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Movies & TV

11th Feb 2018

Black Panther is Marvel at its most interesting but least exciting

Rory Cashin

This is a movie almost impossible to judge on its own merits.

Last year, Wonder Woman had an incredibly stupid amount of pressure put on its shoulders due to the fact that it was the first standalone female superhero movie (in the current comic book universes), and doubled down by the fact that it was directed by a woman – the first woman to direct such a genre picture.

Had it failed, the nay-sayers may have pointed towards it – just like they did with Catwoman, Elektra and Supergirl back in the day – and say “See? We told you these movies don’t work. Just leave it with the men from now on.”

Thankfully, Wonder Woman saved the day, with a hugely impressive $821 million at the global box office (which was more than Man Of Steel, Suicide Squad or Justice League), as well as scoring an even more impressive 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The thing is, in hindsight, Wonder Woman isn’t actually all that great. Sure, Gal Gadot nails the role, she has some amazing chemistry with Chris Pine, and the first two-thirds is generally pretty fun thanks to the great balance between fish-out-of-water comedy and some decent (but not amazing) action sequences.

You can listen to the JOE and Her film-reviewers discuss their favourite super-hero movies from 24:20 in the link below:

Overall, the film kind of has the same faults most superhero movies do: poor villain, badly written supporting characters, third act that descends into CGI mania.

No, the real reason why Wonder Woman should be viewed as a success is the same reason why I – a man – can’t judge it fully: because it gave females of all ages a real on-screen hero of their own to worship.

Males have had the market pretty much dominated since the get-go, and have been in nothing short of an overly privileged position for decades. Finally, the females are getting their turn, and they’re doing it better than the men.

Which brings us to Black Panther.

At the time of writing, the movie was sitting pretty with 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the early projection for the opening weekend in the US alone at the box office was somewhere in the vicinity of $150 million.

Again, there was undue additional pressure added to the release, as again there is new ground being broken here – the movie represents the first standalone black superhero movie, and is the first time such a genre picture has been given to a black director to helm.

Black superheroes haven’t had quite as bad a time as female superheroes – the first two Blade movies were a lot of fun, Luke Cage was great in the Jessica Jones Netflix series (but, bizarrely, not as great in his own Netflix series) and Hancock kind of counts – but comparatively, they too have been under-represented.

So, by all accounts, Black Panther is lining itself up to be a massive success story… but just like Wonder Woman, it is far from perfect, but for different reasons.

In this case, the movie has an IQ pretty much through the roof, as we’re given an amazing villain in the form of the terrifically charismatic Killmonger (played by the terrifically charismatic Michael B. Jordan), and the over-arching theme of the movie – sons paying for the sins of their fathers – is much more Shakespearean and lofty than the usual “There’s a portal over the city and the hero needs to blow it up”.

The supporting cast are incredible and bring real depth to their roles, and following in the footsteps of Wonder Woman, this is a movie filled to the brim with incredible female characters that the audience will immediately love.

However, in the midst of these amazing actors – Oscar-nominee Angela Bassett, Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker, Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar-nominee Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman and loads more besides – leading star Chadwick Boseman almost gets lost in the crowd.

Also, the movie feels perilously light on actual action scenes. There is a fantastic punch-up and car-chase in South Korea about an hour in, and then practically all talk until the climax, which unfortunately involves some badly CGI’d armoured rhinos (and you know how much we love armoured rhinos!).

No, the real reason why Black Panther should be viewed as a success is the same reason why I – a Caucasian – can’t judge it fully: because it will give black movie goers of all ages a real on-screen hero of their own to worship.

The movie manages to get right a lot of what other superhero movies get so drastically wrong, in that we are fully invested in the characters, so when the dangerous action scenes do arrive, we’re concerned enough for their safety that they make it out alive.

Next time, just try not to forget to actually bring some more of those dangerous action scenes.

Black Panther is release in cinemas here on Tuesday 13 February.

Clip via Marvel Entertainment

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