Saturday, 3 March 2018

Film Review No. 37 Black Panther (12+)

Strong Points:
A refreshing new type of Marvel movie
The gadgets
Colour palette - etheral
Great acting from all
Told its own story outside of political and cultural pressures...
...Although treats them with sensitivity as well
The right amount of humour
Wide open fight scenes and small, intimate duels
No CGI army to fight
Impressive CGI
Twists and turns

Weak Points:
Some of Michael B Jordan's lines fell flat
Took me a while to remember the opening was set in the past
Did they fight to kill sometimes?

Some spoilers ahead:

In-depth Review:
Black Panther is a great film. If you imagine the MCU as a series of circles, with Thanos in the middle then The Avengers is next. Then, similar to Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, Black Panther inhabits a second circle around Thanos, flanking him. GOTG is in its own separate circle which will suddenly open up over the top of Thanos and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is its own small circle in the middle of The Avengers film (I can dream). What this means, is that the film has slightly more freedom to tell its story differently to the main teams. It's also a film, like Ant-Man and GOTG, that wouldn't have been made without the success of Iron Man etc. Let me tell you now, these films can stand on their own.

That's not to say there aren't good connections to Civil War and the other Marvel movies. Besides the flashbacks allowing us to relieve the moment T'Challa became king, two main characters served as connections to the previous films: Martin Freeman's Ross and Andy Serkis's Klaue. I was pleasantly surprised with how these roles were handled. Far from being Tolkein whites (sorry), as they could have easily been, they were fully formed characters. To fully embrace diversity in films, we need to not flip the roles given, but instead create ones for all, which this film did well. Both characters were great, with Klaue being an unhinged, terrifying psycho (and a great case for Serkis acting in real life more often), while Freeman was almost unrecognisable with his accent and character. Although he did keep his signature Sherlock confused face which I liked.

The rest of the characters were also varied and unique. We'll start with Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa, who fully embraces the kingship and all its trials and tribulations. With competition from in and out of Wakanda, he has to battle throughout the film to just keep his hold on the throne but also makes time for the Marvel trademarked banter and tough moral questions. Phew. Alongside T'Challa, you had his sister and all-around genius Shuri (played by Letitia Wright) who became one of my favourite characters. Wright played the character to show intelligence but naivety, in a similar way to RDJ's portrayal of Tony Stark, and we all know how well that works. We also have Lupita Nyong'o's Nakia and Danai Guira's Okyoe showing two very different versions of special operative. Ones a secret service-esque agent while the other is a member of the royal guard. Both bring vibrancy to their roles, especially as their character types are normally constrained to archetypes.

Michael B Jordan played the villain Killmonger in the film, a war dog who scars his body each time he gets a kill. Sure, this has been done before, but as is slowly revealed during the film (or instantly revealed via the poster), Killmonger's earnt his name. I personally found the scale and intensity of Killmonger's backstory slightly outstretched Michael B Jordan's emotional range, who gave an uneven performance. Sometimes I believed every word, other times I believed he had just read the script. There are so many characters in this film, I feel it would be a disservice to give them all a small sentence in this review, so I'll leave them to your impressions when you watch the film. And you should watch the film.

The gadgets of Black Panther are pretty awesome. We have EMP beads, VR remote-controlled cars and planes, communication beads, sonic waves and, of course, the new and improved Black Panther suit. Not only can it hide inside a rather inconspicuous necklace, but it can also store kinetic energy when hit. This allows for some fantastic fight scenes with a new take on the Superman sonic boom. Now that the world has access to Wakanda's knowledge, I'm hoping that at least Ironman will have some extra firepower going into Infinity War.

I also hope the atmosphere of Black Panther carries on into Infinity War. While I have enjoyed the more fantastical feel of the last couple of entries to the MCU, what with the neon explosions that were GOTG 2 and Thor: Ragnorak, it's nice to go back to the more 'realistic' feel of Winter Soldier and The Avengers. That's not to say there's not a lot of humour, quite the opposite, but it's not the main attraction - rather a nice addition. You laugh with the characters, not at the expense of them, giving it a friendlier feel.

We had two main types of fight scenes in Blank Panther - wide-open fights and small intimate duels. The wide-open fights are more typical of Marvel films, although with one small difference - the enemies they were fighting were real people. No cloned CGI armies here, instead it was the battle of the clans (or countries). This gave the film a more visceral feel and you started to wince when an enemy was hurt - they were real. So much so that I was actually watching out to see if the good guys were killing or just knocking out the bad guys - it felt wrong when they finished them, especially in the end fight.

The opposite side to this was the duel scenes. In these, it was clear cut who you wanted to win but it was shot in such a way that you were never sure who would. If Iron Man's in a battle, you can be pretty sure that he's going to survive, but the Black Panther's moved between successors, so they have room for change. That threat, coupled with the various locations the duels took place (the waterfall was particularly impressive) and the ritual side of the fights, made every battle tension-filled.

The cultural aspects of the film are what increased the hype of the film to this level. However, I'd say the film deserves more than that. Sure, we need cultural recognition and diversity in the film (and I believe it's finally starting to happen) but what this film and Wonder Woman before it proves, at least to the Hollywood producers anyway, that these types of films can be good on their own terms. And they should just be allowed to be released and accepted as great films, based on the filmmaking merits alone rather than on how influential it is to the political scene. Only then will we have true diversity in film.

The graphics of Black Panther confused me. Firstly, we had large vistas of the African savanna which looked real, but after further research looks like were made on a set. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the only major scenes which were shot on location were in South Korea, so the backdrops were incredible. On the other hand, some of the vehicles, especially in the first landing in Wakanda looked off, with light pollution abound. I will have to watch the film again at home to check that it wasn't the cinema (as has been a problem in the past) though. The colour palette has to be credited though, giving the film an ethereal glow, just different enough from the neon of GOTG and Thor: Ragnorak to be recognisably Black Panther.

Conclusion: not since Civil War have I seen the balance in a Marvel film between humour, story and action been done quite right. Until Black Panther. Kudos to it for being the first one in a while which hasn't left my head feeling numb with so much going on as well

Rating: 90%

P.S. during the movie, especially in the casino scene, I kept thinking just how great a Black Panther game could be. Either a first-person Dishonored style game or a massive open world Ghost Recon: Wildlands style game. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment