500 Words On…Seeing Black Panther

Usually negative reviews are the kind that unnaturally steer my feelings on a movie. I won’t see it.

In the case of Black Panther, it was pieces like this, using the word masterpiece that elevated my expectations, so much so that I found the movie…disappointing.

I’ll stop when I can’t think of an MCU installment that I didn’t find more enjoyable than BP.

Ragnarok, Winter Soldier, Civil War, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Homecoming, The First Avenger, I’m slowing down, but still going…

 

OK. We’re done. There are 18 MCU entries, and if I did more detailed analysis, I estimate I’d have Black Panther just after the middle or so. You?

If this movie had come out eight years ago I think I’d have liked it much more. But to me, it read very much like Iron Man’s very straightforward origin story when that was told to launch this world back in 2008. That was a special and unique piece of cinema. Panther, to me, was not…regardless of the color of the cast, and it’s enormous importance and impact to black culture and movies like them moving forward.

Let’s get to that cast. It was truly a marvelous collection of gifted actors and actresses, many who provided dazzling performances. There was one, again for me, who did not.

Chadwick Boseman. Black Panther. The star. Possibly the character cornerstone of the next phase of Marvel movies.

Maybe it WASN’T a good idea to have such a decorated and award winning cast – Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya and on and on – in the same film as an actor who isn’t on par with them. To be blunt, I found Boseman as Black Panther boring and uncharismatic. Perhaps that was intended. He’s behind a mask for much of his character’s time, but Ryan Reynolds is the new standard for how a performer can successfully penetrate that veil and still let every emotion and expression shine through. Reynolds had a lot of fails and skeptics before his Deadpool turned him into comic book and movie god, so it’s conceivable that Boseman’s skills will sharpen and in ensuing Panther portrayals he’ll burst through his Vibranium suit.

As a King, even a brand new one, Boseman/T’Challa was uninspiring. Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger was incendiary and wicked – though he had a right to be with his upbringing – but at least he intended to be a ruler with emotion and conviction.

For all the stick out like a fake plastic arm social commentary – that was as dead-on as a trick arrow from Hawkeye – the line of dialogue that stood out to me was T’Challa’s first trip to the ancestral plane. T’Chaka said something like good people don’t make good kings. Not to get too Machiavellian, but in today’s world – which, again this movie was a continuous commentary on – I think Dad is scary accurate. Leading is HARD. It’s not for everyone.

Donald Trump is a despicable human being. He’s an extreme example. However, a President, a CEO, a head coach, a middle manager, a king (even granted by blood or relation, not chosen) is often called upon to make some seriously immoral decisions. Ones they vehemently disagree with on a micro-level, but necessary on the macro-level. Ya know, the whole Spock ‘good of the many, out weigh the needs of the few’ axiom. I would’ve liked to see that aspect, T’Challa’s maturation as a ruler, a leader, an inspirer, explored more deeply. I suppose that Black Panther 2.

Black Panther was a revelatory movie. For a time ago.

Now, it was just another visually stunning two hour lead in for the next Marvel movie.

Pieces of Vibranium

Wow, they MacGuffined Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue faster than I expected! You got 1/4 of Age of Ultron, and 1/3 of Black Panther. Bye now.

And was his eerie looking fake arm Vibranium tech? Because it sounded like a Stark repulsor.

T’Chaka’s eyes. Ow.

I adore Michael B. Jordan’s inexorable emotion as an actor. His character’s anger was fiercely genuine – I think he called on his rage for the Fantastic Four flop, and the idiotic trolling he received for being a black Human Torch, AND his confusing (for some) name.  MBJ was so superb, maybe he should’ve been Black Panther – instead of Boseman getting almost every landmark black role. Again I get why Killmonger did what he did. He was made by the world that wronged him beginning as a child. Remember that next time something horrific happens. Ask why. And drill deep into.

The ‘sneakers.’ Just read about that tech in one of the Panther comics I’ve been reading. How steps make no noise, and how he can run up buildings. Cool stuff, pages to screen. THAT is why I do these movies, and always will, and will never be TOO critical of them.

Watch Shuri’s Black Mirror episode! It’s the final one of the latest season. Wasn’t she magnetic and badass in Panther too? We MUST have a techy scene with her and Tony in Infinity War because they’re both witty, genius and sarcastic to their core.

Who was the AI voice in Shuri’s lab? JARVIS turned out to be Vision, Paul Bettany.

Colonizers. What a sensational dig. White people have been horrific throughout history. Ryan Coogler shared his views incisively, I’ll share something now. PLEASE study more about how ‘Americans’ ravaged Native Americans during the 19th century. It’s abhorrent, and I don’t think the period from that perspective is taught as extensively as it should be. It’s the good guys won the Civil War, no more slavery, reconstruction, Teddy Roosevelt, WWI. The killing of Indians is a disgraceful mark on this country.

Winston Duke was a sneaky MVP candidate in the movie. I know him from playing some scary dudes in SVU and Person of Interest.

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