…I truly believed that “Black Panther” was going to be the first big disappointment of 2018, and I was sorely mistaken…
NONE/LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD: INTRODUCTION:
As I sat last night in a theater watching “Black Panther”, while my phone was outside, along with many other phones in the care of the security for the Black Panther advance screening for which I attended, I felt many emotions, but disappointment was not one of them.
The film sits at a cool 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, and even though this score is likely to drop, it will most certainly tie, if not surpass, the scores of the two highest rated superhero films on the review aggregate, which are “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man”, both sitting at 94% on the site.
That sets the bar high, and with the recent disappointment of critical darlings like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (a disappointment in regards to the mixed audience reception) and “Blade Runner 2049” (a disappointment in regards to box office results), I was skeptical of whether this film would do well or not.
I was especially skeptical because of “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, which is already pegged to be a disappointment for Disney. Five years ago, it seemed that Disney could simply not have flops. Yes, they had some missteps like “John Carter”, but everything that Marvel touched was a hit, and they had just recently acquired “LucasFilm” and began their reboots of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, etc.
Now, it seems like even with 100-200 million spent in budgeting for the most recent Disney films, they can’t seem to get even VFX right, as most of them fall flat when it comes to CGI. Star Wars: The Last Jedi had the somewhat infamous “Leia Poppins” scene, in which Princess Leia somehow uses the force to levitate herself from the vacuum of space and into the safety of a spaceship, Ant-Man had most of its fight scenes failing CGI wise, Rogue One had the silly CGI Leia, and I could name many other examples of obvious green-screened scenes.
Given the fact that almost every review on Rotten Tomatoes for Black Panther referenced it’s lackluster CGI, especially within the 3rd act, I was genuinely scared that this film would be a disappointment. I thought that I was going to leave the theater disillusioned like how I left the theater for Star Wars: The Last Jedi (I watched the film with no spoilers or critical statements being in my mindset, but I was still disappointed by the weak dialogue and uneven tone). Yes, I truly believed that “Black Panther” was going to be the first big disappointment of 2018, and I was sorely mistaken…
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE FILM:
This film is a Marvel Studios 2018 superhero film, starring Chadwick Boseman (As T’Challa AKA the “Black Panther”), Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger, the main antagonist), and co-starring Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker, and is set in the fictional country of “Wakanda”, which is a 3rd world country to the outside world, and an innovative dystopian city to the residents of Wakanda.
The film manages to raise the bar for all further hollywood comic book blockbusters, or rather, all hollywood blockbusters. It somehow manages to center entirely on the fictional city of “Wakanda”, and the different traditions, bloodlines, feuds, etc. within the city, while also existing in the MCU, and also having interconnected scenes in California, Britain, and South Korea that somehow still tie in to the Wakandian narrative. It even manages to create a completely new mythology, rather than films like “Spider-Man: Homecoming” that center on connections to the larger Cinematic Universe.
It also somehow manages to contain in itself a journey of self discovery and family. T’Challa has to learn how to truly be a king, instead of just being entitled to the king role, like his father was. He must right his father’s mistakes while also forging his own path. He also must come to terms with the fact that his father killed his very own brother, and as a result of that action, ended up creating the monster that is Killmonger, who is T’Challa’s cousin. The themes truly do stand out, as they are both concise and articulate.
This film manages to raise the bar for all further hollywood comic book BLOCKBUSTERS, or rather, all hollywood blockbusters
The acting is amazing, as you would expect. Chadwick Boseman, who starred as T’Challa in Civil War, as well as starring in films such as “42”, “Marshall”, and “Message From The King”, does a wonderful job as the three dimensional T’Challa, as he finishes the character’s two film arch started in Civil War. He manages to play a king that is strong and confident and yet still has much to learn, and the amount of empathy he gives to the man trying to kill him (Killmonger) gives you the feeling that he’s not just a good king, but a good person. Michael B. Jordan does a great job as Killmonger, playing a villian who is still somewhat likeable, and appeals to the audience of the oppressed. He believes that Wakanda was wrong for not helping the oppressed over the years, and ultimately, he has a point. Whitaker and Kaluuya play small roles, but the amount of emotion they put into their relatively small roles elevate the scenes they are in. As for the rest of the cast, the performances were all amazing, but Whitaker, Kaluuya, Jordan, and Boseman ultimately are the standouts of the film.
CAUTION! SPOILERS AHEAD:
As for the storyline, it’s pure genius. A seemingly disconnected scene at the beginning takes place in Oakland, California, in 1992, and shows two thugs who are planning some type of heist, who turn out to be both T’Challa’s uncle (N’Jobu) and a younger version of Whitaker’s character (Zuri), who are actually planning to give stolen Vibranium (The metal found within Wakanda) to the oppressed people of the world, as means to rise up against social injustice. N’Jobu originally believes Zuri to be an American with no knowledge of Wakanda, but he turns out to be a spy who has been watching over N’Jobu for the king, T’Chaka.
After this revelation, N’Jobu feels betrayed, and pulls out a gun, planning to murder Zuri. T’Chaka, choosing a loyal friend over his own blood, kills his brother with his panther claws. He then decides to leave N’Jobu’s son, choosing to live a lie versus the truth. Little does he know that it will all come full circle when T’Chaka is murdered and Killmonger finds his way to Wakanda to finish what his father started.
The story is a self contained story of love, betrayal, and discovery, and it shows the perfect example of the “Butterfly Effect” in which one small event can cause a chain reaction that ultimately can change the world. This event that takes place in 1992 sets in motion the events of Black Panther, which may just be the most important MCU film thus far.
Overall, the visuals, acting, writing, dialogue, and a stand out composition by Ludwig Göransson (Who incorporates music by Kendrick and The Weeknd with traditional African songs and instruments) help to make this film more than just a run of the mill superhero flick. There are some faults, like the CGI in some cases (Like the third act), and some difficulty in pacing, but in my opinion, most of the bad CGI helps to create a feel of the movie, in a cheesy way that also defines movies like the original Star Wars and Star Trek films, and the pacing is fixed midway through the first act.
While most people will be quick to point out the faults in CGI, the third act is still effective in terms of wrapping up the story. Killmonger decides to die a peaceful death, rather than compromise his beliefs, and its an emotional death sequence, because of a callback to earlier in the film, where he mentions that his father promised that one day he would peer out of Wakanda as the sun set, for which was described to him as beautiful. In his final moments, he was able to peer apon the sun as it set, as a new day became near (which is a great metaphor/foreshadow for the change in Wakanda that we will see in the mid-credits scene, which essentially serves as the film’s ending). Ultimately, the third act does the villain justice as well as the hero, who actually learns from his mistakes (versus just going back to his old ways, ahem, Tony Stark in Iron Man 2) and decides to share Wakanda’s resources with the rest of the world (as he announces in the mid-credits scene/the ending to the United Nations). This ending is important because with Wakanda’s resources and Tony Stark’s mind and resources, weapons will most likely be made out of vibranium that will help in the next Avengers film, as they battle Thanos, the most powerful being in existence.
SIDENOTE ABOUT THE SECOND POST-CREDIT SCENE:
For those who were wondering what the scene would entail, it shows Bucky AKA The Winter Soldier waking up from the cryogenic sleep he volunteered to be put into in Civil War. If you’ll recall, in Civil War, he could become a sleeper agent after a series of spoken commands, and decided to be frozen in Wakanda until he could be cured. This post-credit scene shows him up and ready for the epic battle that will most certainly occur in Infinity War.
Overall, the visuals, acting, writing, dialogue, and a stand out composition by Ludwig Göransson (Who incorporates music by Kendrick and The Weeknd with traditional African songs and instruments) help to make this film more than just a run of the mill superhero flick.
NO SPOILERS AHEAD:
Ultimately, this is the film we all need right now. It’s a film about unity, about fixing mistakes, and about cultural appropriation. It’s also a blockbuster film that doesn’t serve as one big trailer for the sequel or the next team up film, but rather, serves as a stand alone film that, if your willing to listen closely, might just teach you a thing or two. It’s everything that this movie was supposed to be, and more.