Fresh, strong, and entertaining, this film is what every new Marvel and DC films should aim to be like. Shame they won't.
Last weekend “Black Panther” broke several box office and review records. “Best film of decade”, “a watershed moment in movie history”, “most amazingest thing to ever happen” and etc. they said, but is it really? Let’s have a look.
We pick off after the events of Captain America: Civil War (I think. Can’t be sure. I honestly lost track). After the untimely death of his father, Prince T’Challa now travels back home, Wakanda to officially become a King. And as a King of Wakanda, he must become greatest warrior and savior of Wakanda – Black Panther.
It’s not an easy task altogether. T’Challa is ready for this. He has been raised to take this responsibility. While he doubts whether he will be a good king for Wakanda, so do others. Soon T’Challa realizes there are forces who would like to lay claim to Wakanda throne and with that to assume the control of super-material called “vibranium.”
There are a lot of cliches in the story. From basic “we used to date, but we are totally cool now” and “how can I become like my father” all the way to “you get to choose what kind of king you would be” and a bit of “let’s all go to war now”. Main story arc is full of these annoying lines, which upset the overall plot.
The main story is heavily built on social injustice towards people of African descent. And while this story arc is fresh, interesting and engaging, it doesn’t affect much our main hero. I didn’t see the struggle that affected Black Panther directly. His main story arc, which for any comic film, should take him to a “bottom of the pit”, never really gets him there (emotionally at least). His biggest challenge is losing his throne and his Black Panther powers. In the end you have a limited transformation of character, almost no evolution of powers, linear flow of the arc. In that sense two main antagonists Erik Stevens and Klaue seem to be the most interesting characters in the film. And honestly demise of one of them was really unnecessary and, in my opinion, pointless.
What is weird that both hero and his nemesis share extremist opinions on the subject. One of them says “start the war”, other one says “don’t touch anything”. None of offers anything in the middle. It is not your regular Batman-Joker setup of “I will kill people – I will stop you”. And while this setup is also a valid, it is very confusing when in the end (trying to not spoil anything) the transformation takes our hero to realize something he knew he had to do from the beginning.
The pacing is very fast, but director did good job identifying and underlining emotional moments. There is good amount of witty one-liners from supporting cast. The coronation scene is very vivid and powerful. What I had problems with were the action scenes. I am not sure if it was director inexperience or just cinematic style Ryan Coogler decided to go for, but it felt more rugged, Transformer kind of action at times. Specifically during first part of the film. The action in the second half was opposite – well-organized and choreographed. At least you know who is hitting and who is injured.
What I did like a lot is that Wakanda is probably the best “fake” country ever designed and filmed in MCU, DCU or whatever other universe there is. It is not a collection of cliche elements copy-pasted from other cities, but a defined country that looks and feels real. It is well hidden from the rest of the world (so that no one knows what treasure Wakandians possess). Thus Wakanda acts as a third-world country. And the whole facade of poverty-ridden tribal society is contrasted by the riches and opulence of the hidden inner city. I appreciate that production designers decided to use a much richer image than a “soviet-war-torn Sokovia” in Avengers or “New-York-crazy Metropolis” in Man of Steel, and gave more of a unique and comprehensive design to Wakanda.
As I mentioned, I liked supporting cast more than the main. But that is hardly actor’s fault. Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther/King T’Challa is very believable. He manages to stay on track between becoming a “pessimistic” superhero or “boring” ruler of the country. His Black Panther feels powerful and brave. His King T’Challa feels determined and smart. Michael B. Jordan totally kicks ass as Erik Stevens and I actually wanted to see more of him to badass stuff. Andy Serkis as Klaue is just crazy. I really enjoyed performance by Danai Gurira as General Okoye. She is strong and very outspoken character. And though her role requires her to be a quiet adviser, she actually takes a role of a sidekick. This is something new. Usually this roles is reserved for hero’s friend or hero’s love interest (in this case Nakia played by Lupita Nyong’o).
I enjoyed the film a lot. Compared to other recent comic book films from Marvel and DC, this film stands out fresh, strong and entertaining. I would like to see more of Black Panther. It was surprise to me that Black Panther is actually a very complex hero, not some weird guy in a weird uniform jumping around scratching others. Because that was the feeling I got from Captain America. Unfortunately he will be part of new Avengers and hence will totally be dissolved in that unholy mess of random heroes and utter stupidity. What a shame.