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Film Review #2: Black Panther

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Black Panther is a landmark film without question, aground-breaking cinematic narrative with a near entire leading cast consisting of people of colour. It is for these reasons that film should be commended and praised, as the issue of representation in film is ever important. The film powerfully shows this with dignity and pride. However, as for the film itself… is it any good?  This is a question that will divide and cause debate. Which in hindsight is an important part of storytelling, but this may cause audiences to be less critical when watching the King of Wakandas solo debut. Simply put, Black Panther heinously falls short of its huge potential. A gifted filmmaker, talented cast, powerhouse marketing, socio-political themes and rich source material should, by all means, equate to a great superhero film.  But frankly put this cat has no bite. This is a case of trying too hard to please too many people.

Ryan Coogler’s last two films, Fruitvale Station and Creed, are both rich and complex character dramas. The former an intimate social commentary while the latter is anadrenalin fuelled action romp. The mixing of these directing talents seems perfect for such a film as this, what misses the mark however is Coogler’sfictional nation of Wakana, his leading character and a muddled over use of CGI.

One of the major problems of Black Panther is its lead. Chadwick Boseman’s turn in Captain AmericaCivil War was without a doubt one of the films highlights. He presented a mysterious, powerful and regal character, which is sadly lost in his solo film debut. He comes across as weak, whimpy and two dimensional, completely lacking the strength and grace that made him such a scene stealer beforehand. The fault of this falls both on the actor and the script, as Boseman is not given the chance to outshine his supporting players. The hero should make you want to charge behind them into battle, Black Panther couldn’t raise the motivation to make you change the kitty litter. By the films end we are no closer to understanding him or his ‘heroic’ ideology.

The support cast of females are wonderful, trying their hardest to bring life to the dull proceedings. The most notable performance coming from Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) whose powerful Wakandan warrior is dripping in the right amount of humour, honour and pathos. While many reviews are praising the films villain, Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Kilmonger as one of the best marvel has to offer. He is far from Loki, as the character does not instill stakes. Particularly in the final act Kilmonger does not, nor does his impact on the narrative seem like a credible threat. Sure he can fight, but as a character whose very history and creation are a direct result of the actions of Black Panthers late farther, his motivations come across as forced and subsequent ‘plan’ feels like an afterthought to the plot. The final act misplaces the audience’s empathy and is lost in the showdown of CGI Wakandan tech (which loses its appeal quickly, as it feels more Star Trek-esque than even Guardians of the Galaxy managed to).

Marvel’s last entry into their built universe, Thor: Ragnarok, turns out to be a far superior film. More enjoyable in nearly every aspect and expanded the Marvel formula with comedy and spectacle. Black Panther doesn’t so much expand the universe, as it unfortunately hinders it. Marvel films, are above all else, enjoyable superhero adventures. The modern day popcorn blockbuster that has grown into an entire ‘super-verse’ built upon with each new entry, forcing the audience to feel included as they piece together the films and link the events and characters. While these films can be somewhat predictable, Black Panther is utterly unengaging, with the few action scenes leaving much to be desired. It is hard to look at Black Panther as an individual standalone film, particularly with the anticipated Avengers: Infinity War being the studios next release, making it all the more of a disappointment.

The film needed more, dare we say it, unapologetic bad-ass moments instead of the whimsical attempt to politicize the genre we received. If one is looking for a ground breaking superhero movie, look to last year’s Wonder Woman. Marvel will recover, but time will not be as kind to Black Panther as some critics are being now. This Big Cat feature is more of a little kitty picture. Don’t believe the marketing hype.

Black Panther Review #2
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As the website founder, innovator and owner of www.screenscoop.com, Kosta Sakellariou is the primary event correspondent for all Sydney based red carpet events. His infatuation and 6th sense instinct for identifying the latest film news have lead to the creation of ScreenScoop, which strives to report, inform and entertain fans who share this same passion around the globe. Get in the loop with #ScreenScoop

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