Research & Review

Film Review: Black Panther was just OKAY

With a headline like this, who needs friends, amirite?

I realise that this isn’t a terribly popular opinion, but Black Panther was just ok. Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t a bad movie as super hero flicks go, and there are certainly far worse out there *cough* X-Men Origins: Wolverine *cough* but it it simply doesn’t live up to the overwhelming hype it has been receiving since release:

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Before I go any further I will grant a few positive points of my own:

Wakanda is awesome!

The action is awesome!

The costumes are awesome!

And… actually that’s about it.

The plot however was the same mediocre cookie-cutter variety that we’ve all seen a hundred times before.

1. Good guy is good; bad guy is bad.
2. Good guy loses mid-plot encounter with bad guy.
3. Good guy makes a dramatic comeback for the final showdown.
4. Everyone lives happily ever after.

We get it.

In fact this is almost the exact plot outline of the first Thor movie Thor 2011 which was also kinda meh.

Now I like Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordon; they’re cool. As the lead hero and villain they carry the movie pretty well with their opposing backstories and revolutionary antics: one African royalty coming into his throne while struggling to balance tradition with progress; the other a bad kid from the block with dreams of facilitating a worldwide black uprising in the name of justice.

What fun!

But at the end of the day it’s just all so predictable (and more than a little on-the-nose). If you haven’t already seen the film, I couldn’t even spoil it for you if I wanted to; you already know how it ends.

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There has been some talk about Killmonger (the bad guy) being the best villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker The Dark Knight 2008, but come on… really? He’s a fine villain and all but I predict he’ll be forgotten as quickly as Obadiah Stane Iron Man 2008 or Red Skull Captain America: The First Avenger 2011. Do you even remember them? If so then kudos, you’re probably a fan of the comic books as well as the MCU. For the average movie-goer however, not on your life.

There are good reasons why Heath Ledger’s Joker is still regarded so highly 10 years later; the character was deep and difficult to understand or predict allowing for plenty of discussion into his motivations and mysterious origins. If you think the same can be said of Killmonger you’re kidding yourself.

There’s more than a little something to be said about the message Black Panther imparts on its audience and how it relates to the real world. My personal takeaway is that helping people is good and arming angry people is bad. You could go deeper if you felt so inclined, but this is a Marvel super hero flick; they’re not really supposed to be that nuanced.

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Let’s talk about the African elephant in the room…

Certain critics (many) have made a point of praising the (almost) all-black lead cast. Personally I don’t care too much about this fact one way or the other, and given the setting I think it rather obvious that black people should be featured predominantly. It would be weird if they weren’t, right?

Good job for acknowledging that Africa is a place, Marvel!

Either way this is not a valid argument for the film’s success or failure. Actors stand on their merits, not their skin colour. If the exact same film took place on the planet Kalipso inhabited by orange people, I wouldn’t be any more or less impressed, and in 2018 this is not the standard by which we should be analysing films.

If you’re of the impression that black people haven’t had a black super hero role-model before now then I’m afraid you’re simply wrong.

This writer’s personal favourite black super hero happens to be Blade Blade 1998 played by Wesley Snipes followed by Spawn Spawn 1997 played by Michael Jai White (because they’re awesome, not because they’re black).

Both films go way back to the 90’s so let’s not pretend that black super heroes are something new. Then again, perhaps you feel Hollywood has been neglecting black super heroes in recent years, in which case… fair nuff.

Indeed there is a point to be made that Africa has been neglected as the setting of super hero films for some time, in which case props to Marvel again for expanding its horizons.

Please have a read of this particularly moving review by Ivan Joseph for whom Black Panther had a profound effect.

As it happens (and in case it wasn’t obvious) I’m a white guy. It’s therefore quite possible that I’m missing the point as to why this movie is so significant. If you think I am then please leave a comment telling me what a jackass I am. Cheers.

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In reflection, I look forward to seeing more of Black Panther in future Marvel installments, and I hope the character makes a comeback just like Thor did in his most recent debut Thor: Ragnarok 2017 – the best Marvel film to date in this writer’s opinion. For now though, I remain nonplussed by the whole shindig.

Until next time, praise Mother Africa!

– J.S.Worth