Last weekend I went to the local Odeon – the one where I had a lot of fun collecting tickets from an online booking for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
While I initially booked The Shape of Water without any difficulty, I decided, while I was having a coffee at Costa coffee at Guildford station, to book to see the much-hyped Black Panther afterwards. I got my phone out and attempted to make the booking, except, well, I’ll let the screenshots speak for themselves:
So I tried again. ALAS!
So I made my merry way across the road and across the river, muttering under my breath how much the quality assurance of modern technology drives me insane, and went up to the box office, which – being Saturday – was open.
I explained the situation to one of the box office folk who had a look at the booking and presumably having given my name was able to confirm the seat. Only he had to handwrite it for me:
Now, two things happened here. The first was that the ticket I had ordered for The Shape of Water had a seat reservation. What you see above is NOT the seat I had reserved. Had I paid for the premium seating, I would have flipped my lid. The seat I ended up with wasn’t brilliant, but perfectly adequate.
Cinema escapades aside for the moment, The Shape of Water by Guillermo Del Toro is everything that people say it is. It’s a stunningly beautiful love story that just happens to feature what is presumably the Creature from The Black Lagoon. Sally Hawkins as the mute Elisa is nothing short of extraordinary – conveying her emotions physically and communicating entirely in sign. Doug Jones as the Creature is otherworldly, yet is still capable of great kindness and compassion to those who are not out to kill him.
(Be warned, cat fans, as there is one unsettling scene which is really a bit of a misunderstanding (though the poor cat which is at the receiving end of said misunderstanding would hardly say that was the case.))
The film is brutal, romantic, lovely and surreal across the 2 hours it plays for. It’s an adult fairytale and Del Toro took risks making it (including turning down the sequel to Pacific Rim amongst other projects). But it pays back in spades. It is well deserving of the BAFTA awards it has picked up (Soundtrack, Production Design and Director), and well worthy of picking up even more at the forthcoming Oscars.
So, after a stonking good two hours of fishy romance, I pretty much went straight into Black Panther. I took my seat and waited.
Odeon double booked the seat. Whatever happened at the Box Office didn’t properly reserve the seat, and whatever happened with the web app also failed to reserve the seat. So I went back to the Box Office and explained what happened. Thankfully seating was still available, and decent seating at that, so it was all booked without any fuss and I was able to go back into the cinema to enjoy the film.
Black Panther, it must be said, is perhaps Marvel’s best ever effort at making a superhero movie. Not only does it feature decent character building of the good guys, but gives the main villain a decent background from which you can actually understand where he’s coming from.
The story centres around the kingdom of Wakanda, a central African nation that is technically superior to any other on Earth thanks to a mineral called vibranium which fell to Earth from a meteorite millions of years ago. It leads to the people of the region to embrace its properties, which, thanks to the enrichment of the soil due to the mineral, grows a particular plant which if imbibed, gives the person superhuman strength. Thus Wakanda was born, and of the 5 tribes, 4 yielded to the Wakandans and were given protection and access to the vibranium, with the fifth deciding to go their own way and live up in the mountains alone. The subsequent rulers of Wakanda have become the Black Panther – a protector and warrior. However, Wakanda remains hidden from the rest of the world. To us, Wakanda remains a poor country – though in all its history, refused any aid. While Wakanda’s neighbours were colonised and taken as slaves, Wakanda did not intervene – they stayed hidden.
Fast forward to modern times, and events after Avengers: Age of Ultron. King T’Chaka is dead, and his son, T’Challa is to become king of Wakanda. Meanwhile, a South African arms dealer (played by Andy Serkis) has just stolen a weapon from the British Museum, unbeknownst that it is made from vibranium (and hence originates from Wakanda). Along with the South African, an American (Michael B. Jordon) shows a keen interest in the weapon and its origins…
And so begins a well-paced movie that explores multiple themes. One of which is belonging, and another being whether Wakanda should share its technology with the rest of the world. The result of the secrecy is one of the reasons behind the American finding Wakanda and, well, it becomes a feud of epic proportions.
The film features a gadget sequence that would be Q to shame. T’Challa’s sister, Shuri (played magnificently by Letitia Wright), would put Tony Stark to shame. At point in the film when Martin Freeman’s CIA agent, Everett Ross, awakens in her laboratory, she greets him with, “Hello, coloniser”. We can pretty much assume not many western white people have been this way..
The women of Black Panther are fierce as heck. Special mention must be made of Okoye, played by The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira, who is the general of the Dora Milaje, the elite (female) bodyguards that protect the royal family. She wields a very pointy and shiny spear which she uses to great effect. No more so than the casino sequence in which hits, stabs and throws people about like rag dolls.
The entire film is absolutely wonderful. The Afrofuturism is well done, and most importantly, believable. I’m about to start reading Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series, about a young Himba woman who is the first of her people to be accepted into a prestigious galactic university. If Neil Gaiman loved it, I’m sure I will to.
But getting back to Black Panther – this is definitely the best Marvel film to date, and long may we see sequels. We’ll be heading back to Wakanda for quite a spell in the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War, so it’ll be nice to see some familiar faces.
Long live King T’Challa! Long live Wakanda!