Leading up to its opening weekend, Marvel Studios' Black Panther movie was tracking to bring in around $180million dollars, and its Rotten Tomatoes aggregate score was resting at "97% Fresh." This means it was pretty much universally loved and praised by professional critics, and audiences across the US were eager as fuck to see it for themselves. It was being praised as "the greatest superhero movie ever made," and touted as having the most original storyline for anything Marvel had put out yet. At the end of its opening weekend it cleared $201million, and it seemed like everybody and their brother had seen it and LOVED it.
Okay... But what did YOU think of it?
I thought it was one of the better Marvel movies, but it was hardly the greatest superhero film of all time, and far from the greatest flick starring an almost all black cast (that would be Shaft or Black Dynamite; can you dig it?). That opinion doesn't make me a bad person, does it?
No, that OPINION doesn't.
Anyway, Black Panther was enjoyable, and it was different enough from most everything that Marvel and DC had given us before that I found that I had a real appreciation for its attempt to deliver something quite distintctive in an oversaturated genre. I hope more Marvel movies (and superhero flicks in general) learn from it and continue to try for something unique and original in the future... But Panther was far from a life-changing experience, which I somehow thought it would be after all those early reviews.
That's 'cause you're not black. This is the first black superhero movie ever, and it IS a big deal.
I can see that. This is the first hugely-budgeted superhero event film with an all black cast, a black director, and it's actually SET in Africa... I can see its importance to audiences who had to sit though 18 Marvel movies so far, featuring the whitest of white guys and gals ever, with a few black sidekicks thrown in along the way. I can understand its value in that regard. But for this review, I will only tackle my thoughts on Black Panther as it stands on its own as a movie.
Fine. So, tell us, Whitey McWhiterson, what's Black Panther all about?
It's about Wakanda, the African country that for all the world appears to be a poor, third-world shithole filled with nothing but impoverished farmers and some wild antelope, but in actuality is a super-science wonderland of wealth and awesomeness, whose sky-scraper-filled capital city is hidden from all the other countries on the planet by a giant hologram of a mountain.
It's about how T'Challa, the new king of Wakanda, has to take the thrown vacated by his deceased father (as seen in Captain White-merica 3: Civil War) and lead his people into a new era. But it's not all rose-petals at his feet, and royal-penis-cleaning baths (that's a Coming to America joke), seeing as the illegal weapons dealer, and all around douchie white person known as Ulysses Klaue, pops up on the Wakandan intelligence radar. Klaue is responsible for some Wakandan deaths in the past, and so King T'Challa is eager to don his kick-ass Black Panther suit and hunt the criminal down in South Korea, where he is out to sell a chunk of the rare (and valuable) metal vibranium (that is apparently only found in Wakanda) to someone in an underground casino.
Shit goes south faster than a mysoginist alcoholic in a nudie bar, but T'Challa and Bilbo Baggins evantually manage to capture Klaue for a short while before he's then freed by some American secret operative and his girlfriend. Then the secret op guy (aka Killmonger) kills Klaue (surprise...), and drags his carcass to Wakanda in order to try and overthrow the current king (T'Challa), take over the secretly rich and technologically advanced country, and then smuggle out hi-tech weapons to oppressed black people across the globe in order to start a worldwide revolution to which Wakanda would end up ruling everyone in the end.
That plan... Sounds like it's missing a few steps. It sounds like an underwear-gnome designed it.
I thought so too. Killmonger is successful in his coup (surprisingly so), after he kicks the shit out of T'Challa in armed one-on-one combat, and then throws him off a giant waterfall... as this is how Wakanda has always chosen its leaders.
And two seconds after the old king has been murdered in front of their eyes, all of the royal guard and advisors are like "Oh, I guess we have to blindly follow this chap now... Oh, he wants to burn all the super-soldier-making plants that grant super powers for future kings? Okay. Sure. Oh, he wants to start a war with the entire outside world and use our magic vibranium metal to somehow bring all other countries to their knees? Yeah, I guess we can get behind a World War that we will be responsible for starting because this asshole who talks like a gangsta just walked in and told us to. Sounds good."
Honestly, for being such an amazing and futuristic society, the fact that EVERYBODY just goes along with "rule by combat" like it's normal, and blindly follows the warmongering upstart who just arrived in their hidden country 6 hours before, well, it's just absurd.
Weirder things have happened in comic book movies. Remember when the Flash and Cyborg dug up Superman's corpse in Justice League?
I was trying to forget.
So what happens after Killmonger beats T'Challa?
Exactly what you think will happen. The rest of the movie, although entertaining, is very predictable.
Oh, is it MAJOR SPOILER TIME?
Yes. It is.
So, we know without a doubt that T'Challa is not dead. And we also know that due to the "Chekov's gun" principles of filmmaking that the Gorilla mountain tribe of Wakanda, the purple super-soldier-syrum flower, the anti-vibranium magnets powering the massive underground trains, and Bilbo Baggins' piloting skills will all come to play before the final credits roll.
T'Challa is, of course, rescued by the Wakandan mountain people (whose leader he spared in the beginning of the movie), given the last remaining purple super-soldier-syrum flower that his girlfriend rescued from the burning, and uses the anti-vibranium magnets powering the mining trains to beat Killmonger in his own Golden Panther outfit while Bilbo Baggins uses his mad piloting skills to blow up the weapons that Killmonger was already shipping to revolutionaries/terrorists around the globe.
Meh. Doesn't sound too bad.
It wasn't bad at all, just a bit predictable.
Is there anything that you hated about this movie then? You always hate shit about movies. Even great movies.
I didn't HATE anything about Black Panther, but I was perplexed as to how a $200million movie could have some pretty subpar CGI effects in this day and age. There were just too many scenes where the physics just didn't feel anything close to real, or where giant CGI sets felt fake. I look back at movies made 6 years ago (like The Avengers), and nothing really sticks out like some of the shots in BP.
Other than that nitpick though, no. I didn't hate anything about it. In fact, I loved the setting (Wakanda is really cool), I love the characters, I love the actors, I liked the plot (especially how it wasn't a "we gotta save the world/universe from that MacGuffin superweapon!" generic narrative), and I really enjoyed the gadgets that Wakandan super-scientist, Princess Shuri, kept making. When she pulled out those "panther mittens" and started opening up on Killmonger in the end, the only thing that would have made it any better would have been if every time she shot a blast from the panther-headed gauntlets on her hands they made a "MEOW!" sound. Oh well, maybe in the sequel.
So, there it is?
There it is.
Holy shit-bowlies, Batman! And Ah thought that mah family was a bit disfunctional! This here T'Challa's brood puts us Hatfields to shame!
There was that time that mah brother's second cousin on his other sister's side, Cletus, tried to start the interfamilial "Hooch War of '07," and the time that mah great-grand aunt wore white to her step-daughter's 5th wedding, and the resultin' wedding reception brawl broke out and turned into "Hooch War of '09, Part II".... But so far nobody's stabbed their brother in the heart with a cat-clawed glove, or challenged their cousin to a blood-match where the winner would then take their stash of weapons an' sell them to the drug-lords next door. So far...
Them Wakanda boys sure know how to play rough. It makes for good superhero drama, and it also makes me feel better about mah family.
So wait... Which came first, the socialist Black Panther Party, or Marvel's Black Panther? If Marvel's came first, I can see a group of people using that superhero as an icon to build their organization around. But if the commie-sympathizing Black Panther Party came first, I think Stan Lee and Jack Kirby have some 'splainin' to do.
Other than that, I liked the movie. I thought the mountain tribe's gorilla-motifed kingdom was 10Xs cooler than the rest of Wakanda's panther-theme.