By Laurence Washington
Fasten your lap strap! Black Panther has all the thrills of any Marvel superhero movie to date. The action is spectacular and the sets are lavish. The film cost billions of dollars to make (which they’ll probably get back in a weekend), and you can see where every dollar has been spent.
Black Panther also offers a great storyline, as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to rule the fictional country of Wakanda, after his father’s assassination, only to be challenged by his estranged cousin Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) for the throne.
However, Black Panther offers more than popcorn thrills; its historical featuringand all-Black cast, and a Black superhero headlining a Hollywood big budget movie. Black Panther also echoes ‘60s civil rights activists who were at odds on whether to use peace or aggression to level the playing field in a white privileged world. The film also empowers Black women and youths, who for the first time can identify with a big screen superhero that looks like them. It’s really a landmark achievement.
Even though Boseman is the film’s signature hero, he’s upstaged by Danai Gurira (General Okoye), who wields a mean spear. Okoye is just as powerful and resourceful as her male counterparts, and should probably get her own big budget movie. But that will never happen. Oscar winner Lupita Nyon’o turns in another solid performance as Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest, and like Okoye, she’s a strongno nonsense character.
Five minutes in, Black Panther met all of my expectations. Two hours later, it surpassed them checking all the boxes. It does, however, suffer from the same affection as all Marvel movies, some of the fight sequences go on a little too long. It’sgreat dessert, but you can’t live off a steady diet of sweets.
That aside, Black Panther is brilliant and the supporting cast is magnificent. Ofcourse there are two after credit scenes, one of which whets our appetites for the big showdown with super baddie Thanos this summer’s Avenger: Infinity War. Save me an aisle seat.
Meet the Supporting Cast of Black Panther
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
You don’t need to know anything about this Marvel property to enjoy Black Panther. Delightfully relevant, fresh, funny and non-formulaic, Marvel Studios has struck gold again with this sensational superhero treat. A film about an African superhero (Chadwick Boseman) who is also the King of a wealthy and technologically advanced African nation, which mines metal vibranium (the material that provides strength to Captain America’s shield), director Ryan Coogler clearly knows his way around the genre.
With the exception of a few, the predominately all Black cast hail from Africa, Europeand the Caribbean. Xhosa, one of the official languages of South Africa, is spoken in the movie, which offers a brilliant glimpse to a fictitious African county called Wakanda and captures the African tradition both visually and orally. Blackflix.com senior critic-at-large Samantha Ofole-Prince catches up with the supporting cast for a breakdown of who’s who.
Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o plays a Wakandan spy and Black Panther’s love interest who hails from the River tribe. When we are first introduced to her character Nakia, she’s undercover in Nigeria tracking a terrorist group. Describing Nakia, Nyong’o says, “She’s a bit of a rebel, but is also a loyalist to her country. She is this world traveler, so her style is definitely influenced by the experiences she’s had.”
Zimbabwean actress Danai Gurira has the most powerful role and plays Okoye, the King’s protector and head of the all-female Wakandan Special Forces (the Dora Milaje) and is clearly ready (as demonstrated in a few funny scenes) to take down anyone who messes with T’challa/Black Panther.A part that required her to shave her head bald, the actress says it took some time getting used to the bald look and recalls being shocked the first time she looked in a mirror. “There was pride around the shaved head and beauty. Okoye doesn’t want a wig when she has to go undercover and hates it. She has pride walking with that bald head,” she shares.
Afro-British actor Daniel Kaluuya plays W’Kabi, Royal Counsel to T’Challa. “He’s got an African male ego and I find that quite interesting and really honest,” shares Kaluuya. “It’s like seeing what that does to a man when he’s been brought up in this certain tradition that is quite sexist in a way and seeing whether he can develop and overcome it. And anyone can.”
Twenty-three-year-old Guyaneseactress Letitia Wright plays the tech-savvy Princess Shuri, Black Panther’s/T’Challa’s little sister. She is second-in-line for the throne behind her brother and is the smartest person in Wakanda. The brains behind Black Panther’s suits and technology Shuri is smart, witty and a delight to watch. There’s a really engaging scene where they have a playful banter as she teases T’Challa about his ‘royal slippers’ while briefing him on the gadgets she’s specially designed for his mission to Asia. “Shuri is someone who’s very innovative. Her brain is always working, and she’s always thinking of solutions to help her country and building gadgets and things like better armor,” adds Wright about the character.
Trinidadian actor Winston Duke dons on the perfect dialect and delivery as M’Baku, leader of the Jabari mountain tribe of Wakanda. He doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Black Panther/T’Challa and the royal family and initially challenges him for the throne. “He’s a self-professed man of deep integrity,” shares Duke. “He really cares about his people, and he’s deeply shaped and defined by his cultural identity,” adds the actor who says the language training was fun. “I do more of a Nigerian Igbo influence. It’s not Igbo, but it’s influenced by Igbo because the rest of the cast is doing South African Xhosa. M’Baku’s mountain-strong people, who have been sequestered in the hills in the mountains, have developed to some degree their own culture. We wanted something that had its own personality and had its own beauty. So we referenced Igbo, and that helped. The rhythm of that language influenced.”
The strongest character and most memorable roleare played by the charismatic Michael B. Jordan who previously collaborated with Coogler in Creed and Fruitvale Station. Jordan’s character is the villainous Erik Killmonger, who has deadly tactical skills and knowledge of Wakanda. Describing Killmonger, Jordan says, “He is always ten steps ahead and that’s a very dangerous attribute to have as a villain because he’s going to sit and wait, and he’s going to plan and calculate every move.”
In smaller supporting roles, Angela Bassett plays Queen Mother Ramonda, T’Challa’s mother, while Forest Whitaker rounds off the supporting cast as Zuri, the spiritual leader of Wakanda. A good friend to former King T’Chaka, he’s now a mentor figure to T’Challa and is also the keeper of the Staff of Bashenga and tends the garden which supplies Black Panther his powers. Other cast members include South African actors John Kani, Atandwa Kani, Uganda’s Florence Kasumba and Isaach De Bankole.
AAFCA Rcipient Edward James Olmos Says He’s an African First
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Best-known for his work in Blade Runner, the cult TV series Battlestar Galactica and theOscar nominated animated film Coco, actor and activist Edward James Olmos was recently honored by the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA).
At the event held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles, AAFCA, a professional association that promotes African-American film productions, honored the renowned actor with the Legacy award at their annual special achievement awards luncheon.
Throughout his 40 year career, the Mexican-American actor has worked tirelessly to expand Latino representation in Hollywood and as he accepted his accolade, Olmos, who earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of real-life inspirational teacher Jaime Escalante in the 1988 film Stand and Deliver recalled a speech he had made several years ago about using the word race as a cultural determinant.
He talked about his roots being African first, Asia and then Caucasian, which he said “is what makes me brown.” Olmos continued saying; “I cannot wake up in the morning without saying thank you to my roots.” In a heartfelt speech, the actor also thanked the association for the honor and for “being here and on time.”
Olmos, who has been tapped to star and direct the flick The Devil Has a Name, a true tale about corporate greed, was one of several honorees at the luncheon which is now in its third year. Film critic Claudia Puig received AAFCA’s Roger Ebert Award and ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey, who in 2016 became the first African-American president of ABC Entertainment Group, was presented with the Ashley Boone Award.