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Not your average Marvel hero: Black Panther review

Another overly ripped macho man, wrapped in spandex and Clingfilm to make his ‘hero’ suit look shiny comes to cinema near you.

You know the type, they promise to save the world, whilst simultaneously destroying everything in their path. Is this yet another one of ‘those’ films? No, no it is not. Well, sort of but only the spandex part.

Behind the usual hero saves the day façade there is a very strong political undertone. What if one country had avoided slavery and their unity spread infectious to the world and cinemagoers – you?!

Black Panther spins everything we know on its head. Within Africa there is a country that escaped slavery called Wakanda and they wield the world’s most powerful resource, Vibranium. It makes them the most technologically advanced nation. For all Marvel fans, the true ones who used to read the comics. Be prepared, it’s one to watch!

This is the sequel to Marvel’s Captain America: Civil war where T’Challa’s dad T’Chaka – previous king of Wakanda, a fictional country in Africa - was killed in a bomb explosion thrown by Klaw, an enemy who had stolen a piece of Vibranium from the country.

Ever since, T’Challa swore to avenge his father and this led to the creation of the film Black Panther. To keep it brief and minimise any spoilers, Black Panther is about the people of Wakanda proudly sporting in their traditional garments and face paint. They have always been independent of the other nations around them. Their enemy is Killmonger, a half Wakandan neglected from birth by the predecessor of the throne. So yes, he has a right to be angry. He wishes to take the power of the thrown from King T’Challa and spark war against the rest of the world...there is more to it of course but you’ll have to watch it to get the full picture.

Between my friends, family and fellow journalist peers they all seem to focus on a) whose pocket the money from the ticket sales will be going to, b) the support of black people in business and Hollywood and c) Being woke. None of these views are wrong but they are droned on about quite a bit.

Ultimately, I believe BP is about staying woke. People aren’t naïve to the years of slavery that their ancestors endured, the racism that exists overtly and covertly such as police brutality or institutional racism. Neither are they strangers to white supremacy – they only have to search “unprofessional hairstyles” on Google to know where certain members of society have positioned them. But also this is a Marvel creation, banter included.

This film is about positivity, whilst there are some serious tones this is lightened up by some good ole comic relief. Albeit with reversed roles as Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) one of the few white members of the cast is brought back to Wakanda for healing after taking a bullet for Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). When he is brought to tech savvy Shuri (Letitia Wright), sister of T’Challa for recovery she welcomes him by saying “oh great, another poor white boy to fix” and following his recovery, after he had healed and caught her by surprise she jumped and proclaimed “don’t scare me like that coloniser!” Nothing more to be said...

In writing this, I took into consideration how my journalist peers stated that the type of black power and empowerment that can be witnessed amongst cinema goers who watched the film would fizzle out. People would still go back and buy their hair products from the Indian man (if you know, you know!). But, this isn’t just a trend like going vegan for Veganuary.

Picture credits to Erdinc Ulas Photography

I began to wonder, why were so many people intrigued to see BP?

Yes, the targeted marketing was successful and it helped reel in the audience. However, when you look at the majority of the people who arrived – bearing in mind this was just witnessing two screenings – these people were already “woke”.

People have been waking up long before BP, not in the sense that they were ignorant to their past because that arguably is impossible. It’s in the sense that they can feel comfortable in numbers after watching this film to wear their traditional clothes, for the women remove their hair relaxer, wigs or weave and let their cloud-like, candy floss textured (without the stickiness), gravity defying, kinky curly, voluminous locks, get the point. After watching Black Panther black people felt able to let their natural hair be free.

Other artists who contributed to the collective “wokeness” are Jay-Z with his album 4:44, specifically his track Story of OJ. Similarly, on Eminem’s most recent album he spoke out against police brutality on his track Untouchable, Donald Glover’s album Awaken, My Love speaks for itself and it has also been rumoured that he wrote the comedic one liners for BP. There are many out there spreading the positivity. To take a quote from T’Challa:

“Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, whilst the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we are one single tribe.”

A small jab at President Trump there, but he has a point.

Furthermore, and this is one for the pessimistic journalists (only joking, love you all really), if you can look past the fact that yes the top dogs of Disney’s Marvel including Stan Lee would get a massive payout from box office ticket sales of around $1 billion. Disney has taken $1 million of that to donate to STEM Center’s of Innovation in 12 cities across America.

Ultimately, staying woke is about the mind, the psyche and although this review has been about black people, for obvious reasons, in many ways the message can extended to loyal, die hard Marvel fans and anyone else who can relate.

Looking back to Marvel’s Captain American: Civil War they too broke box office records at the time with $1.35 billion. These two fictional films demonstrate our reality; political division, racial division (the Mexican border in the US for example).

If we are not careful the political division within the US could spark a civil war (sorry to take the political spin, but both films are already highlighting this). The question is can we pull our resources together, push ourselves forward and create civil unity? Stay woke about everything!

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