The Hollywood Reporter recently pointed out the obvious; even Jennifer Lawrence can’t open a movie. Studios don’t look to big star names any longer, but to brands like Marvel.
I’ve always thought superhero, or comic book movie blockbusters were empty calories. Unpopular I know, but Marvel makes me feel like I overindulged on Haribo candy (and the DCEU feels like toothache).
Black Panther – yet another Marvel product – is also a self-contained story about family, duty and honour. Set in the fictional African country of Wakanda, the War of the Panthers is a kid-friendly Game of Thrones, with warring cousins and tribes, and the future of the kingdom hinging on revelations about an individual character’s parentage.
(I know I’m not alone in spotting the GoT parallels, as Daniel Kaluuya made the link a year ago.)
The language, artwork, costumes and makeup of this mythical land echo real-world African traditions, while the fantasy element Vibranium is the source of Wakanda’s secret high-tech infrastructure.
New king T’Challa is no flashy show-off à la Tony Stark, even if his royal duties include dressing up like a panther. He’s a noble character haunted by the death of his father and torn between protecting his people and overcoming his nation’s isolationism.
It’s a credit to Chadwick Boseman that his graceful performance doesn’t get blasted off the screen by Michael B. Jordan’s swaggering, vicious Killmonger, who wants to swipe the throne and the panther suit, and lead the country in a more hawkish direction.
Killmonger might even have clawed his way into the Top Ten Movie Villains of All Time. Because the superhero is king, the superhero is the brand, but the performances are key. If Hollywood is committed to saving the endangered species of the mega-movie star, it won’t find a better candidate!