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Art

‘Black Panther’ makes Lupita super-duper star

Traditional dancers at the premiere of ‘Black Panther in Kisumu last week. AFP PHOTO
Traditional dancers at the premiere of ‘Black Panther in Kisumu last week. AFP PHOTO  

All the hype that we’ve heard about Black Panther, the new black super-hero film by Disney’s Marvel studio has not been hyperbolic as was proved this past weekend when BP broke all box office records, earning $241.9 million in North America alone and $426.6 million globally — excluding China, Russia and Japan — since it opened a week ago Tuesday.

So it’s not an overstatement to say the film’s sheer genius and a joy to see a nearly all-black cast, including Kenya’s own Lupita Nyong’o, in roles that are noble, well-rounded, regal and complex.

The film is dazzling in every detail. From costuming to makeup, cinematography, casting, gender-sensitivity and story line, all are exquisitely well-crafted.

One can hardly detect the comic-book element in the film, apart from when our hero T’Chalia, the new King of Wakanda (Chadwick Boseman) acquires his fantastic super-powers and Black Panther metamorphic skill once he drinks the High Priest’s (Forest Whitaker) enchanted potion. After that, he takes a dive into the ancestral realm where he meets his father for assurance and consultation.

For sure, Black Panther’s got elements of sci-fi fantasy combined with action-adventure, a touch of romance and comedic wit as well. It’s also an adrenalin-infused drama that makes Star Wars look like old school technology. The fact that it’s all wrapped up in African tradition and exquisite interpretations of continental culture makes it all the more appealing, particularly to African audiences.

What’s also clear about Black Panther is that it’s a film that transcends a merely racial classification. True, all the characters apart from two, Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman, are black. Also true is that the story is set in a mighty African kingdom which has managed to keep itself hidden and intact for centuries, unbeknownst to the rest of world. That feat of historical stealth has been achieved through the wisdom of peace-loving elders and a super-strong metal vibranium that’s only found in Wakanda. The magical metal has been used extensively by Wakanda’s scientists (including the King’s sister) to improve and advance the quality of life for their people.

The Wakandans love peace but they’re also realists. Consequently, they maintain a powerful standing army led by a General who’s a dynamite woman. They’ve also used vibranium to make virtually invincible munitions to ensure the self-defense in their kingdom. That stability is sorely threatened, however, once King T’chalia’s ‘cousin’, Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) arrives on the scene. He’s a half-caste ‘lost child’ of Wakanda since his father was brother to the former king, T’chalia’s dad.

The discovery of Killmonger’s existence only comes after the King, assisted by Lupita’s character Nakia and the General go to Seoul, South Korea, to catch the culprits who not only stole the kingdom’s artifacts from the British Museum. They’re also complicit in the death of the late king.

T’Chalia’s committed to bringing the artifacts and the killer Klaw back for trial in Wakanda. His failure to achieve that goal is only explained after the young king compels the Priest to tell what happened when they went to retrieve the late king’s brother in America.

Turns out the bro had fallen in love with an African American woman and they had a son Eric. But there was an argument and in Cain and Abel style, one brother killed the other. The king survived after saving the priest’s life.

After that tragedy, the king left his dead brother’s son behind. But Eric had already been given a ring and tooth grill of vibrantium to protect and empower him by his dad. Unfortunately, the boy grows up embittered and intent on revenge. His singular goal in life is to reach Wakanda somehow, claim the kingdom’s crown and then conquer the world with Vibrantium-fueled fire power just as the white man had done centuries ago with his shock and awe-styles of conquest.

Nicknamed Killmonger by his cousin the King, Eric turns out to be a brilliant strategist and ruthless killer. Once he reaches Wakanda, he challenges and ‘kills’ the King, seizes the crown and starts preparing to rule the world.

That’s when Nakia’s moment arrives. She leads a band of women to the rival kingdom, finds the king’s still alive and thereafter, her fate is set.

King T’chalia never forgot his father’s mistake of leaving his blood kin Eric behind in savage LA, US. So he returns, buys a city block and set up a multipurpose centre for enlightening inner-city kids, all in memory of his family legacy and reconnect with the Black world.

A fabulous film, barring none!

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