Black Pan­ther has sharpest claws

Nelson Mail - - ENTERTAINMENT -

True story. About 650 years ago the West African na­tion of Mali was one of the wealth­i­est and most pow­er­ful coun­tries on Earth.

Mali more or less con­trolled the sup­ply of gold and salt to half the known world. While my an­ces­tors in Eng­land were squab­bling with the Scots and the French, Mali could have bought and sold those three coun­tries many times over. Mali was home to great li­braries and seats of learn­ing. Her em­per­ors launched fleets of a thou­sand ships or more to ex­plore the planet. But here we are, only 30 or 40 gen­er­a­tions later, a blink of the eye in hu­man terms, and Mali is not on any­one’s list of coun­tries we think of as global su­per­pow­ers.

And maybe it was Mali that Black Pan­ther creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were think­ing of when they came up with the fic­tional African na­tion of Wakanda.

In the comics, Wakanda is built around a gi­gan­tic me­te­orite of vi­bra­nium, and is the only source in the world of that me­tal.

Vi­bra­nium is mal­leable, im­per­vi­ous to pretty much every­thing and when com­bined with Wakan­dan science, an in­ex­haustible source of en­ergy. To stop the world from in­vad­ing and cor­rupt­ing their na­tion, gen­er­a­tions of Wakan­dan kings have kept the coun­try’s true wealth a se­cret, while de­vel­op­ing ever more fab­u­lous tech­nolo­gies from their pre­cious re­source. Ev­ery King of Wakanda is dubbed Black Pan­ther, and tasked with pro­tect­ing Wakanda and her peo­ple from come what may.

As su­per­hero ori­gin stories go, it’s a doozy. And in the bit­terly di­vided United States of 1966, Black Pan­ther must have caused a sen­sa­tion.

Fast-for­ward 52 years and T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, af­ter turn­ing up in a few Mar­vel cameos, has fi­nally been granted his own fran­chise. And it prom­ises to be a good’un.

As writ­ten and di­rected by Ryan Coogler ( Fruit­vale Sta­tion, Creed) this Black Pan­ther is a su­per­hero ready to slot in seam­lessly be­side Iron Man, Thor, Black Wi­dow and co.

Black Pan­ther is the leader of the most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced na­tion in the world, and this film never lets you for­get it.

The sto­ry­line starts out a lit­tle ob­vi­ously, with a car­toon­ishly vil­lain­ous Andy Serkis as the mer­ce­nary Ulysses Klaue, trad­ing in stolen vi­bra­nium and be­ing taken down in a con­fronta­tion a lit­tle too rem­i­nis­cent of a scene in a re­cent James Bond film. But Klaue is only a feint in Coogler’s screen­play.

The real vil­lain, a far more com­plex and sym­pa­thetic char­ac­ter, soon steps out of the shad­ows and Black Pan­ther re­ally gets down to busi­ness.

In the lead, Chad­wick Bose­man as the Pan­ther/T’Challa is su­perb, even as the es­sen­tial de­cency and nice­ness of his char­ac­ter threat­ens to suck the air out of the film. Around Bose­man, the wahine-toa trio of Leti­tia Wright ( Black Mir­ror), Lupita Ny­ong’o ( 12 Years a Slave) and Danai Gurira ( The Walking Dead) make the film their own in ev­ery scene they get.

Black Pan­ther comes to life with a real brio and glee when­ever these three are on stage, which is grat­i­fy­ingly of­ten. Coogler reg­u­lar Michael B Jor­dan like­wise takes the film away from Bose­man at times, only to hand it back via a cou­ple of plot twists that seem more about fran­chise con­ve­nience than any­thing too the­mat­i­cally pleas­ing. I’m sure I wasn’t the only per­son in the au­di­ence hop­ing to see more of Jor­dan’s char­ac­ter in films to come.

There is a lot to like about Black Pan­ther. It kicks arse of­ten enough to please any Mar­vel fan, it wears its pol­i­tics lightly but ex­plic­itly enough for any­one with the ears to hear it (a late speech from Bose­man’s) – Graeme Tuck­ett

Chad­wick Bose­man and Michael B Jor­dan square up in Black Pan­ther.

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