Friday, March 23, 2018

Black Panther (2018) review

  

    So is the Black Panther any good? *sarcasm* Yes, this movie needs my approval to become a success *sarcasm*. Really, I don't feel like reviewing this movie at all because everyone who is going to have seen it has probably done so already. It's a movie which has surpassed Titanic and the Avengers or will soon enough. It's certainly changed the dynamic of a lot of people's perceptions regarding black-led superhero films (which I respond to with: wait, did just forget Blade existed?). Still, I feel like I'd be denying my fanbase if I didn't do a review of the film. So, what did I think?

Great characters.
    It was okay. Not great. Better than Doctor Strange. Not as entertaining as Thor: Ragnarok. It's kind of a bizarre situation as Black Panther is now a cultural icon with ludicrous things like the movie being attacked by Forbes magazine for taking away viewers from white-driven movies. Yet, really, I think my biggest objection to the movie comes from the fact I'm a Black Panther fan. Yes, of the comic book character.

    I was a big fan of the interpretation by Reginald Hudlin and Christopher Priest. That version of the Black Panther heavily influenced this version but this is just different enough to be not quite as interesting to me. Again, nobody in the world is going to care what my blog has to say on the subject and I'm glad everyone else in the world mostly seems to like this story. It's a phenomenon and, like Avatar, if you like it then you like it. Still, I'm not afraid of critiquing something that's popular and if you're interested in hearing my thoughts then read on.

Wakanda is awesome.
    The premise of the movie is T'Challa is ascending to the throne of Wakanda in the aftermath of his father's death in Captain America: Civil War. He manages to deal with early challenges well but things go completely off the rails when his unknown cousin, Eric Stephens a.k.a Killmonger, comes to Wakanda in order to claim the throne via Necromonger-esque challenge. T'Challa survives, barely, and must make a Rocky-style comeback to reclaim his throne before Killmonger unleashes Wakandan technology on the world in an attempt to create a global revolution.

    Like the comic (and Avatar for that matter), Black Panther is fundamentally an anti-colonialist movie but actually stars real people. Killmonger has the plan of creating black liberation throughout the world by arming oppressed peoples with advanced Wakandan technology. He believes it will create a Wakandan empire, which basically is a very intelligent and well-thought out jab at American foreign policy where plenty of groups were given weapons by the USA that turned out to not want to be our friends.

    However, I had a lot of issues with the story because Killmonger's plans are so poorly thought out and driven by his rage that it contrasted against a lot of points which the movie is trying to bring up. The film chastises Wakanda for being a nation that remained in isolation for centuries when the slave trade as well as other criseses were occurring but portrays it as a utopian nation otherwise. There's a lot of really good moments, like the fact Wakandans don't see other Africans as their problem, but these are hurt by the fact the movie is forced to gloss over the larger issues in order to get to the next action scene.

Killmonger is excellent.
    Still, I have to give Michael B. Jordan credit for creating a character where the shortsightedness and lack of planning for a supposed genius is entirely justified. Killmonger came to Wakanda in hopes of finding a home and a sympathetic ear for his pan-African crusade as well as wars of liberation. Instead, like many revolutionaries throughout history, his one-dimensional black and white view of history as well as politics meets deaf ears. Rather than try to see the perspective of his opponents, he simply dismisses them as evil.

    Much of the comic Black Panther's story is driven by the dramatic irony of the fact T'Challa is a reformer and man with slightly more respect for the outside world than your average Wakandan (which is to say any at all). While the story touches on the idea T'Challa is going to bring Wakanda into the greater global community, this occurs at the end of a longer character arc that I think would have been a better focus of a movie than the existing story where he finds out his country is not as picturesque as he thought.

I want a Wakandan plane.
    I also admit I wasn't a big fan of the changes to existing Black Panther supporting characters. The transformation of Everett Ross from a somewhat bumbling bureaucrat who is, fundamentally, a good man to a very competant CIA agent somewhat warps the narrative around him. Sort of like turning Jimmy Olsen into a CIA agent in Batman vs. Superman. I also am probably the only person who prefers the Dora Milaje plot as unwanted fiances of Black Panther to maintain a peace. The movie versions are certainly badass and awesome but I'm a sucker for stories about unrequited love. What did I think about Shuri? I had no complaints about her and actually prefer her to the comic version--T'Challa should totally give the kingdom to her.

    The movie is beautiful from start to finish and does an excellent job of making a fantastical place real. Wakanda is not so much believable (when it starts with a cloaking field to keep it hidden--you've already left the realm of that description) but it is authentic. The choice of attire, architecture, and statements give a sense of how this nation might have been created. My view being that it was once a much more cosmopolitan culture with influences from all of Africa but which turned inward centuries ago.

T'Challa has a secret to share.
    In a real way, I think my biggest issue with the movie is T'Challa is the straight man for more interesting characters to bounce off of. I say that with all respect to Chadwick's Boseman, who does an immensely good job in every scene he's in. Still, I can't help but think Black Panther is a character who works better as an older more proactive character than one who is just starting his career as here. Still, T'Challa is on an arc throughout the story and completes it in a way which is both interesting and not at all superficial.

    Sill, the action in the movie is tremendous and visually stunning from beginning to end. Black Panther easily sells that he might be the single greatest fighter in the MCU and that's before Killmonger manages to one-up him.  I just prefer genius chessmaster T'Challa to the one in the movie.

    8/10

2 comments:

  1. I think I had the same problem with the Luke Cage series. Cage himself was rather bland I thought with the surrounding characters like Cottonmouth, Shades, Mariah, and Bobby Fish being much more interesting and multi-sided.

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  2. I liked Christopher Priest's take on Black Panther. However the change of Ross was necessary for the story. If they keep him the bumbling U.S. government agent, the "white backlash" would have been way worse and decisive.

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