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Reviews Comments: A good-but-not-great Marvel Black Panther 2018 film/book review by GKG

Black Panther is good. Is it one of the best Marvel movies? No, but it slots comfortably amongst the good ones, and confirms that Marvel is on a winning streak when it comes to quality outings.

What Black Panther does well, it does very well. The story, while formulaic and fairly predictable, is weighty and dramatic enough to feel invested in. The acting is all-around excellent, with standout performances from Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan and a very solid supporting cast. Wakanda\'s design is gorgeous when it is allowed some time to sink in and shine, with particular attention to the costume and makeup work, which consistently remain vibrant and striking without merely feeling like a hodgepodge of awkwardly-digested influences. The music is surprisingly good when it\'s allowed to do its own thing. Erik Killmonger is one of the most compelling antagonists in recent superhero movie memory, and Ulysses Klaue makes for a very entertaining, hammy and quirky villain while he\'s on-screen. Ryan Coogler manages to put some of his usual directorial flourishes on screen, giving the movie more of a visual identity.

That said, the film does have a few flaws that add up and hold it back from greatness. The special effects can get outright bad at times, with very noticeable and distracting CGI; the supporting cast, while well-acted, can feel somewhat bland and lacking in quirks compared to the main characters; the dialogue has a tendency to overexplain and feels more concerned with delivering big, meaningful speeches than creating enjoyable and organic exchanges between characters; the humor is very hit-or-miss, with some jokes coming in at fairly inappropriate moments (Thor:Ragnarok had the same problem, but it feels stranger here, due to the movie moving away from comedy); finally, the film\'s much-touted politics come across as very safe and don\'t truly offer any intelligent insights into real-world problems.

Overall? One more solid stone to the Marvel edifice.

PS: To anyone pretending that this is the first Marvel movie with a \"directorial voice\": no it\'s not. The two GOT Gs are *very clearly* Sean Gunn movies. Iron Man 3 is *very clearly* a Shane Black film.

Comments

  • TheRealYuma
  • 26th Mar 18
Actually, interestingly enough, Iron Man 3 is ultimately not Shane Black\'s film. His vision had a female as the villain. What happened? Marvel thought that a female villain wouldn\'t sell toys. Shane Black himself said that Marvel corporate made him change the villain to a male character in an Uproxx interview. Damn shame too because Tony Stark fully shedding his playboy persona would have been far more pronounced if they had stuck with a female villain.
  • GKG
  • 26th Mar 18
It is still very much a Shane Black film. Takes place over Christmas? Check. A kidnapping as a plot device? Check. Snarky, referential dialogue? Check. Just because he didn\'t have total control doesn\'t mean it doesn\'t have a directorial voice. By that same logic, BP isn\'t the director\'s movie because it\'s not his original, 4-hour-long cut.
  • jakobitis
  • 27th Mar 18
Yeah I would have to agree that IM 3 definitely has the thumbprint of Shane Black all over it (albeit with a bit of studio tinkering/micromanagement). That said, just because BP isn\'t the first to have a clear \"director\'s voice\" doesn\'t meanthatvoice shouldn\'t still be lauded.
  • GKG
  • 30th Mar 18
That I agree with. I was more arguing that because people seem very, very intent on shitting on every single other Marvel movie in order to prop that one up, because it\'s not enough that it\'s a good Marvel movie, it has to be THE BESTEST MARVEL MOVIE EVER GUYS and a flawless masterpiece of cinema.
  • Robotnik
  • 30th Mar 18
What do you mean when you say that the film\'s politics come across as \"safe\", just out of curiosity?
  • GKG
  • 31st Mar 18
It's a fairly standard "extremism and isolationism are bad and the world would be much better if everyone was nice to everyone else" kind of message. It's not a BAD message, mind you, but I've heard pretty much the same one in every single Marvel movie. Not that I wanted the movie to preach black revolutionary politics at me for its whole lenght, but maybe getting a tiny bit more into African issues (beyond "things are bad because we are oppressed") would have helped.
  • Robotnik
  • 22nd May 18
When I look back on it after the fact, I think it feels like this film has some vaguely black nationalist sympathies. That\'s not a criticism in itself, because I don\'t have a problem with black nationalism in principle and it can promote whatever message it wants, but unless you can identify with Black Panther\'s social commentary, a lot of it might just fall flat, especially in terms of characterization.

To compare, I find Thanos in Infinity Wars sympathetic because despite being a genocidal, god-like, alien conqueror, his motivations are more or less altruistic, and he\'s entirely capable of some warped kind of empathy. Killmonger doesn\'t have that. Outside the context of the film\'s social critcism, he\'s an arrogant, self-pitying douchebag who has more in common with Ronan the Accuser than anyone else.

As for Black Panther himself, he\'s pretty clearly supposed to be developing into a merciful paragon (see him agreeing with some of Killmonger\'s criticisms, even though he has no real reason to), but it ends up hindering him more than it helps. If he\'d killed Klaue, he\'d have retained the Border Tribe\'s loyalty and Killmonger wouldn\'t have been able to use his body as an in. If he\'d killed Killmonger, he would\'ve retained the throne and avoided in-fighting between his and Killmonger\'s loyalists, thereby staving off a lot of bloodshed. The only time he decides to spare someone without it backfiring is with M\'Baku, and if he\'d killed either of the other two above, it wouldn\'t have made much difference if he\'d killed M\'Baku anyway.

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