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Black Panther Review

3 Mar

It’s almost impressive how Marvel can take a lineup of superheroes, each different than the other in terms of backstory, motivation, and powers, and render them all so bland and forgettable that they’re virtually indistinguishable. T’Challa is the latest victim of the formula, his character reduced to a bunch of thematic generalizations and halfhearted motivations while being played with the conviction of a slab of cardboard. These films simply aren’t imaginative anymore, nor do they have a structure that can avoid cheapening the vision of whatever directors they nab. Coogler is one of the more promising young directors in the business, but even he can’t prevent the political subject matter here from feeling like a collective throwaway line. Does a superhero film need to be political? Absolutely not. But if it’s going to try, then it needs to be judged on how successfully it engages with those topics beyond the surface. There’s a difference between whether a film’s socially relevant—which of course this is—and how good a film is at being socially relevant.

Part of the issue here is that the main conduit for those topics is Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, a villain who doesn’t really get to dive into the film until halfway through. Jordan’s been incredible in everything I’ve seen him in, and he’s good here as well. Unfortunately, the T’Challa-Killmonger conflict spends so much time on the back burner that the interesting political framework dissipates before it gains any steam. We’re not given enough substance to truly care about why they’re even fighting each other, and it’s not a good sign if we’re spending the entire time wishing Killmonger had more prior development. What’s the point of world building if the components of that world don’t work? I don’t believe in nor care about Wakanda as an entity with a history because I don’t believe in nor care about the characters that connect me to that world. This is a film composed of interesting starting points and nothing more.

It’s not a downright awful movie. I expect Deadpool 2 to be much, much worse. But it’s not particularly good. It botches its comedy like any good Marvel film does, and some of the stoicism comes across as forced and stiff. It’s a slog, but not in that instantly overbearing, soul sucking DC way. It’s more in that inoffensive but ultimately pointless Marvel way that wears you out gradually over time.

GRADE: C+

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3 Responses to “Black Panther Review”

  1. Hepburn3 March 3, 2018 at 2:32 pm #

    Hi PB, I hope that you are well?
    I honestly think that Superhero movies are not your genre. Maybe just skip them all?
    Take care!

  2. Paul. Writer and Filmmaker March 4, 2018 at 3:08 am #

    **SPOILERS AHEAD**

    I definitely agree that aside from the opening scenes in the projects we are given too longer wait before the main antagonist enters the fray. I mean he is such an intriguing character that false flagging Ulysses Klaue should have been some quicker in my view. I mean why does Stevens/Killmonger wait so long to make his challenge? He even rescues Klaue only to then use him as a bargaining piece in his plan. It’s a contrivance that could have been done better.

    Having said that this was an excellent work of entertainment. It certainly hits all the formula points but I think the characters are above some of the usual 2-D superhero stuff and there were some important political points within the fights and F/X.

  3. Ricardo March 5, 2018 at 10:07 pm #

    While I agree on the utter lack of distinction between all Marvel studios fare, I found Black Panther to be the best of the bunch. For once the stakes feel real, due to the conflict being personal, instead of universal. Lord knows by this point I wish the villain would just blow up earth to smithereens.
    Wakanda feels like a real, lived in place; everything else in this universe feels so aloof and I’ve never been invested in it.

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