Movie Review: Black Panther (2018)

Released in 2018, Black Panther is the eighteenth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), based on the superhero of the same name, and directed by Ryan Coogler. Following on from both Avengers: Age of Ultron, and more directly Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman reprises his role as T’Challa, the new King of the super-advanced African nation of Wakanda, and simultaneously the defender of the country known as the Black Panther. T’Challa’s personal guard are led by the warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead), and his suit is constantly upgraded and tweaked on by his tech-wizard sister Shuri (Letitia Wight). T’Challa must balance leading his people, following the death of his father T’Chaka (John Kani), as well as answering all claims to the throne, including that of newcomer Erik Stevens (Michael B Jordan). Also reprising from Civil War, Andy Serkis plays the villainous Ulysses Klaue, a South-African black market dealer, while Martin Freeman also returns as Everett Ross, an American CIA agent.

+ Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa aka the Black Panther was once again really well played. His smaller, but still significant role in Captain American: Civil War was a solid introduction, but I was happy to see more of his personal life, especially the connection he has to his people now that he is king. Okoye (Danai Gurira) was perhaps my favourite new addition. I have not watched The Walking Dead in many years, so I can’t even say if her character on that is still even alive, but I always enjoyed her character there, and I enjoyed her character immensely here. Several minor characters were also really good here, M’Baku (Winston Duke), who did not use his comics moniker of Man-Ape, arguably for good reason, and Zuri (Forest Whitaker), a Wakandan elder were two standouts
+ so good they deserve a spot here for themselves: Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis have such incredibly good chemistry that they steal the show every time they are on screen, particularly when opposite each other. “Tolkein white guys” jokes aside, both these two were so much fun, I can’t wait to see both or either in future Marvel installments
+ the action was fun, due heavily to Panther’s acrobatic offense. I suppose Batman in Justice League might be the best comparison, with a similar stealth style as well as the technology-based super suit. Either way, T’Challa’s cat-like pouncing always made for a great visual

blackpanther_2.png
Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Okoye (Danai Gurira).

– converse to the first two above points, some of the acting was just god-awful. Michael B Jordan is a great actor (see: Chronicle, Creed), but whatever he was going for here as primary antagonist Erik “Kilmonger” Stevens was just not working for me. Similarly, Letitia Wright as Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, was just awkward and unlikable, but not in the way that ‘nerds’ are usually portrayed. I just wanted both characters off my screen, rather than see them get what they deserved
– again like the above, a handful of smaller characters were entirely unwelcome on my screen, including W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya (Black Mirror, Get Out)), who I just really wanted to either do something cool or bugger off entirely. He was far too passive for my liking, which didn’t seem to fit his character either way
– there were a few scenes from Captain America: Civil War, and I think Ross mentioned Zemo once, but overall I was disappointed at how little the rest of the MCU seemed to be of importance in this film. Klaue never even mentioned Ultron, who was responsible for him losing his arm, and nobody even mentioned Captain America or Iron Man, who had nearly torn Black Panther to shreds not a year ago
– I can’t stand Kendrick Lamar. It’s a petty negative, I admit, but I generally like movie soundtracks, but this was not one I am keen to listen to

> I was very pleased to see Florence Kasumba, albeit in a very small role, after her one-line show stealer in Captain America: Civil War: “Move, or you will be moved.” She deserves more.

Should you see this film: This was almost the absolute definition of a 50/50 film for me: for every actor I enjoyed, there was one I couldn’t stand. For every action or drama scene I enjoyed, there was another that went on far too long or was filled with stupid stunts. I suppose I may not be the target demographic, or maybe, as I’ve said for the past however many Marvel movies now, superhero movies are just losing their impact on me, but this was one you can absolutely take or leave as it is, and I’d suggest leaving it.

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