The excitement is already building eight whole months before the film is due for release. A who’s who of this generations black stars in their ascendancy make up the cast. Chadwick Boseman, known better on the other side of the pond for his biopic roles, playing James Brown in Get On Up and, to the soccer loving U. K. audience at least, the little known of U. S. legend that was the baseball player Jackie Robinson in Forty-Two. Michael B. Jordan, who I first saw in the great little film Chronicle, but is better known for the wonderful Creed and the infamous, much maligned, Fantastic Four.
The luminous Lupita Nyong’o, magnificent in 12 Years A Slave. Forrest Whitaker, of far too many roles to list here, though most recently seen hamming it up in Rogue One, also feature. Angela Bassett, another veteran of many roles who will always be remembered for her portrayal of Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It? Daniel Kaluuya of Get Out fame also makes an appearance, as does Phylicia Rashad, who will forever be Claire Huxtable to a generation.
The film is, of course, Marvel’s Black Panther, king of the fictional African land, Wakanda, home to the most precious (fictitious) metal, vibranium. Directed by Ryan Coogler – Fruitvale Station, Creed – Marvel has gone black from top to bottom. Initial looks at the King of Wakanda are promising, with the first teaser trailer – actually a bit long for a teaser but no complaints here – landing on Friday night stateside and pushing comic book internet geeks into instant overdrive.
Created by two white, comic maestros, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, back in the mid-sixties, the writers showed the infamous lack of world geographical knowledge always levelled at Americans and invented Wakanda. Admittedly. It was over half a century ago and the internet was probably not even a thought for a then, short trousers wearing, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who would bring about the worldwide web.
With so little to cheer about on this side of the pond when it comes to blacks in the media – even in the expected fields of my youth, song and dance, the positions now dominated by white artist – Black Panther is a big event for black people. Too often black people have had to, in terms of globally recognised films, look to slavery or hip hop and street gang films. The likes of Tyler Perry, a one-man media mogul stateside, might argue that his success is global, as would Lee Daniels no doubt, but America needs to remember it is not the whole world, even if they do hold the World Series! Though Tyler’s name would be known by most U. K. blacks, I do not think Daniels name carries the same weight.
Not since….ever, has a black film represented what Black Panther does; a black film, with a black director and cast, showing a black world. Barring a Hollywood shafting of Nate Parker proportions (they let Casey Affleck’s…ahem ‘aberration’ slide) or the film is Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four terrible, Black Panther will be a worldwide hit. With the recently released, woman-centric, Wonder Woman tracking great numbers globally and garnering the best reviews of any of the DCEU films so far, it will be interesting to see how Black Panther does in the already successful Marvel universe.
For Ryan Coogler this is a big film. The thirty-one-year-old director has shown himself to be a talented auteur – loved Creed! – and I sincerely hope that he does not suffer the fate of the aforementioned Trank or my favourite writer/director Joss Whedon, both of whom alluded to an uncomfortable amount of studio interference.
There is still a long way to go before its release, but I for one, cannot wait for Black Panther to hit the screens.