It seems ridiculous to think it’s taken this long for a film to feature both diminutive office man Martin Freeman and motion benefactor Andy Serkis. Apart from The Hobbit and Captain America: Civil War, in which they both appeared. But Black Panther is different. Marvel’s latest offering of pop culture camouflaged as geek porn is an historical event, one that finally gives the fans (and society) what they want: two more white blokes.
Attending the European Premiere of the film, I was amazed to see so many white people in their ceremonial attire of skinny jeans and poorly fitted smart coats, which I was also sporting myself.
The Hammersmith Apollo was abuzz with anticipation for Freeman and Serkis, who were set to make an appearance before the film. The man in front of me was so excited to see Tim from The Office that he was literally pissing himself. His golden enthusiasm showered from our tier onto the people sitting in the stalls, and they wilfully accepted it with mouths agape, drinking in the asparagus-scented glory of the occasion.
Once all the white people had dried themselves off by patting one another on the back, Freeman and Serkis walked onto the stage. They were greeted by deafening cheers, a standing ovation and cries of “It’s about time”. The entire moment was backed by James Blunt’s greatest hits.
When the film finally got underway, the excellence of the two actors was immediately apparent. Freeman’s performance as a briefcase man is unapologetically white, awkwardly shuffling his way through the narrative and apologising to absolutely everyone as a form of social lubricant. Serkis, meanwhile, is brilliant as a sort of white van man with a robotic laser cannon arm, which he presumably acquired through the NHS.
Their characters are entangled in a nationwide conflict over the ownership of tea and cakes, and the actors truly give it their all to ensure the mere millions of white people watching feel properly represented. I cried after a particularly white interrogation scene between the two of them, but luckily the majority of my tears were soaked up by my cravat.
A large portion of Black Panther did seem to focus on a black superhero, a technologically advanced African civilisation, a wealth of brilliant black characters and a subplot that poignantly addressed matters such as colonisation and black oppression. But this was Freeman and Serkis’s night.
Black Panther is in UK cinemas February 13.