Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios
Black Panther stands out as well-crafted, creatively designed film
December 21, 2018
The first film that we believe is in the running for best picture: Black Panther. The film stands out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as one of the most well-crafted and creatively designed films. It has already been put alongside other films competing for Best Picture in the 2019 Golden Globes. It stands out as the only comic book film with the most diverse cast out of all the nominated films. It is a game changer in its approach to the tired old superhero storylines, but what makes it award worthy?
The film opens with a beautiful scene depicting the feud between the different tribes in Wakanda and how the Black Panther was born out of this feud. The first scene cuts to Oakland, California in the year 1992. We meet N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown), an undercover Wakandan spy. He is having a meeting with Zuri, a fellow Wakandan spy, when there is a knock at the door and the person at the door is revealed to be T’Chaka (John Kani) in his Black Panther suit. T’Chaka accuses N’Jobu of assisting the man he was supposed to find, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). Zuri reveals that he has been spying for T’Chaka ever since their arrival in Oakland. The scene is cut to a well edited action scene where T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Black Panther, extracts his past lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) from an undercover assignment and asks her to attend his Coronation ceremony. The Coronation ceremony starts the following day where T’Challa is challenged in combat by old rival, M’Baku (Winston Duke). T’Challa wins and is crowned king of Wakanda. He is given a heart shaped herb in a ceremony that gives him the powers of the Black Panther. Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) kills Klaue after he is arrested for trying to sell vibranium on the black market. Killmonger takes Klaue’s body to Wakanda where he is greeted by the Wakandan farmers. He reveals his Wakandan branding and Klaue’s dead body and he is taken to T’Challa. Killmonger challenges T’Challa’s claim to the throne as he is the son of T’Chakas brother, N’Jobu. They proceed to repeat the coronation ceremony seen at the beginning of the film, except this time this time Killmonger is the victor.
Director Ryan Coogler creates a rich and expansive world that incorporates West African styles into the futuristic design. The care put into the vision of the masterful world building is what makes the film stand out within the MCU. The score by Ludwig Göransson is beautiful in its percussion of heavy instrumentation. Ludwig drew inspiration from the African countries that he had visited. The visual effects are mind-blowing and they seamlessly tie the film together in a way that other Marvel films often do not. There is also another aspect of Black Panthers production that is fantastic and needs to be recognized: the costuming. The costuming in the film is extremely original while still being faithful to the comics and the place where the film is set. The costuming designer, Ruth E. Carter, referenced the Maasai, Himba, Dogon, Basotho, Tuareg, Turkana, Xhosa, Zulu, Suri and Dinka people in her designs. She also examined appropriate works by Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake. Each design is stunning in a MCU dominated by boring character designs.
Crafting The Perfect Villain
A great antagonist requires a connection to the protagonist in order to make them have a well-crafted conflict. Killmonger is the neglected ruler who feels as though Wakanda has betrayed him in almost every way, including T’Chakas murder of his father. T’Challa feels as though Wakanda has always been there for him, even through the death of his father. Killmonger believes Wakanda will never support him, so he must fight to obtain the throne. Seeing T’Challa as the golden boy enrages him. This creates a bond because of the fact that they are both cousins, but also fighting for the throne. The antagonist must have more power than the protagonist for most of the story. Where T’Challa is calm and composed for most of the film, Killmonger is erratic and untamed in the way he uses his power. Killmonger is always one step ahead of T’Challa, and while his technology might not be more advanced, he is most definitely T’Challa’s rival in hand to hand combat. Tragedy on both the side of the protagonist and the antagonist make for better characters during a conflict. After the death of his father, T’Challa is still raw with rage, but Killmonger has channeled his rage into his focus on obtaining the mantle of king. Because they both share similarities with each other, they make such excellent foils for one another, but their similarities and unseen bonds are what shape them into well-rounded characters.
Awards shows like the Golden Globes and the Oscars have come under scrutiny recently due to the lack of diversity in their nominees. People in the industry are constantly commenting things like, “We need a wider variety of nominees” and, “Why is it that only white filmmakers are nominated?”. Black Panther has the power to change the award industry forever if it wins the award for Best Picture. I strongly believe that it will force the Academy to no longer deny their obvious prejudice in their nominee picks because films are essentially a method for telling a story. Only nominating and showcasing a select few views and messages makes for a surefire way to make sure that your award show shrivels up and dies.
I see no reason as to why Black Panther could not rival the other nominees this awards season. It has all the marks of a well-made film with an incredible score, first rate cinematography and oscar worthy performances. Sure, some will say that because it’s a comic book film it has no right to be in the same league as other critically acclaimed films nominated this year. However, I strongly disagree because Black Panther is just as well made, if not better, as these other films. So I wish it the best of luck in this awards season and I hope to see it get the recognition it deserves. Watch out for next week’s review from Pizano and Rooker, A Star is Born.