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Sunday, February 18, 2018

REVIEW: Black Panther

When Marvel Studios was born with a mission of producing a connected universe of films based on their less well-known characters, I made two requests: a wizard and a king. Even before Iron Man, I was already bored with science-based heroes. I’m a fan of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four - but there is more to superheroes and genetics and radiation. I wanted to see a wizard master of the mystic arts. We got that. I didn’t like it. The only other thing I want out of the MCU now is a king of a great African nation. After all these years, the Black Panther is here. Full review after the jump.

After the death of his father, T'Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T'Challa's mettle as king -- and as Black Panther -- gets tested when he's drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

This is how you make a superhero movie. We skip the origin story - which is all told through contextual conversations - and jump right into the action. The worldbuilding in Wakanda is excellent with multiple little details filling every shot and showing off the diverse culture of the elusive African nation. There are multiple “Jedi Counsel” scenes and every single extra in the background has a beautifully designed costume and sports intricate makeup and jewelry. Wakanda just seems like a colorful place to live.

After Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel’s use of comedy in their films has been under fire. Here, jokes and funny moments actually caught me off guard as they were only used sparingly and were pretty well written and well delivered. My favorite is this sequence where Shuri, a technical genius who develops the Black Panther tech, shows T’Challa a bunch of new gadgets before he goes off on a mission. It is straight out of a 007 film, where Q shows off some new toys to James Bond.

Let’s talk about the Marvel Villain Problem. In Iron Man, the first film from Marvel Studios, Iron Man fights Iron Monger. Iron Monger is, more or less, a bigger and eviler version of Iron Man. Iron Man 2 involves a bigger, eviler version of Iron Man with whips. Doctor Strange’s villain is an evil wizard. Ant-Man’s is an evil Ant-Man. The Winter Soldier is an evil super soldier, Abomination is an evil Hulk. You guys get the picture. Who is the villain of Black Panther? Is it Klaw. Well, it is for about 10 minutes. What about M'Baku, the Man-Ape? Yes, for like 5 minutes. The main villain is Killmonger, who in the comics usually wears different African warrior attire. In the movie, he wears a Black Panther suit.

Other than a subtle yellow glowing effect, he looks exactly like T’Challa. When the two are fighting (which mostly happens in the dark) it is very difficult to tell which is which. In my opinion, it is the worst version of the Marvel Villain Problem. And that’s a shame. Killmonger is one of Marvel’s better-written villains and Michael B. Jordan did a great job. If they could’ve just come up with a way for him to have literally any other costume, that would’ve been awesome.

Black Panther is a great film. It doesn’t revolutionize anything and it’s not going to end racism, but it’s a captivating story set amongst the gorgeous backdrop of Wakanda.

What are your thoughts on Black Panther? Let me know in the comments below.

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