Black Panther (2018)
Director: Ryan Coogler
Writers: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Actors: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis
Black Panther is very important film in the world of Blockbuster films. It marks an important step in diversifying the mainstream film industry with a more multicultural taste. Obviously this film isn't the first film to have a person of color as the main superhero. The Blade Series and Hancock are some to mention. However, what Black Panther proves is that being multicultural can succeed at the box office. It shows that its not about where the character is from, because if you make a good film (well..) then you are able to get the support needed for that. Hopefully this will bring out more variety in Blockbuster films so that we are able to see more interesting characters and backgrounds in these movies. Now. Although I do think this film is very important in many regards, I actually do not think it is a good film. It has taken me around three days to muster up the courage to write this review because of the overwhelming amount of praise this film is getting, along with the overwhelming hate anyone is getting for not liking this film. I will get to the response of the audience at the end of this review, but for now, I just want to talk about why I personally did not like this film.
Before getting into why I didn't enjoy this film, I want to give credit where credit is due. This film actually does many things well that I always criticize Marvel films for. First off, the soundtrack. I mean it wasn't something that was mind blowing but it was something that I actually took notice too and quite liked. Marvel has always had the blandest music ever and they never did anything memorable in that aspect other than maybe Guardians of the Galaxy. On the other side you have Wonder Woman, and that simple guitar riff that just gets stuck in your head. It is memorable and it really adds to the feeling of watching a superhero film. With Black Panther, you get that feeling to a degree. The interesting African instrumentals layered between some of the more hard hitting "action songs" were really interesting. Along with obviously some tracks by Kendrick Lamar and the crew at TDE. They did a good job, still wanted something more, but at least it was better than all the garbage music Marvel has been putting in their films for the past 10 years. Other than the soundtrack I enjoyed some of the visual aspects of the film. Not as much as say the colorful world of Thor Ragnarok, but it was still interesting. The colorful tribal clothing along with the beautiful African background added a lot to the film. Also I felt the scenes where the challenge for King was done were great. Both fights were by far my favorite scenes of the whole film. They just had so much character to them, what with all the different colored tribes around and the crystal blue water underneath. The fights were clear and you could actually see what was going on, unlike every other action sequence in this film. All in all, these two main points were the strongest aspects of the film to me. I guess I can throw in the villain, but I did not find him as appealing as everyone else is making him out to be. Anyway, now that we have all the positives out the way, time to get serious.
I know I just spent a whole paragraph praising Black Panther for what it does better than most of the other Marvel films, but this film in my opinion has some serious flaws. The first, and biggest flaw was the awful first half of the film. It was so dull, and so lifeless that I kept wanting to look at my phone most of the time. And if you know me, you would know that I never ever look at my phone while watching a film. Other than the waterfall scene, everything else was just nothing. The whole deal with Ulysses Klaue was such an unnecessary plot line. All it did was bring Killmonger into the story. The problem is, he really comes into the film after Klaue is dead, which was like an hour and ten minutes into the film. All this time could have been used to build up his character and make him have a bigger impact. But what we got was Black Panther goofing around trying to get Klaue. The whole plot line felt so weak. Okay we know he got some vibranium, but other than that he is nothing. Furthermore, you had Everett Ross, Martin Freeman's character, someone else who I thought was unnecessary. I understand he acts as this "link" for Wakanda to the outside world. But it could have been done a different way. What happened was Ross was shoehorned into the film and then the film kept on having to give him something to do in order to make it seem like he is useful. What this film needed other than all of these unnecessary subplots was just to focus on three things Wakanda, Black Panther, and Killmonger. The film would have been much more meaningful and I believe the themes would have come off more genuine. Speaking of themes, I felt like my issue with them all stems from the problems above. I feel like the themes are good to convey, and they should be conveyed. The film talks about the mentality of the oppressed and how they deal with being oppressed. On one side, Killmonger wants to arm them so that they can forcefully and violently fight back. While on the other side T'Challa wants to impower them with education and knowledge. As I said, the themes are good, and they need to be conveyed to such a wide audience. My problem with them is that they felt very forced due to the issues I talked about before. By having this long meaningless first half of the film without Killmonger, they had to force in this theme during the final battle since there was no other time to put it in. I wish they were able to flesh out his character in order to give us a reason why he thinks like this, and why he truly believes it. We get some explanation but again, I think it is very rushed. To sum up, I really feel like the film missed the ball by wasting alot of time on unnecessary aspects. In doing so they unfortunately sacrificed the impact of one of the best things about the film which is the message. I hope people can still take away something from the film even with the rushed approach.
Although I may seem to be done talking badly about the film, unfortunately I have a bit more to say. First off, I really despised the way this film handled tone. Black Panther could have been the perfect film for Marvel to try and do a full on serious film. All comic films don't need to be comedic, look at Nolan's Dark Knight series for example. I felt like this film needed to have more of a serious tone in order to be able to really impact audiences with the messages and themes they are trying to convey. Rather listening to Klaue make jokes for 10 minutes, we could have gotten something really impactful and touching. So since the film was already a bit more serious than other marvel films, the forced jokes felt even more annoying than they already are. For example, in The Avengers, I understand a bit of comic relief since they have a varying amount of characters and they already established this tone in previous films. However, with Black Panther, for most of the film you get this since of seriousness, and you understand the severity of the situation that is happening. So when suddenly you get a really lame joke forced in, it just makes it much more worse. Like the "What are those" joke was one of the cringiest scenes I have seen in recent times. Not only is it a dead meme, but it just wasn't funny. And that applies to most of the comedy in the film, it wasn't funny at all. The theater I was in was fully packed, and I could barely hear any real laughter coming out of the audience. It just left a sour taste in my mouth. Other than the forced comedy, I did not enjoy the action scenes one bit. Other than the challenge scenes on the waterfall, all the other action scenes were just a mess. You can't see what is happening. It just felt like a time filler rather than a meaningful part of the film. Also I felt the editing of the film to be a bit choppy throughout, but I feel like I'm just nitpicking now. Overall, I have a lot of problems with this film and they really disappointed me. Because I truly feel like this film could have been a really great and serious comic book film with a message that can resonate with audiences. But what we got was a mess of subplots and forced comedy layered between a serious story.
Before going into my concluding thoughts on the film, I want to address one thing which is the hype around it. I understand when people see something different and they naturally gravitate towards it and like it. I fully get that. What I don't get is attacking and hating people with differing opinions. An example I saw is that the other day, IGN posted a video titled "Did Black Panther Really Need Everett Ross?". I remember seeing it in my subscriptions list as soon as it came out. It was out for like 3 or 4 minutes and the dislikes were at 80% (Around 300 dislikes to 20 or so likes). The thing is that the video was around 6 minutes long, so I doubt any of them even finished it. This is obviously just one example, but I have seen many more examples of people incapable of accepting opposing opinions. I watched the IGN video, although I argued myself that Ross was useless, I didn't really like their points, but I wont hate on them for saying it. This toxicity is what is ruining a lot of the fun out of films and talking about them. I don't see the point in something if you can't criticize it. Reviews and thoughts at the end of the day will always be subjective, and it is why people gravitate towards single reviewers since they start understanding that person's taste. So I feel like the fun in talking about movies is looking at the opposing opinion and seeing how he/she thinks differently than you, then you can go on and explain why you see differently. I mean its 2018 and I can't believe I even have to explain all this. Some people have just gone overboard, again with this film specifically, even going as far as to call people who didn't like the film racists. Which is such a ridiculous notion. Anyway, I apologize for this rant but I really needed to say this since I know my opinions on this film are not popular. Which is fine, this is how I feel, and I would love to hear what you think about the film even if you fully disagree with everything I said.
Back to this film. As I said in the beginning of this review, Black Panther is an important step in the world of Blockbuster movies. I fully appreciate the messages and themes the film was trying to convey and I'm glad it is able to reach a wide audience. I also like the whole flavor of the film and how the colors along with the music just feels very African and it prides itself in being African. Even with all that, I still can't get into this film. At it's core I have too many issues with the whole film. The structure, the unfunny forced comedy, lazy action scenes, choppy editing, and really boring first half really hinders me from liking this film. I can't rate this film highly if I was bored out of my mind for two thirds of the time, I just can't. I understand so many people loved this film, and that's totally fine, I would love to hear why you did and hope you can also see where I am coming from. Moving forward, I hope we can see a Black Panther 2 that would not need to resort to cheap humor and wacky villains in order to keep it entertaining, I feel like there is enough in there to create a meaningful and thoughtful film on its own, and I hope I can witness that one day.