Release: February 16, 2018
Director: Ryan Coogler
Screenplay: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
Starring: Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan as N’Jadaka/Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakai, Martin Freeman as Everett Ross, Letitia Wright as Shuri, and Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue
Running Time: 134 minutes
Warning: potential spoilers for this film you’ve probably already seen.
Black Panther is almost a bit of a departure for the MCU. I guess since we were already introduced to Black Panther at full power and in full regalia in a previous film, they decided to forgo the plodding two hour origin story. Instead, Black Panther spends the first part of its running time as a sort of James Bond like spy action thriller involving the titular hero chasing after underwhelming villain Ulysses Klaue before shifting into a story of a battle of succession for the Wakandan throne between Black Panther and Killmonger.
It’s certainly a visually pleasing film, for the most part. Coogler frames scenes very nicely and avoids things like awkward an unnecessary closeups. It’s also well lit and very colourful, something that I’m finding increasingly refreshing here lately in the word of post-Nolan/Villeneuve artificial colour desaturation. However, like all recent Marvel offerings, the CGI is weak. It’s not as consistently bad as Spider-Man: Homecoming, but there are scenes that fall prey to the same issue of looking like a video game from 2009. The computer rendered rhinos during the final battle were particularly egregious. I also can’t help but feel that an R rating would have helped this flick somewhat visually. I realize this is a Disney movie, and Disney avoids the R rating like a hippie avoids soap or John Oliver avoids a punchline. However, when you have a bloodless throat cutting scene, many bloodless stabbings, and a bloodless mass shooting, perhaps its time to reevaluate things. The actors were also quite good in their roles with one glaring exception being Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue. However, I don’t think that’s on the actor. It seems like there is a mandate from Marvel Studios since the runaway success of 2012’s The Avengers that all of their films must contain a certain amount of Whedonisms. That’s where Klaue comes in. He is typical Whedon. An ineffectual pseudo-villain who serves as little more than a font of stupid quips and one liners. Which brings me to the script.
In addition to Klaue, there are some other Whedonisms in this film. Particularly, jokes and quips at very inappropriate times. For the most part, Black Panther is a fairly dark film, so it makes the quipping (on the comparatively few occasions it does happen) stand out all the more. I don’t know about you folks, but I don’t want Buffy the Vampire Slayer style quips during an intense fight sequence, but we get those in Black Panther because Marvel. Scenes that are supposed to be emotionally intense don’t need quips. Marvel, if you are reading this, please stop it. If you’re at a funeral for a friend’s wife, you’ve just carried the coffin to the grave and it’s been lowered in. Are you gonna turn to your friend and say “hey, man, sorry about your loss. By the way, did you hear that wicked ass blast I blew when we were carrying her to the hearse?” The answer is no. People don’t talk like that. Joss Whedon is terrible, nay abysmal with dialogue. So, please, stop making your writer’s copy him. Other than that, It was pretty well written. I mean, it’s definitely not prose to rival Tolstoy. It’s not gonna make you weep. It’s not going to set the standard by which all future film scripts, novels, poems, and any other application of the written word will be judged (sorry, pop culture journalists). But it’s definitely the best Marvel has been in quite some time.
In all seriousness, Black Panther is an immensely enjoyable film. If you’ve not seen it yet, give a go. It’s not the best comic book film of all time as some were breathlessly declaring before the damn picture even released. However, it is probably the best cinematic offering that Marvel Studios has come out with in quite a while. A few asinine quips aside, it feels much more like the pre-Avengers stuff, which is a step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned. Here’s hoping they won’t muck it up in the sequel. I feel I should warn you though, dear reader, that it is just a movie and not a miracle cure all for all of the world’s and your personal ills. Watch it and enjoy it for what it is, a pun-lite, visually appealing superhero action movie with a good cast and some mildly amusing aspirations toward being a James Bond flick and a political thriller.
Twee Whedon Dialogue will return in… Avengers: Infinity War…