In the shadow of the looming Infinity War; a film which has been in the making ever since the end credits of the first Avengers film in 2012 (with some of the groundwork being laid as early as 2008), Marvel have released Black Panther; a character who was first introduced only recently in Captain America: Civil War, who has now got his own full movie, which is NOT an origin story (given how the character was already previously established, similar to Spider-man: Homecoming), and has been getting absolutely sterling reviews all across the board. 9/10, 10/10, “Amazing”, “The movie we have been waiting for”…
But I would have to disagree. I did not like it.
How as a white male, it is going to be difficult to say that I dislike Black Panther without sounding racist, but let me assure you that the reason I did not like this film because its central focus is Africa and its cast predominantly black, even if you replaced every person with a milky whites and moved the setting to focus around California, and the film would have still been a bit rubbish.
Besides… I have a lot of black friends (classic white guy excuse).
Now that we have got that out of the way, I will proceed.
Now I am a reasonable man, so maybe it had something to do with the fact that I am not as clued up on the source material of Black Panther as I am with some of the other Avenger/Marvel characters, so I was not prepare for what I was letting myself into, but given how I had already seen him in Civil War, in which they had explained his origins, that I knew enough of the character enjoy the film. Although, saying that, I have gone into other Marvel films without knowing anything (such as Guardians of the Galaxy) and thoroughly enjoyed it.
But I think I was just no prepared for how silly I felt the overall premise of Wakanda was. The fact that there was this secret metropolis hidden in the middle of Africa, a city with hover vehicles, super fast healing properties, superhero making plants, neon lights, and ridiculous technology, all covered over an invisible dome for hundreds (possibly thousands) of years, all the while, the rest of the continent is dying, starving, and allowing their fellow countrymen to suffer. As well as when aliens for another world attacked years earlier, and all the other Marvel related stuff that has happened, Wakanda and all of its helpful technology just decided to stay in their little corner of the world and let people die.
I know that they kept themselves secret to protect their own people, but I found it a little hard to believe that they would be so cold hearted and self-absorbed, and since they were, I found it difficult to root for them. Not to mention the Science Fiction look of their secret city looked silly.
This is just nit-picking really, the main reason that I did not like Black Panther was because it was a bad film. It was dull. If you took away the unique African setting, it was a dull superhero film. The main villain, played by Michael B Jordan, was alright, but at the end of the day, he is not memorable, no more than Malekith from Thor: The Dark World, or Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy (both regarded as pretty lame villains). In fact when shit kicked off, he worn an incredibly similar outfit as Black Panther did, removing even his own unique look.
Personally I thought he was a little tooooooo American for my liking. I know his contrast to the people of Wakanda and 99.9% of the cast in the film (who all spoke with African accents), was intentional and it was suppose to stand out, but I felt Michael B Jordan’s lines had been written for him, in a similar way that Will Smith’s lines in movies are all the same style. Like in a scene when Black Panther emerges from a wreckage in the middle of a tribal battleground, stating this that or the other in his thick African accent, Michael B Jordan replies with things like “Sup!” and “blast this clown” – when speaking to his henchmen (who are tribe members with spears), and it all just felt a bit stupid.
The main focus was the fact that it was set in Africa, and the story was heavily focused around it, they used the continent of Africa in the promo posters, and they used a lot of African tribal rituals and rites and what-not, which is fine, but it is not enough to carry a film alone. You need to have a descent storyline, and Black Panther did not. It spent the first half of the film dealing with Andy Serkis’ character (who was one of the best things in this film, I have to admit. I enjoyed his reprisal of his South African mercenary; Klaw), which only served as a prologue to Michael B Jordan’s character; Killmonger (which is a bit similar to Warmonger; the villain in Iron Man, but we can’t hold the makers of this film accountable for that if Killmonger is a real Black Panther villain), and then that was when the main story actually kicked in, which, by then, was already nearly two thirds of the way through.
Killmonger was able to easily *SPOILERS until the end of the paragraph* take over the throne of Wakanda, and lead his newly acquired people to attack their former king.
Personally the character who betrays Black Panther, did so for such wishy-washy reasons, and was happy to try and murder his friend, despite the fact that it was Killmonger’s fault that Black Panther didn’t complete his mission. It all felt like sloppy writing and bad reasons behind their actions.
Danai Gurira’s character (the actress who plays Michonne in The Walking Dead) would not help stop Killmonger’s actions because she was too loyal to the throne itself, not just who sat there, but then just thought “actually fuck all that” when it had already gone too far and most of the damage was gone. It was just written very sloppily.
While we are on the subject of spoilers, and sloppy writing, Forest Whitaker’s character was a pointless addition. His death meant nothing to anyone as we did not have enough time with the character to get to know him, but we were subjected to a long and apparent emotional death scene, even though I couldn’t tell you what real relievence he had to the overall plot.
I did like how though that the actor who played the young Forest Whitaker, still had his infamous eye. And speaking of eyes, it is impossible to not notice that Black Panther’s dad; the former King, must have had a stroke or something since we last saw him in Civil War, as I couldn’t help but constantly be draw to his face and ignore what was actually going on. But I suppose that is not his fault, and now I feel bad for bringing it up.
There was a number of wishy-washy convenient situations that occurred in the film, such as when the other tribe have found Black Panther and were (literally) keeping him on ice, despite the fact that it would have been a better storyline if the outcast tribal leader took the last flower juice and became as powerful as Black Panther, but instead decided to sack off absolute power and help some king that he doesn’t like or respect. As well as how the CIA would allow some random African king to witness an interrogation and be allowed to freely wander whatever police station they were in with their spears.
After my comment about how Andy Serkis was probably one of the best things in this film, I’d better show a little hate towards the white people, so in that respect I think it is time to say that Martin Freeman’s character was a colossal waste of time. If they threw him in to make up the numbers of white people in this film, then it was a total waste of time as Bucky was already being held there after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Why did they just not use him?
While Martin Freeman was good in the role (though I can’t get on board with American accent), his character was irrelevant. Even a moment near the end when you thought he was doing something that will ultimately end in his death, it turned out to be nothing but a waste of time.
Going back to my earlier point, since the focus of the film was Africa, and everything, why did they feel the need to throw in the same type of comedy that the Marvel films are now well known for, following Guardians of the Galaxy? It just didn’t suit the style or the tone of the film. Even the other tribe, who were suppose to be an evil outcast tribe (who I actually found myself rooting for because the leader was one of the better characters of the film, yet he is dramatically under used) used this same style of comedy, and it just felt Americanised.
With regards to the action, which is sort of what these films are really all about, I found it uninteresting. I could not think of a fight or action sequence that was actually worth watching. The main battle at the end was a bit of a bust, even when they randomly threw in armoured Rhinos randomly (I mean when did they mention they did that? Sure we saw a rhino earlier in the film, but that was it! There was no evidence that they used them in battle), and the final showdown with the main villain was based around a simple gimmick and kept cutting away to other scenes, making me lose interest quickly in the fight.
Most of the battles were noticeably CGI, and when it is primarily like this, it looks too computerised and detaches the audience from it as it is completely unrealistic (which I know sounds silly given the films context).
Black Panther himself was a bit non-monumental. He kind of felt a little like a background character, as the film focused more on the setting and the villain, which both felt either silly, or a bit of a misfire.
If it feels like a lot of these points are nit-picky, then that is exactly what it was. It was a film that was full of small holes, which when you mount it all up, it is not enough to hold any kind of substance. This is all surrounding my major qualm with this film, which is that it feels, personally, like pandering to the black community. It was such a big deal that the main character is black and that Africa is the central focus of the film, I have no problem with that, but it is not enough to carry the film alone. It felt like white people writing it specifically for black people, if I am honest, purely based on the fact that Black Panther is black, instead of focusing on the character himself and telling a good story with the source material available.
Overall I felt the film was overrated. It was sloppily written and a little bit of pandering. Even though the source material is a little silly, there was something good that can be made from it, but this was not it.
It did not add much to the main plot of the MCU and was just a bit of a throwaway film. While Black Panther himself was a good character in Civil War, this was because he was not the centre of the story, and the character is much better when standing in the background helping to build up the numbers, rather than a whole film focused on him.
When it comes to Marvel films, there are some that you would see and then watch again later down the line, because it was a good film, and then there are films that you watch one to keep up to date with the MCU storyline (as missing one will throw you out a bit) and then never see again, and regardless of all the praise that this film has been getting, Black Panther would not be a movie I watched again by choice.