The man behind it
Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (Creed) is a man for our times. He has been outspoken about his desire to help achieve equality in Hollywood, making one of the most hopeful comments to come out of recent events. “I work in an industry that too many times has proven to not be a safe space for women,” he said, promising, “I make it a priority to ensure that there is gender equity and an inclusive work environment on every project I am involved with.” Black Panther proves he’s a man of his word. Much like director Ava DuVernay’s approach to another of this year’s most anticipated films, A Wrinkle in Time, Coogler is aiming to widen the perception of what the characters and genre can be, describing the character of Black Panther as the James Bond of the Marvel universe, offering an unconventional and exciting take on its hero, T’Challa.
The revolutionary premise
Previously side-lined to supporting roles, Black Panther first appeared in Marvel’s Fantastic Four comic in 1961. But it isn’t until now, more than 50 years later, that a major studio has invested in a movie starring an African superhero. It’s set in an isolated, futuristic African city, featuring a multicultural cast, and promises a new kind of action in the Marvel Comics Universe. In a genre dominated by white superheroes, the film finally offers us a dynamic, positive representation of people of color shaped by people who understand the black experience. The excitement surrounding this release is unique, with record-breaking ticket presales indicating that it is set to be Marvel’s most successful movie to date, marking a historic moment in cinema and hopefully a positive shift in Hollywood.
The storming soundtrack
In another first for a Marvel movie, an entirely original album has been commissioned to accompany the film. It’s being produced and curated by Grammy-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, with Coogler saying that the Californian rapper’s “artistic themes align with those we explore in the film”. Lamar, who has already praised the marriage of art and culture in Black Panther, and the CEO of his label Top Dawg Entertainment, Anthony Tiffith, worked with director Ryan Coogler to produce 14 tracks tailored to the film, featuring Lamar, The Weeknd, Vince Staples and R&B singer SZA.
The kick-ass cast
In an industry plagued by color and gender bias, Black Panther is an important step in changing the casting culture. The film stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the king of Wakanda and its panther guardian, alongside Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis. But it’s the female talent who really make this film exciting. By casting Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Florence Kasumba, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright, director Ryan Coogler and casting director Sarah Finn are giving us an empowering depiction of women of color and the opportunity to see some of cinema’s finest and freshest talents working together.
The youthquake possibilities
So important did many consider it for young people of color to see and be inspired by this film, that the hashtag #BlackPantherChallenge went viral. The idea was to raise money so that kids from poorer areas would get to see the movie and the GoFundMe campaign was given a boost by famous faces such as Viola Davis, Snoop Dogg, Chelsea Clinton and Ellen DeGeneres, who offered to pay for a screening of the film for the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem.
Black Panther is out Feb 13 (UK); Feb 16 (US)
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