Photo courtesy of IMDB
Story by Nick Lester / Contributing Writer and Andrew Wigdor / News Editor
“Black Panther” hit theaters this week. Whether you loved it, hated it or haven’t seen it yet, we have a read-worthy review for you. One of our contributors — as you’ll see below — praises the production, but our news editor offers a completely different perspective.
“Black Panther:” The Good
“Black Panther” is the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a franchise that hasn’t made a truly terrible movie yet.
This film is certainly no exception to that trend. It’s one of the most visually stunning movies in the MCU to date.
It’s true that “Black Panther” is very reminiscent of “The Lion King” in terms of both setting and plot: Both productions involve a royal cat in Africa trying to live up to his father’s legacy as the king of his tribe. However, doubting the quality of the movie because it borrowed a few plot points from its predecessors is like degrading “Captain America: Civil War” because it borrowed a few plot points from “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” You just don’t do it. Even if it is slightly unoriginal, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s terrible.
Speaking of Batman, if you’re a fan of his character, you’ll likely enjoy this movie because he and Black Panther are arguably similar in that they both live double lives — one as a well-known rich leader with access to ridiculously fancy technology and the other as a secret bad*ss who kills every bad guy who comes within a few feet of him.
The performances in “Black Panther” were also fantastic. A personal favorite was Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, who I believe to be the best Marvel villain since Loki. Even though he is, technically, the villain he actually has a legitimate motive that, I think, a large portion of the audience will connect with. In simple terms, Jordan completely masters his skill and leaves you wanting to root for him throughout the film.
I also commend “Black Panther” for its portrayal of women and African-American characters. In a world where damsels in distress are tired, old tropes, it’s nice to see a film portray women as strong, independent characters capable of defending themselves without having to rely on the help from one of the male. It was also refreshing to see a movie focused on African-American people that doesn’t revolve around drugs, racism or “the hood life.” Both concepts are over-played and it’s nice to see a film trash them.
The action sequences are also quite engaging. There’s a burglary scene toward the beginning of the film that’s one of the most creative robberies I’ve ever witnessed in a movie. I refused to look away for the screen — even for a split second — in fear that I’d miss something important.
“Black Panther” is easily one of the best MCU movies to date. Thanks to strong performfances, breathtaking visuals and unique directing from Ryan Coogler, it’s definitely worth seeing in theaters.
“Black Panther:” The Bad
“Black Panther,” the Ryan Cooglar-helmed superhero flick, premiered this weekend to rave reviews and over $200 million in box office cash. It also, despite many elements that I’ll get into later, was consistently and relentlessly praised by critics and fans as a game-changer and one of the greatest superhero movies ever created … spoilers: It’s not.
Before I get into exactly why the film is an average Marvel endeavor, I’ll explain my recent frustrations regarding the politics of movies. There has been an increasingly discouraging belief that the political and social implications of movies should come before the actual filmmaking involved in creating them, thrusting films that are completely average into the limelight due to their casts or political message. A recent New York Times article referred to “Black Panther” as a “defining moment for black America.” A CNN opinion article stated, “While the White House is putting down people of African descent, Hollywood is lifting us up — most spectacularly through the release of Disney-Marvel’s new movie, ‘Black Panther.'” Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently announced that the movie would be an “inspiration for people of all backgrounds.”
Now, you may be asking why I think any of this is an issue. I can’t possibly undermine that this movie may allow the next generation of African-American children to see a blockbuster with such great representation of the black community, and, in many ways, that’s a very valuable thing. However, it’s baffling when people use the fact that it is a milestone for African-American representation as an excuse for a lazy script and uninspired film. Yes, it’s great that there is an almost entirely black cast. Yes, it’s exciting to see such a thing in a major blockbuster. But, to act like this movie is some kind of masterpiece due to these elements is both dishonest and regressive.
Am I saying you can’t enjoy the film or think it’s a masterpiece? No. I’m simply stating that we should judge movies on the quality of the filmmaking and not the social and political implications.
With all that being said, why do I think the movie is terribly average? Well, to start, the script is a relatively cookie-cutter Marvel venture. It touches on some interesting political ideas but fails to flesh them out enough in favor of mindless and badly executed fight sequences. It’s not a terrible script. It just falls short of producing any meaningful or long-lasting ideas due to, I’m sure, Disney executives forcibly shoving certain plot elements into the bloated two hour run time.
There are also portions of the script in which characters make decisions that are clearly only made in service of moving the plot forward and not further characterization. I won’t spoil anything, but a character makes a turn in the film for almost no reason other than to increase the conflict. As for the aforementioned action sequences, many of them looked shockingly fake. There was some intriguing choreography and shot placements, but, for the most part, they were filled with dated CGI and lazy cinematography. It’s disappointing to see such visuals in light of films such as “Blade Runner 2049” being released within the last year. “Blade Runner 2049” has consistently stunning visuals that never looked artificial. And that film was made for approximately $50 million less than “Black Panther.”
Another element that the movie was shockingly praised for was its “world building.” Despite the film essentially introducing a brand new country — with new technology and culture and social aspects — it all feels so small and staged. Again, they are introducing to the audience a brand new country, and there is one street set, a field area, a laboratory and a throne room that we are given to look at for the majority of the film. The street set and the field, where the final battle is fought, looked incredibly artificial, despite supposedly taking place outside.
I also could never find myself feeling attached to any of the characters. All of their personalities were written flatly and, once again, artificial-feeling. There was not a single character that impacted me in a way that would leave a lasting impression. And, to that end, the humorous bits that were thrown in, assumedly by obligation to Disney, were god-awful. There was actually a “What Are Those?” joke … Ugh.
Most elements of the movie were bad or, more often, completely average. This evened the movie out to be completely forgettable, completely bland and just another venture utilized by rich CEO’s to sell toys to children. If you thought this movie was a masterpiece and not forgettable, don’t let me stop you from enjoying it. I would like you, however, to take some time and contemplate whether you enjoyed the movie for the movie and or because The New York Times or your Twitter friends said that you should.
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