Saturday, February 17, 2018

Wakanda Forever - a Black Panther movie review

Black Panther movie review repeated at my Facebook page:

This is the most Marvel of Marvel movies. It really seemed to echo the source material most and best. This really felt like they wanted to stay close to the mythos and characters of the comic. It clearly represents that later writing styles. Marvel has done a fairly good job of sticking their characters. I felt Black Panther did that, as a whole, better than any other movie so far from the Marvel collection.

It also represents a 2.0 Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. It doesn’t follow the same jocular, easy atmosphere of previous movies; including the heavy handed Captain America: Civil War. This is not the almost comedic approach that we have seen in Guardians of the Galaxy or in last year’s Thor: Ragnarok. You will have to wait for Ant-Man and The Wasp this summer for another in that line of movies. This is a serious movie dealing with a lot of serious subject matter.

Race and equality is dealt with. Imbalance of treatments that blacks receive, especially in the United States, is touched upon. Racial war (a constant fear of white Colonialists going back to the original seizure of native Africans for transplant) is the underlying “villain” that is to be defeated. There are also issues of family, shattered ideals, honor, and redemption. This is a meaty movie.

That may be why I had such a hard time writing this review. I couldn’t respond to it last night. I went in with high expectations. The early buzz was that this was a phenomenal movie. When I came out, I didn’t feel good like I did with so many other Marvel movies. But I also was not disappointed. It wasn’t that the movie let me down. The movie felt like a familiar Marvel movie, but they made this one for grown-ups.

Chadwick Boseman (who introduced T’Challa in Civil War) carries the weight of portraying a character who must step into a role he was destined for, yet not prepared to assume. Black Panther has always represented a balance in the Marvel comics. He comes from a land that hides itself away from the world out of fear of what contact with the world will mean. But he publicly fights with the Avengers and other hero groups for the welfare of a land that is not his own. He assumes the mantle of king of Wakanda and warrior totem, the Black Panther, to guide and protect his land. But he leaves his people to protect New York (even replacing Daredevil for a while as the Protector of Hell’s Kitchen), the United States, the world, and the universe so often that it leaves the Wakandans on the brink of civil war multiple times. Boseman plays the part well. If it seems that he is a little rigid, I think that nails the characters of T’Challa and the Black Panther well.

Michael B. Jordan is the star on the screen, though. His acting is spot on. When he is on screen, he displays a level of skill and personification of the character that outshines all others in the movie. All of the actors did well with their material, but Jordan took his portrayal to the next level.

If there is one major gripe that I have with this movie, it is the continuation of the gripe that Marvel can’t treat villains right. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a rule written down somewhere that, unless the villain is somewhat immortal (I’m looking at you Loki), then we need to kill them or make them no longer a threat (I’m still looking at you Loki). Three villains in this movie were killed or de-meanied. One of those villlains is a constant threat to Wakanda. One is an arch-enemy of Black Panther. Both of them play important roles in the ongoing battles that Black Panther and T’Challa have to wage. Killing or removing their menace is not doing justice to the history of the characters.

The set design and cg environment, and costume design should win multiple awards. This is the most beautiful Marvel movie yet. Doctor Strange captured a lot of the inspiration and design from Jack Kirby. Black Panther is another of signature Kirby book. His influence can be seen in so many places. The washed out tones were gone. This was a vibrant and bright movie.

For parents, I would caution that there is more realistic violence in this movie. There are also a couple of obvious light profanity words. The subject matter is challenging to sort out, but there should be enough action to keep active kids engaged.

There were two families with unruly small children, so I offer this as a reminder – you and your kids are not the only people in the theater. If they can’t sit down or be calmed/quieted, respect your neighbors and leave. The money you lose by leaving the theater does not equal the loss of other people’s enjoyment. You are not entitled to stay in a movie and ruin it for others.

Parents, take your kids to see this movie. There is a stigma in Hollywood moguls minds that a “black” movie will not be received. I would love to see that stigma shattered in this movie. There is a stigma that women can’t be strong, self-sufficient characters. This movie needs to be lifted up as a counter-argument. There is an attitude that comic book movies need to be funny or dark to be taken seriously. This movie proves that it can be serious and brightly colorful while portraying a comic book hero and villains.