Black Panther came out in February this year, didn't it? And it's taken me till July to write a post...The reason? I've been spending all this time luxuriating in the movie's existence!
Okay, so I saw it twice at the cinema, twice on flights, and now twice on DVD. You think 6 times is enough?! And I'm still prostrate before it! Unashamedly so! I'm a Marvel fan; please note that this is going to be a very biased post and an ode to Okoye and Nakia.
Best Marvel Movie?
Is Black Panther the best Marvel movie yet? I thought Civil War was the best until Black Panther and then Infinity War came out. Now, I'm just not sure. You dedicated movie fans know we met the Black Panther for the first time in Civil War, right? You are not part of the Johnny Just Comes who met T'Challa for the first time in Black Panther, innit?!
Where do you start a post on something that has given you so much pleasure? Like I said, I'm a fan, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is frighteningly good. The superhero movie has been taken to a whole new level. From The Incredible Hulk right up till Avengers: Infinity War, each movie has added exponentially to our enjoyment at the cinema. So it was with a sense of certain expectation that I went to see Black Panther. It had to be good, right? A superhero we had met once already, and who had exceeded expectations, a black cast, a black director, action galore, beautiful bald black women (like me!), and Marvel! A surefire hit baby!
From The Beginning
So what was the movie really like? Well, when a movie starts intriguingly when the voice-over tells us a very brief history of Wakanda, and a character looks through a peephole and says, "It's these two Grace Jones-looking chicks....they're holding spears." And the other character says, "Open it." The first character says, "You serious?" and the second character says, "They won't knock again." Just over three minutes into the movie we have our first sight of the Dora Milaje, and I'm in love! You just know it's going to be a great movie. When you see the hand-to-hand fighting skills of the Dora Milaje you go talk true!
One of the first things that hit me about Black Panther was the so-called Wakanda accent. It is such a diverse range from the actors (and I say that with tongue firmly in cheek) that you would expect the country to have at least 59 tribes. It doesn't. I must admit it caused me no end of mirth. From the Nigerian to the South African, to the Southern African, to the not-of-this-planet, the Wakandan accent seems to depend entirely on who is speaking it....and possibly how much they were paid for the movie! Eish! There was yet another scene set in Nigeria (remember the Civil War?). Kudos to Marvel, although I still remember the scene set "Off the coast of Africa" in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
And we see Okoye (Danai Gurira) for the first time as we arrive in Nigeria. Love at first sight! For me I mean! A woman who is a general, brave, courageous, a fighter....and totally bald (like me!)! Oh, baby! If we were married we could 'do' our bald heads together in front of a mirror!
Lupita Nyong'o plays Nakia and she appears barely 9 minutes into the movie. She is luminous! Did I say I was in love with Okoye? I worshipped Nakia in this movie. That all too brief dance with the metal rings that she performs at the challenge scene at the waterfalls? Sexy beyond compare! The camera loves her and seems to follow her adoringly throughout the movie. The camera? Oh, okay...I thought it was me! Could this be a career-defining role for her? Somehow I think she has even more to come.
Erik Killmonger is a bad villain. I loved his hairdo; if only I had enough to imitate. His look, his voice, his attitude, all spot on. When he says, "Hey Auntie", it is with enough menace to know he is a serious bad man. Great casting and a great performance. The only thing is I'm afraid Michael B. Jordan is going to be forever typecast as an angry black man (Fruitvale Station, Creed, Fantastic Four). By the by his girlfriend was a fine woman.
But, speaking of attitude, Chadwick Boseman, T'Challa himself, is swag personified. Think Obama multiplied by ten! Did you see him play James Brown in Get On Up? You should! His scene with his sister Shuri in her laboratory shows a lighter side of him, even if it is a little too reminiscent of James Bond, but it works. And I loved the 'sneakers' joke! He's perfectly regal as a king with authority, power, passion, and ninja moves.
When T'Challa emerges from the rear of the hovering aircraft and we see the people arrayed all over the cliff face, well, it's just awesome! The colours, the fabrics, the dances, the drumming! Sublime! But also ridiculous! That character with the dinner plate in his lower lip; seriously?? And Zuri (Forest Whitaker) probably has the most ridiculous Wakandan accent. It is so South African and so thick, it's comical. And the rituals too. Covering T'Challa in the sand, invoking and visiting the ancestors, taking away the Black Panther powers with a herbal drink, all so African.
When Okoye announces, "Sister Nakia, my Prince, we are home!", I got goosebumps! I want to go to Wakanda too, please Mummy! I know it's a fictitious country and all, but one of the best things about Black Panther is the culture that was created. There seems to be a lot of South African fabric and design, but we also meet kente when T'Challa visits the ancestral plain, and when he swaggers into the Council chamber at the end. And did I see woven baskets in a market scene? From our Northern Region? Ghana also gets a mention in the museum scene. Everything is very African but different enough to signify a whole new culture. Even Agent Ross of the CIA, aka Coloniser, gets to wear a black African boubou.
Does the fictitious portrayal of Wakandan culture in Black Panther compare with Zamundan culture in Coming To America? Not that I'm comparing T'Challa with Prince Akeem! Just wondering out loud.
Oh, and there's a bit more West African culture when M'Baku says, "We will not have it OH!" Well, he is speaking Igbo apparently....
We even end up in Busan, South Korea, K-Pop and all! And Okoye and Nakia fighting together! I almost died from sheer joy! Even if they are both in bad wigs. At least Okoye uses her wig as a weapon. The sight of this bald black woman (like me!) in a long red dress distributing mayhem in a South Korean gambling den via her spear is just....words fail me. And Nakia in her long green dress (split up both sides) using her high heel as a weapon...I know, I've already said it!
The action in Busan is awesome. The car chase is staged with verve, technique, movement, and sheer acceleration. Black Panther atop an empty car being steered by Shuri in a laboratory in Wakanda; and he's doing backflips and somersaults as well! He even flips the car on to one set of wheels to take it round another car! From the roof! When Okoye says, "Guns....so primitive", you have to remember that her spear is a sonic weapon. And she gets on the roof of a car too and chucks her spear to make a car crash! Did you notice Nakia was driving barefoot? Yeah, that was sexy too.
Like I said, it can get pretty ridiculous. M'Baku and his tribesmen barking? That one too from where? His line about feeding Agent Ross to his children was pretty good, especially when he followed it immediately with, "I'm kidding; we are vegetarians."
It's even somewhat political, this movie, talking about "the foolish building barriers", and even a refugee problem if Wakanda opens its borders.
When Nakia and Okoye hug after the second challenge I thought I had discovered the meaning of life, I swear my father! Okoye shedding tears as she says, "I am loyal to that throne no matter who sits upon it." And telling Nakia, "Then serve your country," and Nakia saying, "No, I save my country." Oh, baby! And when Okoye says, "He lives!!", the sheer joy on her face! When one of her Dora Milaje is killed the scream she emits is straight from her soul. What a woman! Even a charging rhino thingy can't stop her! And she's bald, like me! I need to get black things tattooed on my head so I can claim connectivity to her!
There's a mid-credit scene set at the UN but all I can remember from it is Nakia in a yellow dress and Okoye in a black dress, and some other people saying other things.
We got Okoye in Avengers: Infinity War, where she had the best line in the movie, delivered in a perfect Nigerian accent. It was good to see Shuri briefly in Infinity War as well. How long before we see Nakia again? Lupita Nyong'o is luminous in Black Panther! Oh, did I say?? Her kiss with T'Challa at the end was far from convincing, I'm glad to say. I knew it! She probably wants me!!
Avengers: Infinity War is the best Marvel movie yet. But my movie heart and my movie soul is in Wakanda.