Black Panther: Frustratingly Acceptable

You may be surprised that I do not intend to rupture this film’s spleen with a succession of entertaining quips and industry insights.

I have to apologise to you. Seeing as the majority of my reviews have had a positive spin, I had planned to give you a scathing critique of yet another Marvel travesty. Black Panther. I was prepared to use a scalding vocabulary of words such as drivel, hogwash, pitiful, tasteless and worst of all, mediocre. Unfortunately, I cannot give you those words in this piece because the film was far too passable. Perhaps I’ll save them for my review of the godawful Justice Leauge.

To those of you who know me, you may be surprised that I do not intend to rupture this film’s spleen with a succession of entertaining quips and industry insights. No! Alas, I plan to do the opposite. Much to Kevin Feige’s delight, I will gently nurture the spleen of King T’Challa and ensure credit is given where credit is due.

Black Panther has been a long time coming. Hollywood has given us plenty of movies from black artists. Get out, Moonlight, 12 Years a Slave and Fences are all fantastic contemporary examples of such films, but none have had a budget this large and this much fanfare. If I were to be critical, I would say it is another step towards the commercialisation of African culture, but that’s a story for another time.

Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger

While I have not paid much attention to the film’s director, Ryan Coogler, I will now. Behind the overdone, rubbery CGI and the painfully unbelievable technology, Coogler managed to keep this story well grounded and believable. One of the fundamental flaws of any Marvel film is the villain. A benevolent force of immeasurable strength who’s sole purpose is to destroy and conquer with their homogenous army of the undead/extraterrestrial demi-beasts. Sound familiar? It’s my main Marvel gripe; I just switch off every time one of these supervillains appear. Unlike Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther manages to avoid this pothole. Coogler and Joe Robert Cole have written a unique, believable story about leadership, power and class struggle. They also incorporated tricky ethical questions and a couple of political statements to give the film an edge.

Now, this film was not without its much deserving eye rolls. Much of the fictional technology pushed the boundaries of believability, and once again, the characters seemed to be made out of rubber. They could be kicked across the room, into a brick wall and they would just jump up and keep fighting. Excluding Logan and Daredevil, have you ever seen a bruise or a broken bone in a Marvel film? Ever seen a tired fighter? Didn’t think so. Also, the sets and choreography often looked artificial and rehearsed. Less so than other Marvel films, but still.

All in all, I liked this film. It advanced the Marvel franchise in the ways Thor: Ragnarok did not, but it was more of a step than a jump. There was still a lot about this movie that felt tacky and childish. I look forward to seeing Marvel continue on this path but there’s still a long way to go, and the Infinity War trailers do not make me hopeful.