With Avengers: The Infinity Wars just right around the corner, I finally managed to see Black Panther.
And it was… alright.
Apparently, the fad is to consider anyone who didn’t thoroughly enjoy this film to be a racist.
I also didn’t enjoy Django Unchained that much either.
But I really, really like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and that’s my childhood. Does that help or not help my case?
At best, I’d give the film a 6.5 – 7/10.
I’d like to view it again sometime and reassess my review but I’ve found it hard to enjoy most of these Marvel films on the second viewing.
So far I’ve only enjoyed rewatching: Iron Man 1, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and surprisingly Iron Man 3: The Christmas Special.
I should probably talk about Thor: Ragnarok as well as it’s a glaring example of Marvel deciding to just streamline all of their films’ narratives to the tone of a bastard child birthed from a drunken coitus between Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy.
(I wrote a quick review of it that I don’t think I ever published. But for those who are wondering, I’d give that film a 7.5/10)
Back to the subject at hand.
Though the aforementioned wasn’t the case with the Black Panther, the film suffered from other issues that are surprisingly found more in the Marvel’s Netflix franchises than their cinematic cash printing machines.
Let’s dive in.
As usual, these are just based on quick notes I made while watching the film. There may be some errors or some things I missed as I was watching the movie.
And to clarify, “Quick Review” alludes to not the length of the review but more of the essence of review. It’s just me going on a rant about the film after having seen it once without any further research. If I wanted to write a more proper review, I’d watch the film, at the very least, twice. This is a more organized version of the rant my friends would have to put up with for the blog readers.
There will obviously be SPOILERS AHEAD
They did a decent enough job of catching people up to the mindset of T’challa (Black Panther) for those who might not have seen Captain America: Civil War or just had forgotten what brought T’challa into the pantheon of heroes in the first place.
Not only that, but they also gave us the emotional and historical stake to the character that gave us a fresh perspective to not only T’challa but the events that surrounded his involvement in the Civil War and rounding out quickly who the Wakandans are. It was a quick and somewhat organic expansion to the lore required for us to appreciate Black Panther uniquely for who he is as a character and what the film’s unique place in Marvel Cinematic Universe is.
There’s an almost immediate “Lion King meets laser-pew-pew” vibe not because it’s happening in Africa and felines are involved, but the majestic scores that remind you of Disney’s animated films along with a deep voice of a father narrating to a son… happening in Africa.
Oddly enough, as mentioned, the film ended up feeling like a stitched up episodes of a Netflix series than a standalone film. There’s just too many plot lines hurrying to ripen or simply presents itself self-evidently ripened before the film’s 135 minutes run out.
I found it hard to care about a lot of the characters and a lot of what’s happening when it’s just whizzing all over the screen and I’m being force fed how to feel and care about them.
It’s not as if I haven’t enjoyed more complicated films before with varying characters and plotlines all happening at once (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Magnolia) but because the film is ultimately about T’Challa (and also should have had more about Killmonger) it can’t seem to find the proper grasp on who and what to focus on and how to develop them.
The script doesn’t feel like it was done justice by being on the silver screen.
The film even committed the same trope and downfall of many of the Marvel series on Netflix these days of abruptly changing the antagonist and spending the little time the story has left trying to build up the new villain.
That’s not a twist, Marvel. It’s just a lazy or a greedy writing.
We all knew Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) was going to be the main villain of the film. However, the film didn’t build up the character well enough to justify us caring about his rise and fall. All of which literally happened within the 3rd act.
To make us care, the film attached emotional social issues and connected backbones of other characters’ emotional stakes to Killmonger. But Killmonger himself never had the chance to truly realize himself as a character. Which is a shame because he had such an amazing actor and backstory to work with. The character was just carried by the actor’s charisma.
What bothered me a bit is that the film seemed to be unknowingly forcing it upon us to suddenly care about Killmonger by saying… look, all these issues we face as Americans? He’s the sudden embodiment of all that.
You don’t care? Then you don’t care about these issues.
Maybe that’s too much but, hot damn, the last line Killmonger gives before he kills himself. It’s a complex social issue forcibly latching itself onto the film as a ‘justified’ metaphor. But the film ends up posing more questions and debatable notions than it does answering them–both within and beyond the 4th wall.
Killmonger just becomes a mouthpiece for the social commentary that the film wants to get across… but it doesn’t entirely feel like he’s earned it other than us being told us that he has the characteristics of the downtrodden colored individual in an oppressed society.
But we’ll get back to him later.
(And I understand why Captain America isn’t present in the film to avoid the ‘white savior’ narrative, but it’d have been nice to know where he was during all this. I guess we’ll find out in Avengers: Infinity War)
There’s no real getting around that the minorities in the US have gotten the short-end of the stick throughout the nation’s history.
For the black community, that history is filled with not only the short-end but also the bloodied blunt end.
Killmonger himself is a child who grew up in poverty… but through hard work and dedication got himself through a university, grad school at MIT, and became a Navy SEAL ….again, from a background of, at worst, an orphan and at best most likely in a single-mother family.
(It’s never made clear what happened to Killmonger’s mom. I guess for all we know she could have remarried a rich guy and Killmonger was actually pretty well off living a hipster life while assuming he knows what it’s like to be a poor black person in America. But that ruins the character so we’ll assume that he grew up in poverty because that’s what the film strongly suggests)
His achievements are goddamn amazing.
…And sort of works against his own political ideologies and opinions that black people are somehow hopelessly oppressed and need violence to have their fair shake in the world.
…And kind of makes you wonder why he believed the best way to support black communities is through use of force when obviously with the right motivation and resources they can get through whatever obstacles the skin of their color may pose. I guess the idea is that black people shouldn’t have to be in a position to struggle at all.
It’s almost as if Killmonger has a racist belief that black communities cannot advance without resorting to violence. That, as he implies, black people cannot be at the top of the racial/social hierarchy without a violent revolution.
And what about other oppressed minority groups? If they want to be better, then follow Killmonger’s ways? I guess my problem is that the character feels ultimately confused within the writing and not as part of the writing.
(I should also mention at this point all minority groups suffered pretty heavily in the US. This isn’t to marginalize the suffering endured by the black community, but to not marginalize anyone’s suffering. And if we broaden our scale globally, the conversation becomes a lot more depressing and maddening)
People may jump in here and say, “THAT’S WHY HE’S THE VILLIAN AND T’CHALLA IS THE PROTAGONIST”
Fair enough, but, again, it’s muddled by the fact that how the characters are approaching this topic, their backgrounds, and their given motivations.
T’Challa is an outsider looking in on these social issues even though he’s never faced them because he’s from a better place. Killmonger presented as the embodiment of all the social ailments. One believes in allowing others to solve their own problems. The other believes that if you have the power, you should solve their problems.
And I guess as the movie points out, their goals were not just about the US but around the world.
But that doesn’t make the problems any easier.
Now we have to discuss national sovereignty, moral relativity, paternalism, and etc.
In the end, the movie’s answer seems to be that of heavy paternalism: “if one place is superior to others, then it’s their moral duty to help those lesser nations.”
Given what criteria are they better? How can they help?
Let’s just chew on that a bit Americans.
It’s a like chewing a mint, a ginseng, and juicy fruit together.
But I guess we can just fall back on the lazy excuse of “It’s a Marvel movie.” or accept that everything I’m ranting about was obviously planned.
Fine. So be it.
(Part of me screaming: then don’t bring up sensitive and complex topics WHILE seemingly trying to present them in an authentic and digested way)
We’re going to take a slight, lighter-hearted detour.
Let’s unwind a bit from these heated topics and introduce from the far left-field a possibly unexpected topic that may generate more flames against me.
Here’s a little secret about me.
I know a little Korean.
Not a Korean Peter Dinklage but know the language well enough to know that the Korean being spoken in the film was horrible.
And no, I’m not talking about Ms. Lupita Nyong’o’s performance speaking Korean. She did an admirable job.
I’m talking about the supposed Koreans in the film.
None of them seem to be fluent speakers. Their Korean sounded really silly. Even many of the background speakers sounded wrong most of the time.
And if you ever go to Korea and go to one of them public markets and find non-native Korean speaking ajooma (middle-aged women) working there, I’ll personally PayPal you $50 (limited to 1 person).
What’s the big deal?
If it’s a little off, I wouldn’t mind. But it’s literally butchered language coming across as a native speaking the language natively in the native setting.
Even The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise that got so, so much wrong regarding the authenticity of historical aspects of the film got the look and the sound of the film correctly enough that people weren’t taken out of the film if they were familiar with the Japanese culture and language (minus weird trees).
What’s the excuse of not getting Korean right for the sake of authenticity with this film?
- Money? It’s a Marvel film.
- Availability? Is it really that hard to find some Koreans that can speak few lines fluently in LA? Or Korea?
So what are the reasons to just not care?
- They don’t think Koreans or people who understand Korean would care or notice.
- They just don’t care.
I honestly can’t think any other substantial reasons. As harsh as those reasons sound, they just seem ‘fair’ as it is.
If it’s a movie that’s trying to celebrate minorities on the big screen (which is why I assume they also chose an Asian location for no real reason other than also to possibly reach out to that demographic), why not make sure they do all of them at least the minimal justice?
Is that too much?
Is it because it’s called Black Panther and not Global Panther?
Yeah, I went there.
Whew, finally more about the art behind the film.
One of my biggest draw to this film was the fact that Michael B. Jordan was going to be involved. When I found out he was the main villain, I was all in.
And while I thought some of his performances on this film were excellent as usual, most of it felt too exaggerated and muddled…
…and tragically, I felt like it wasn’t Michael’s fault. It felt like because of how they had to edit the film, his performance didn’t really get to come to life or was portrayed with a bad ‘light’.
It’s also not his fault that his character seemed rushed for development in the 3rd act of the film.
It’s also not his fault that his dialogues seemed a bit dead and trite through the 2nd act. He did amazing with what he had to work with.
It’s also not his fault that his character sort of didn’t make sense and collapsed on itself a bit. Wouldn’t Killmonger have been more interesting if the script decided to have a little more courage and presented him as a legitimate counter-balance to T’Challa? It’s not as if no foreign interaction policy has never been done before in history. There’s plenty of examples to use and personify.
It might be a little bit of his fault that his swagger walk got a bit too much near the end.
Minor points that might be answered in the later films.
Wakanda seems… way too advanced. It seems close to Guardians of the Galaxy level advanced. I wouldn’t have been surprised if T’Challa started playing his claws like a flute and giant lion robot came out from the mountains.
Like what the hell’s going on in this isolated country’s R&D department?
How do you go from tribes uncovering a meteorite into a nation refining a near-indestructible material, turning that material into a power source, and then also developing that material into medical apparatuses… while cutting yourself off from the rest of the world?
Does Tony know anything about this?
How the hell does he not?
How the hell does Tony not suspect anything about Wakanda and the Vibranium?
Where the hell were Tony’s Iron Man bots that we saw in Spiderman when someone like Klaw is involved? We know he’s on Tony’s radar from Avengers: Age of Ultron.
What about the new SHIELD?
How can this theater sell fresh wood-fired pizza when there’s no wood-fired oven in sight?
These are the questions that we may never get answers to.
Overall, while Black Panther is probably better than some of the other Marvel films, it wasn’t the best nor was it very memorable.
It felt like a better done, Thor 1.
While I enjoyed the soundtrack, at times it seemed too… animatedly-dramatic? And overused.
But I do have to admit that it’s great seeing this sort of mainstream film featuring mostly minority cast–and also blowing up the box office while at it.
Next review will be regarding American treasure Dwayne Johnson’s new masterpiece, Rampage.
Teaser: …In an odd way, I actually kind of liked it.