Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Movie Review: Marvel's Black Panther

Black Panther is a second-tier superhero who is virtually unknown outside of comic books (until Captain America: Civil War), and yet Marvel Studios has managed to create a highly-successful major motion picture starting that character. That is marketing at its best.

Marvel's Black Panther is a 2018 action adventure superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is rated PG-13 for language, violence, and a vulgar gesture and is appropriate for tweens and up.

The Good

Car Chase. In the middle of the film there is a pretty exciting car chase scene that presents action and other elements we haven't seen in a superhero movie before. It was pretty fun and way too short.

Accessibility. Black Panther is one of the lesser known superheroes having almost never appeared in media outside the comic book until now. The filmmakers filled in all the backstory information a non-comic book reader needed to understand the characters and story, and did it in a way that was interesting and didn't distract from the story or hurt the pacing.

Solid Story. The story was solid, easy to follow, and didn't have any glaring plot holes or problems. I felt very satisfied at the end that the major arcs were complete and the themes sufficiently explored.

The Bad

Played it Safe. This movie follows the Marvel formula and felt like the last six Marvel movies I've seen. They missed an opportunity to do something a little more original and unique.

CGI Characters. CGI was used to create the Black Panther during several action scenes and stunts, and it looked like a bad video game. Iron Man was so well done and set the bar so high for believable effects that it makes subpar CGI look even worse.

Villains. Like most Marvel movies produced by Disney, the villains were underdeveloped. This film has two main villains, and I think that was the mistake. It meant each only got half as much screen time as they needed to develop them beyond single-minded, two-dimensional characters. Klaue is presented as a lunatic who can't stop shooting and wrecking things, and Killmonger is focused on revenge and nothing else. Neither are likable or elicit much sympathy. Focusing on one villain would have given the movie time to develop one of the villains into a more fleshed out opponent.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

In the Jack Kirby run and Brian Stelfreeze run of the Black Panther comic book, both artists use a very weird, abstract style that is really quite stunning to look at. I wish the filmmakers had been a little braver and brought that look into the art direction. They missed a real opportunity to create a unique look for the movie that would have made it stand out from all the other superhero movies. This looked like almost every other Marvel movie.


Marvel's Black Panther delivers exactly what you expect from a Marvel film. If you liked the last half dozen films, you'll like this one, because it follows the same formula. There are a couple of great action scenes but not as much humor as we're used to. The filmmakers missed an opportunity to adapt some of the unique designs from the Jack Kirby and Brian Stelfreeze runs on the comic that could have given this film a really unique look and made it stand out from all the other superhero films. The story is solid and the filmmakers present a lot of new characters and background most viewers will be unfamiliar with in a way that is interesting and doesn't distract from the story or slow down the pacing. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.


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