Black Panther Review - Waka Waka Wakanda
Over all, I didn’t care for Black Panther. It was a good movie, and not the worst of the MCU movies, but When it comes down to it, I found it kind of... dry, boring, and underwhelming. Let me explain. But first, compliments, because there were many things I liked, and then we can get into the juicier stuff.
Almost all the actors were great! Andy Serkis was fun. The other bad guy (Michael B. Jordan) was compelling, making him one of the better MCU villains, (which, honestly, isn’t saying much.) The three female leads were my favorite. They were fun, funny, and pretty cool. They were all competent in their jobs and the bald lady had the most conflict out of anyone. Does she serve her king or her people? The soundtrack was interesting. Though not my flavor, it was unique compared to the other films in the MCU. There were also vibrant colors. Between the bright fabrics the Wakandan people wear, to the neon streets of South Korea, it definitely beats out the cloudy and empty airport tarmac of “Civil War”, the last movie featuring our current hero. That being said, there were also large scenes devoid of life. Like the casino scene that didn’t do a great job of a one-shot scene (which are usually my favorite) and the night assault, and the mine train track fight, and the outdoors war scene, and the Oakland scenes, which were just too dark. So I guess that makes half of larger set pieces good, and half bland. You know, now that I think about it, most of the color comes from the people and what they wore, giving a double meaning to “Colored people”. Lastly, when it wasn’t hitting you over the head, the Wakandan culture was very interesting and fun. The small glimpse into that world was where the movie hit their highest points. It’s a shame it wasn’t the focus of the film.
BAD STUFF A lot of things broke the suspension of disbelief, which, for me, is the most important aspect of a movie. No one (except Andy Serkis’s character) has ever seen Wakanda, even though it’s been referenced in previous films. The dad, was a representative for Wakanda among all the other nations (when he got blown up). So a country more under wraps than North Korea is allowed a seat and diplomat “spies” in every major country, even though they hold no embassies, keep their location hidden, and refuse to provide or contribute relief efforts? Andy Serkis called Wakanda the actual location of “El Dorado”, a Spanish term for the city of gold, not an African term for a city of technology and Vibranium. The meteorite didn’t break into smaller deposits of vibranium when it hit the atmosphere. Somewhere in the middle of Africa there are snowy mountains. Falling off a large waterfall didn’t kill a non-enhanced guy, and he floated UPWARDS to said snowy mountains, not down a river and was found by a fisherman; a fisherman in the middle of a snowy mountain in Africa. I didn’t know Africa, a continent struggling with clean water had snow and fish! Not one previous king thought to maybe help the surrounding African nations, prevent all the genocides and apartheids. Wakanda still has primitive huts and fences in some areas. The magical, all-powerful vibranium macguffin tech defies the law of mass (don’t think I’m picking on this movie, Iron man’s briefcase and watch-transforming suits are way worse.) After millennia of technological advancements, there’s still primitive rituals and trial-by-combat using sticks. SMALLER NITPICKS How big is Wakanda? They say it’s a country but we only see a city, and Andy Serkis called it a city. In the ship, those floating chairs are unnecessary and unsafe. They weren’t grounded nor equipped with seatbelts. Also, why would the bald lady sit in a Buddhist meditation pose from Eastern culture? how do they brand Wakandan’s lips? We never saw any other glow-ey tattoos. After millennia of technological advancements, they wear twine and bone and bead jewelry, and those huge disks stuck in their lips. What do they need skyscrapers, trains, and ships for if they are a small, self-contained city/ county? During the outdoor war, there were no deaths and there were no dead bodies. There was no blood and on a pretty small field, large shots of people disappeared in other shots, as did dead bodies. Where was Bucky? I thought he was in cryo-sleep, being handled by “top men”. Why is he in a small hut like Bruce Banner in the beginning of Avengers?
The movie looked cheap. There were a handful of sets, and a lot of green screen and CG work that looked unfinished. And for a whole high-tech city/country, we only saw one street, the throne room, and the sister’s multi-purpose science lair. It made the whole “country” feel like a small town. The world of the film contradicted itself a lot, too. Aside from the geography, we know nothing about the 5 different tribes, except the snow gorillas, which also are in a small town. We knew nothing of the history and the leaders and troubles for the country beforehand. Like, how did they even learn English? MAIN CHARACTER
Black Panther is a boring character and there is little to no growth for anything. He starts off as king and has one decision to make: keep Wakanda hidden, or use Wakanda’s technology to help the rest of the world. That is all the movie needed to be great. It would have the same feel of weight on one man that Gotham has on Batman. They didn’t do that. Instead, the movie ends with Black Panther making his decision to open the gates to the world for three superficial reasons: his girlfriend wanted to, he realized that his father (that he idolized) made a single mistake, and his cousin wanted to, but to hurt people, not help them. I don’t know. It seems less of “he learned a hard lesson” and more of a “huh, I guess everyone’s kinda leaning this way”. There wasn’t much conflict and arguments for both sides. (There were, but they were glanced over) Black Panther never had any tough choices to make or personal conflicts. When one guy came in to challenge him, he was immediately overthrown (literally off a cliff!) During the chaos, where the hero normally perseveres and tries to save the people and do what’s right, he was in a coma. Meanwhile, Killmonger showed up, became king, and was overthrown and killed after 2 days. I don’t think he should have had as many loyal followers as he did (even though Black Panther was king for almost as short a time).
Here’s another thing: unlike every other Marvel superhero, Black Panther never actually saved anyone! In fact, he had no problem killing his own people! Granted, there were not actual shots of anyone murdering anyone. (Not to mention the effects were bad: dead bodies disappeared and there was no blood). Black Panther killed his own people and allowed others to kill his own people! Like a king, which he also is, a hero takes on a greater responsibility than any single regular person can handle. They absorb the bad and inspire the good in people. that’s typically why they’re usually against killing, fighting, and try talking to villains first.
The MCU films haven’t been great at color or music, and Black Panther was good in both. But the action, which Marvel is usually good at, was really bland and boring and not very memorable. There were 2 shots (not even scenes that stood out to me: Black Panther tackles a rhino, and the bald lady throws a spear through the windshields of a car and plants in the ground, flipping the car. The pacing in the movie was really bad. It’s not easy to describe in writing, but it’s bad, and a lot of the scenes were poorly placed in the order they were in. MESSAGE? The ”message” of the film is so hypocritical and so “in your face” black-spoliation. There were 5 tribes of Wakanda who couldn’t get along and they are going to waltz into the UN and say “we will set an example for the world of how to be peaceful” when they are a monarchy in a mostly democratic system of nations. Even a very liberal American President would think that Wakanda is some North Korean-style dictatorship. No foreigners have ever visited. There are no photos or videos of Wakanda. They never participated in the Olympics. They don’t even have a flag! And at least we can point to North Korea on a map! No one is calling out the black-sploitation? It rips off lion king, and takes heavy inspiration from African cultures and black music artists just so that audiences (especially black people) can feel like they’re supporting their culture and feel connected to their “roots”.
The film wasn’t about black people’s struggles in today’s times like “Get Out”. It wasn’t about a black superhero like “Luke Cage”. Fortunately, like most of the lesser MCU films, this one doesn’t impact the continuity of the main Avengers storyline, unless your favorite Avenger is minor S.H.E.I.L.D. agent, Martin Freeman.