Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Review: Black Panther

Image result for black pantherI finally saw Black Panther on DVD.

Premise: T'Challa is now the king after his father was murdered in Civil War (cue flashbacks ... really, we need flashbacks that go on more than a few flashes?). Wakandan war criminal Ulysses Klaue, arms dealer, pops up on the radar. You may remember Ulysses Klaue from Age of Ultron, played by Andy Serkis, who is no longer trapped in a motion capture suit.

What they don't know is there is another force working with Klaue that can lead to T'Challa, and Wakanda's, downfall...

What did I think?

.... Eh. It was Okay. A little slow, though.

Okay, it's a lot slow.

How slow?

When we get to our first major action sequence, a ritual duel to affirm retaining the crown ... because in a highly advanced civilization like Wakanda is supposed to be, right of ascension by combat is the way to go... Which just makes it look like Wakanda has great tech, and the culture never caught up. Uh huh....

Anyway.... While we have a brief skirmish at the opening, and the ritual challenge right after, neither of these really feel like a Marvel film. T'Challa's sister Shuri is playing Q, and she's cute, but that's about it. There's a lot of discussion about whether or not Wakanda should show off their tech to the rest of the world,. Blah blah.

Image result for black panther south korea
And our first real bit of Marvel action takes place nearly 50 minutes into the film. They go into a cool bar in South Korea, I was half expecting the film to become like unto a James Bond like spy thriller when they walked into a casino that I'm almost certain hosted Daniel Craig at one point.

But that's interrupted by a chase, and then a Marvel finally movie breaks out.

Image result for black panther martin freemanAnd then there's the real hero of the film: Bilbo Baggins -- I mean Martin Freeman. As the only one with no genetic modifications (yes, apparently Black Panther is the result of a home-grown, do-it-yourself Super Soldier serum) and no high tech gadgets, Freeman's character Everett Ross (who debuted in Civil War) seems to be the only one in the entire film who has saved anybody.

Yeah... remember when people complained about Man of Steel when Superman couldn't be bothered to save anyone as Smallville or Metropolis was blown apart? Yeah. Ross saves one of T'Challa's spies, getting shot for his trouble. T'Challa saved no one. Even in the opening, he was interrupting an operation just to send an invite.

Now, I saw a lot of people hyping that Black Panther had the most developed MCU villain to date. Honestly, he was about as developed as Aldrich Killian of Iron Man 3, and he was motivated by the same thing -- revenge. For this film, Erik "Killmonger" Stevens, grew up in Oakland, and one evening, he came home to find his father dead on the floor. Killmonger is left alone, abandoned, and grows up to enter Wakanda, having never seen it.

Killmonger's ultimate goal boils down to a race war that he expects to ... you guessed it ... take over the world

Related image

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Killmonger. Because we need shirtless scenes for the girls.
.... I'm sorry, if one drops a ton of guns into Oakland, are the local gunmen going to try to take over the world? Or hold up banks? I suspect that Killmonger did not think this plan through. Not to mention that his only plan for taking over the world under a racial banner seemed to boil down to "Give out weapons like party favors, and we'll win."

This is not the intricate planning that made Killmonger the threat that he is in the movie...

Then again, the plan that even makes him a threat relies on a lot of things happening that were contrived.

Honestly, there was just so much stupid going on in this film. There is an act 2 "twist" that is quite contrived. There are a lot of stupid motivations going on throughout the film, and I'm not sure I'm all that happy with them. For the second half of this movie to happen, we need several forced internal conflicts to happen, as well as contrived plot points and character decisions.

The film is about 20 minutes too long, packed with atmospherics, and how many times can we linger on someone being buried in a ceremony? How many different ways can we have flashbacks to the opening sequence? How many different points of view shots can we have in the same sequence and setting?

I think too much time was spent building up T'Challa's sister, and his mother, and his bodyguard, and his tech, and not enough time building up T'Challa. Most of what we saw of T'Challa in this film can be summed up by seeing The Lion King. I'm sorry, T'Challa in the comics is supposed to be insanely smart, with multiple PhDs, and even discovering a different realm of physics. Here, I don't even get a sense that he's that great a leader. The actor has the gravitas, I'll give him that. And I think he had more character in Civil War than he did in his own film.

Again, this is my first viewing. But I'm looking at the CGI war rhinos and went "Wait, you guys needed more time to for resolution on those rhinos, didn't you?"

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This is his look a lot in this film
Maybe this will improve as I rewatch this. But the first half of the film is around Ulysses Klaue as the villain, and frankly, I think this would have made for an interesting duel. Heck, you have T'Challa out in the pursuit of a criminal who outran his father, murdered people in his kingdom. T'Challa can team up with Ross of the CIA, and hunt down Ulysses Klaue and stop whatever he has in mind. Killmonger could have lurked in the shadows and come out at the end, perhaps even revealing himself as he murders Klaue....

No. This film looked like Ulysses Klaue became completely unhinged after having his arm cut off by a ten-foot tall Raymond Reddington. Either that or Andy Serkis was drunk and / or stoned off of his ass while on set. Between Klaue and Serkis, I can't tell which one was shoe-horned in. Honestly? It felt like either they changed their mind mid-movie, or he was a throw away.

It was an okay film. I enjoyed it more than Ant-Man. Maybe more than the first Thor film.

Right now, being generous, 7/10. My perspective may improve with further viewings.

The Dragons are coming.
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