Reel Quick: Black Panther


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Black Panther (2018)

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis

Directed by: Ryan Coogler

Synopsis: Prince T’Challa returns to his ancestral home to be crowned the new king of the African nation of Wakanda, which is under the guise of being a poor third world country, when in actuality it is rich with the element of Vibranium, the strongest material on the planet. While trying to keep the Vibranium stocks a secret they attempt to apprehend the arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (who was in Avengers: Age of Ultron) and T’Challa also discovers a kept secret about an unknown cousin, who challenges T’Challa for the throne.

What ever(s): I’m going to perfectly honest here. I watched an early showing today and spent the better part of the afternoon collecting my thoughts and working on a draft of this review and it was the most tedious and boring time I ever spent working on a movie review. Don’t get me wrong—Black Panther is fine entertainment and at times it even transcended the mediocre cookie-cutter Marvel formula to get down to some decent racial and moral aspects. But this being the, what, 18th Marvel comics movie, I’m starting to care less about talking about them in this capacity. I’m also sick and tired of reading and watching videos about anything associated with Marvel, DC and even Star Wars anymore. I need something else…Man, why can’t the History Channel go back to doing actual history stuff? Maybe I should read more, or learn to play guitar.

I wasn’t bored during Black Panther, nor did it drag at all. It had great cinematography, great special effects, superb casting and acting and everything else was splendid. I’m not complaining that I wanted more from this comic book superhero movie. I just don’t think it’s worth my time anymore writing reviews for them. Call me grumpy—it’s true—I am very grumpy. 

Look, Black Panther is just not that interesting of a superhero to me in the first place. He has claws and is nimble—not much in the way of original superhero powers. I also don’t see Captain America’s powers are all that interesting either. But I will give credit where credit is due and say that they at least tried (in a PG-13 sort of way) address the racial and social differences and gave the villain a decent motivation other than wanting to rule the world plot. Its was somewhat ham-fisted but it is a superhero movie geared more for kids in the first place so I had no qualms about that. I think if they went more of a mature and gritty take on the racial and social stuff than I think I would’ve cared more for this movie. But I understand why a company like Marvel and Disney went in the direction they did. This movie, despite being optically geared for the black community, really wasn’t exclusive to them either. I didn’t feel this was an African-only centric movie at all. But I do realize that this movie is probably a huge deal to the African-American community who see the release of a Black Panther movie the way I did when Batman came out in 1989. I hope this movie makes a zillion dollars and means the world to African descendent people the way Wonder Woman did to females last year. But don’t tell me this movie was ground-breaking in its overall story or special effects though. Do I think the movie was a tad over-hyped? To be honest—yeah. And I’m trying very hard to be as objective as possible since I know this movie can possibly mean the world to a whole community of people. I could say that I liked the movie as much as I liked Dr. Strange or Ant-Man. Fun times at the theatre but I haven’t watched either Ant-Man or Dr. Strange a second time yet. It could just be super-hero blockbuster fatigue.

I kept thinking while watching it, mostly because of the racial hype surrounding it, if African-Americans would see this movie as a major movie event. Bear in mind that I am sympathizer of Black Lives Matter and try to be as compassionate and liberal as possible. I don’t say that for brownie points but to try to illustrate that I wanted this movie to be more of a movie and cultural event as possible. In that regard I think it could’ve been better. After all this is a fictional hero in a fictional African nation (The Avengers, Spider-Man and the other Marvel heroes are based in New York City or other real locations) who has technology to help him win battles and so far has never had a racial slur said to him. Will African-Americans relate to such a character? The story and its plot is very inclusive in that it mostly takes place in the fictional nation of Wakanda and it was T’Challa and his people fighting other Africans. There was one scene (a great one by the way!) outside go Africa and it was in South Korea. Barely anything in America or American-based. Maybe having an evil racist white dude being the villain would’ve been too over-the-top but again, I’m basing this review on how hyped up and important this character is to a whole community of people, notably African-Americans. If, say T’Challa had help or even helped common, non-superhero black people instead of seasoned warriors and technological advanced fictional land-based Africans that would ground the movie more and have something more relatable in my opinion.

I was just talking to my wife about this movie just now and telling her of my thoughts and she just told me something interesting. She is a marketer and currently works on a child line of toothbrushes and was recently talking with people from Disney about getting the rights for Black Panther. The Disney people basically told her that getting the rights for a kids’ toothbrush would be kind of moot since not a lot of kids will see Black Panther because it’s geared more for adults! This goes in line with what I’m trying to say—why make a movie, a comic book movie, that is hyped up to be a huge cultural, social and racial thematic event and not make it more for kids? I am also shocked, having just seen the movie, that Disney themselves think that this is not appropriate for kids. I know it’s rated PG-13 but nowhere did I see anything that would be traumatizing or inappropriate for pre-teens. So strange to me. Especially since there has been GoFundMe campaigns set up to help underprivileged youth a chance to see a black superhero. Octavia Spencer bought out theaters to show kids this movie.

I could be wrong and glib here (I probably am) but in these racially trying times that we’re living in now, will T’Challa be the outlet the African-American youth look up to? I mean, do Norwegians see Thor (the comic book superhero, not the god, mind you) as a crowning achievement of a hero to look up to? Probably not. Maybe I’m thinking too much here on this subject, but I wonder if that a movie about a fictional hero in a fictional land is as important as say, Selma or Marshall (also starring Chadwick Boseman) is? I remember back when I was in middle school when Spike Lee’s Malcolm X came out, families and groups took time off work and missed school to see it together. Same kind of things are happening with Black Panther as theaters are being bought out to give tickets to inner-city youth a chance to see it. It’s just odd to me that movies like Selma, Marshall and 42 (starring Boseman AGAIN!) are barely talked about but a Marvel superhero movie is getting on covers of TIME. It’s an astonishment (or maybe a shame) that pulpy comic book stories are now the high mark of cultural and social events.

Overall: Don’t feel like I’m bashing the movie or Black Panther the character. It was a very good time at the movies and Marvel made another entertaining and worthwhile flick. Although I just don’t think it was as groundbreaking or earth-shattering as other reviews hyped it up to be. But that could be just me. To the inner-city youth who has year after year been watching whitey be the all-American hero, maybe Black Panther is his 1989 Batman. Maybe just having that chance to see a superhero of color be the star off his own comic book movie is all that is needed. (Sorry Blade, I guess your trilogy just wasn’t enough somehow) I won’t pretend that as a white guy, I’m vastly over-privileged when it comes to superhero and action-adventure flicks of this type. I did enjoy the hell out of Black Panther and I will like to see more of him and his cast of characters in further installments and shared MCU adventures. I think part of me just wishes that it was a little bit more. 

Score: 8 Grace Jones references (out of 10)

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