimed with a ‘Certified Fresh’ score on Rotten Tomatoes of 97% which is insanely high for any movie let alone a Marvel film.
I myself didn’t look away for a second from the drama, pathos and because it’s a Marvel movie, occasional laugh on screen. Following the journey of a young man mourning the loss of his beloved father and suddenly thrust into the spotlight as both King of one of the most powerful (albeit secretly so) nations on earth and a superhero. Being able to balance this responsibility is a common thread throughout the story and the weight of all those expectations clearly shows, however he quickly learns he will have to fight to maintain both those mantles when an interloping cousin attempts to usurp the throne.
The betrayal for both the hero and the villian is deep which helps make Michael B. Jordan‘s character Killmonger is more compelling. Given his backstory and the wrongs done to him in the name of Wakanda, it is no wonder he wants to exact revenge both on his ancestral home and the world he actually grew up in. If there is one complaint, it’s that he just doesn’t get enough screentime, he shows up briefly in the first act then you don’t see him again until the final third which really kicks off. Oh boy, is it worth the wait though!
If nothing else came out of the mess that was Fantastic Four then at least we got Mr Jordan. If it hadn’t been such a miserable failure then, the charisma of Michael B. Jordan would not have been available for this film. He is the best Marvel adversary in a long time. I hesitate to call him a villain as he was so compelling and with only small changes in circumstance could’ve easily been a hero people would follow
All the tribes involved comes down into a huge showdown with everything from Armoured Rhino’s charging into battle to aerial dogfights between jetfighters that wouldn’t be out of place on Star Wars. It’s a tense gripping opening for the newest Marvel character in the MCU and given the box office receipts so far, not the last we will see of the most worthy king of them all.
There are five uniquely styled tribes to draw inspiration from which include:
The Border Tribe which was inspired by Lesotho architecture/language and uses a motif of blue and wood.
The River Tribe uses a motif of green and shells.
The Merchant Tribe was inspired by Nigerian architecture and language.
The Golden Tribe uses a continental symbol for the sun found throughout Africa, weirdly though I couldnt find any reference photos for this particular tribe just yet so we’ll move onto the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s elite female fighting force.
Costume designer Ruth E. Carter kept the deep red colors from the comics but added Vibranium necklaces and cuffs, modeled on the neck rings worn by Ndebele women. “The neck rings needed to have a hand-done feel,” Carter says. “Most jewelry you see from Africa looks like someone hammered it and molded it by hand.”
The Dora Milaje also wear elaborately beaded tabards and harnesses. “I imagine that these Dora Milaje train their daughters, and when she’s ready to join the force, the mother who’s retiring could take off her harness and hand it down,”
The Black Panther and the Royal Palace uses a motif of black and purple but the real money will be in guys and hopefully girls who don the Blank Panther suit itself. Not a cheap or easy proposition by any means but we can’t wait to see what cosplayers come up with by the time OZ Comic Con and Supanova rolls in!
Who are you thinking about cosplaying? If its a character like Killmonger, there might be some issues with whitewashing so do keep in mind that it may offend some people, if you cosplay as a character who is black. As long as you don’t go as far as putting on ‘black face’ make up you will probably be okay. This is certainly an evolving space though so discuss it with your peers before deciding on what you want to do, there is alway Klaw or Everett Ross though to be honest they really don’t get anything too cool to wear in this outing..
The country itself clearly has a lot of work put into it as well. The visuals carry a sci-fi aesthetic crossed with a grungy but very colourful African messiness. Shades of District 9 came to mind but without the despair, apparently it has a name and its ‘Afrofuturism’. It’s a concept that alongside pulling inspiration from, afropunk and biomimetics features heavily in the film.
The language spoken by Wakandans is a real language, Xhosa, a South African language characterized by clicks and glottal stops.
“It’s the same language that is native to Nelson Mandela. It’s from the Cape region of South Africa. Mr. John Kani, who plays to T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, he’s Xhosa. And so he – they started and agreed to that language being the language of Wakanda in Captain America: Civil War”
In the end, it became the top-grossing film in history. To its release, directed and written by African-Americans Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole featuring a predominantly black cast with the first major movie superhero played by an African protagonist.
We at Beyond Cosplay salute all involved in putting together such a stellar production and hope they get started on the second installment as fast as Black Panther gets in and out of that badass suit!
Filmed in South Korea and Atlanta.
Director: Ryan Coogler
Screenplay: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis
Running time:134 minutes;