Black Panther Review: Marvel’s Postcolonial Masterpiece
The black panther, a fiercely protective, majestic hunter; a symbol of immense power and agility.
Director Ryan Coogler’s blockbuster ‘Black Panther’ is the latest instalment of the iconic Marvel collection. It catapults us straight back into the action of its prequel Captain America: Civil War, where protagonist T’Challa is coming to terms with being next in line for the throne as his family mourn the death of his father King T”Chaka. The film takes place in the utopian realm of Wakanda, and introduces us to an illustrious, all black African community who appear to be excelling in all aspects of life. Wakanda exists as a patriarchal, self-contained and self-sufficient world which, up until now, has been sheltered from the dangers and corruption of the debauched real world. However, the arrival of Erik Killmonger, the Afro-American wide boy with a tempestuous axe to grind, turns the haven upside down, and challenges the newly appointed King T’Challa for his crown.
‘Every aspect of Black Panther is a triumphant celebration of African postcolonial progress, culture and society’
The Wakanda community have three invaluable assets; the esoteric powers of the Black Panther, limitless technology and the mineral known as Vibranium. Throughout the film, we see the power paradigm uncharacteristically shift, with the caucasian American worker completely dumbfounded by the ultra high-tech gadgets found in T’Challa’s younger sisters lab. We also see the shoe on the other foot through the desperation of Dutch scientist Ulysses Klaueto who strips Wakanda and the Black Panther of their Vibranium comprised meteoric substance which is idolised by all.
Every aspect of Black Panther is a triumphant celebration of African postcolonial progress, culture and society, with the film’s director, music producer and cast, bar a few, an all-black ensemble. Such unadulterated superiority of the African race is not only a pleasant change for Marvel fans, but for the character Everett Ross, an American government worker played by Martin Freeman, who, on arrival to Wakanda, is like a fish out of water.
With postcolonial thought known to value the importance of colonisation in its strive for modernity, we see Black Panther’s ability to seamlessly combine ancient tradition and futuristic innovation stand this Marvel film apart from the rest. For example, the Black Panther himself does not regain his powers through a cutting-edge, illusory machine, but instead a magical bygone herbal drink provided by his elders. In terms of epic battles, the film does not disappoint as there are many appearances of wondrous supernatural armoury and immense mythical beasts. These are overshadowed however by the simplistic intensity of Wakanda’s traditional pre-coronation battle, where the Black Panther must be stripped of his fantastical powers in order to ensure a fair, one on one, ritualistic fight.
During the film, I couldn’t help but ask myself where would Wakanda and indeed the Black Panther be without their intangible homoeopathic medicines, ancient rituals, and deep-rooted tradition? I concluded, not very far. From the outset, the misconceptions of Wakanda which are translated through Marvel’s ingenious exploration of postcolonial empowerment, are ridiculed in such a way that the Wakandan’s themselves almost pity the rest of the world for their lack of progress and harmony. From this postcolonial viewpoint, we see a proud African community supersede the deeply fragmented outside world, by successfully capitalising on their own resources, and facilitating social progression through both the preservation of heritage and cultivation of ultra-modern technology. From start to finish it was a truly enthralling viewing experience.
The next Marvel adventure, Avengers: Infinity War is scheduled for release in British cinemas on 27 April.