So, Black Panther has been making a lot of money, and everybody talks about it as if it subverts a bunch of racial issues and puts focus on other problems and…I do not understand that mindset. The Blade trilogy of films, which is based on marvel comics about a black superhero, seems to have been forgotten rather quickly. I suppose I find trouble understanding the particular appeal of this movie as opposed to similar Marvel films. Allow me to explain:
Chadwick Boseman plays T’challa, the, shall we say, king incumbent in the film. This character was introduced in Civil War back in 2016, and he was better in that movie. I am not saying he did not deserve his own film in which to shine, but….I would argue that this film is muddled with unnecessary characters who end up detracting from the Black Panther and his role. In Civil War, he had a clear purpose and was only shown when he had a role to play in the events of the film. He was determined and fascinating in his complexity. However, here he appears mostly relaxed and calm, even during action scenes, outside of a few pivotal scenes late into the film. Showing the character in a peaceful situation is significant, but I found it somewhat disconcerting to have so little emotion coming from the protagonist. T’challa has lines about caring for his country and understanding how to follow in his father’s footsteps, but it simply failed to convey these issues outside of the dialogue itself. His sister Shuri is entertaining for her jokes and tech obsessions, and there is little else to say of her. Most of the events of the film revolve around conflict with the two villains, Andy Serkis’ Klaue and Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. The issue, really, is that Klaue is a terrible character. Andy Serkis is quite talented, of course, but at the end of the film I cannot imagine even the most ecstatic viewer discussing any of the scenes with Klaue. He is in far too much of the film for such a forgettable character. He is overly simplistic, bland, dull, and pointless. I will not spoil the plot, but I can say that, if Klaue did not exist in the film at all, I do not believe the narrative or any of the characters would be noticeably altered (with a possible exception of a side character who also barely belongs in the movie himself). I should not be able to think that so easily about an extremely prominent presence in the film, but it is the truth. On the other hand, Michael B. Jordan is quite effective in playing Killmonger, who seeks to challenge T’challa for the throne. T’challa also has a wonderfully entertaining bodyguard named Okoye. Martin Freeman’s turn as Ross is almost as forgettable and useless as Klaue, actually. I have a theory currently that both of those characters were added as afterthoughts to tie into the other Marvel films, and that is shameful. Also present are T’challa’s love interest and mother, who both seem to mostly exist to act in those roles, and not separately; I believe they have only one scene without T’challa present, and they immediately talk about him exclusively. This may all be the fault of writer-director Ryan Coogler, who is very talented, (as proven with Fruitvale Station) but his work has been very small-scale prior to Black Panther. Coogler may not be accustomed to having so many characters and special effects swirling around in a melting pot.
I have probably been overly negative thus far; Black Panther has some wild action scenes (including one with extensive use of my favorite bladed weapon, the chakram) and some great ideas, but the real star of the film is the country of Wakanda itself. The architectural design is masterful and breathtaking, and the cultural sensibilities are reflected by the aesthetic. I realize much of this is simply a series of computerized drawings, but the meticulous nature of the imagery, combined with the influence of the Wakandan technological advances within the film’s narrative, really stand out. No other Marvel film quite matches the visual design of Black Panther. When they showed Wakanda, the creators crafted a vibrant array of diverse and fascinating locations. I find this to be commendable work.
The music is uninteresting and basic. I would say most Marvel movies suffer from this problem; I do not believe much effort went into the use of music within the film. They probably should have used more of the awesome music from the trailers. I digress. There is nothing horrendous about the sound, but I cannot imagine trying to find the soundtrack to this film (and I do have a few of those; Little Miss Sunshine and Danny Boyle’s Trance come to mind).
This one is just Satisfactory. Summing up Black Panther, it is a gigantic bag of Chex Mix. It has some amazing elements, but it simply has too many characters and too much going on despite the 134 minute run-time. By spreading itself so thin, Black Panther causes most of its cast to seem wasted, both in presence and talent. I would still recommend it for Marvel enthusiasts, and it is not terrible, but it is far from the best offering in their cinematic universe.