Black Panther: Callum’s Take

Black Panther

What can you say about the highest rated superhero film of all time? Black Panther is the latest film by Marvel studios. After his first appearance in Captain America Civil War; there has been a lot of hype surrounding the character’s return in his own stand-alone film. The idea is to make this as different from the other Marvel films as they dare. Ryan Coogler is hired to direct. The world is promised to be new and bold. The plot promises to be different. The themes it tackles promise to be the most mature of the entire MCU. Does it really deliver this?

Black Panther has just been crowned king of Wakanda – a technologically advanced yet sheltered African country. He aims to first save his country from a South African arms dealer who stole their technology decades before. However, his heroic path is halted by the arrival of a new villain. One with the right to challenge the Panther to become king and shake the entire world as he does so. All while doing this, he is slowly discovering what it means to be both, a good king and a good man.

If I were to give only one bit of praise to this film, it would be to Wakanda. This is a very fun and interesting culture. Mixing African traditions with high-tech sci-fi must have been a tough challenge for all involved. But it does work very well. I do wish that I saw more of it, as we are actually very limited in what we do see of Wakanda, but I was impressed with even the little details. It feels lived in and very much like a civilisation that would exist today given the chance. It helps that the world in this film is also the main driving force of the story. Should their tech really remain a secret? What would happen if it fell into the wrong hands.

Also helping was the films villains. Michael B Jordan – who’s last superhero film was Fantastic 4 (or Fant4stic), so the less said about that – plays one of the greatest villains in Marvel history. He’s complex, yet understandable. You get his motives and buy the performance completely. He is a psycho who kills lot of people, and yet he’s not entirely wrong in his goals. Jordan and Coogler have worked together before and are clearly comfortable with each other, which really helped. He’s just a great villain, and for Marvel that’s something special. Even more special is that we also have another good villain too. Andy Serkis reminds me why he’s one of my favourite actors in this. He’s having so much fun in this film, it’s intoxicating. He laughs, you laugh. It’s not often a superhero villain is this much fun to watch.

Coogler’s direction is very good throughout. He directs his actors very well. Chadwick Bosman does a great job as the Black Panther, feeling just as fresh as in Civil War. I also really liked Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman and Letitia Wright in their roles too. And Coogler brings the same character moments and visual distinction he displayed in Creed. Don’t get me wrong, they are both very different films, but you can also tell that the same man is behind them both. There’s even a nice use of techno-African chanting going on in the music at times, which was certainly a welcomed, if strange choice.

There’s no going on without mention of the big news of the film. This is a mostly black cast, filmed by a black director. It’s very similar to what we had last year with Wonder Woman; at least in how it represents the much longed for diversity in Hollywood. Now, this isn’t the first black superhero film, the amazing Blade came out in the late ‘90’s. But, there is no denying that this does represent a nice step for the genre. Just like Wonder Woman. It’s not something I’d blow out of proportion, but I would be surprised – and immensely disappointed – if this didn’t broaden people’s and studios minds, both for casting and representation.

But, again like Wonder Woman, Black Panther is sadly hampered by the fact that it’s just a middling superhero film in the end. The characters, outside of the villains, are pretty one note for a start. They’re all well performed. It’s just little things like Black Panther being made a little too over-powered. This has become a common thing with Marvel and it just makes their films more boring to me.

The action is okay.

There are some stand out moments, but it’s mostly just serviceable. However, it’s the story and the effects that let Black Panther down. It feels like we have two films playing at once. We’ve got a decent enough, but not very engaging James Bond thriller – where our hero must stop Andy Serkis from selling a weapon to threaten the world. And we’ve got a strong, if messily closed, Shakespearian fantasy thriller with Michael B Jordan. The two don’t mix too well and cause a huge clash of tones in the middle. It’s a tad too long and there was a point where I was feeling a little bored.

The effects, though, are awful! Sometimes they’re pretty good. There’s some nice work on the Panther suit and some establishing shots of Wakanda are good. But it’s mostly bad. And I mean early 2000’s CGI bad. There’s a battle at the end that gave me haunting images of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. There’s a fight scene on top of a waterfall near the beginning – there’s a crowd watching the fight and certain members of the crowd were clearly added in later. It’s really strange to see effects this bad in a Marvel film – although, thinking about it they were pretty weak in Spider-Man Homecoming and Avengers Age of Ultron too. Effects do not make a great film, but when the film is this effects heavy, it’s a little hard to ignore.

Black Panther is a good Marvel film that you should definitely watch. It’s just a little over hyped. It has its issues, but it’s also visually distinct from the other Marvel films. I’d probably say that I admired it more than I enjoyed it. I do hope that this leads to a better and more diverse Hollywood down the line. But as a Marvel films, I’d say it’s one of the middling crowd. I think I’m just sick of superheroes. That is not this films fault, that’s been building up for the better part of a decade for me – but it hasn’t changed my views either.

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Callum spends most free days with friends (mostly watching films, to be honest), caring for his dog, writing, more writing and watching films whenever he can find the chance (which is very often).