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🍿 SPOILER-FREE IMPRESSIONS of™ - BLACK PANTHER -
• So... I decided to take a Wakanda wild side tonight.
Off the top, another score for the Marvel Movie hit parade. I can't rank it as the best of the bunch, but it's good. Not great. Good. As with many such films, there are things I might have wanted done differently. Nevertheless, this is a bold film, an IMPORTANT film, and a worthwhile theater experience. A few have made comparisons to THE LION KING. I will not dignify that silliness here.
- Strong black characters. Strong black FEMALE characters. Next.
- The concepts utilized for Wakanda, African nation with a long-held secret, are brilliantly realized here by director Ryan Coogler and his creative team. Indeed, I believe that co-creator Jack "King" Kirby would have been thrilled, as I'm sure co-creator Stan Lee must be.
As much as I am reluctant to compare the Marvel Comics Cinematic Universe and the DC Comics Cinematic Universe, let alone harp on this specific point, I was again reminded of how much better the secret kingdom of Wakanda has been handled than that of WONDER WOMAN and her Themyscira (Paradise Island). Both cloistered societies are beautiful, and relatively idyllic. Yet, where Wakanda is allowed to be depicted as technologically far advanced, Themyscira is curiously stagnant. Even though I prefer that the two great superhero rival companies pursue separate and distinct styles, it's impractical not to expect or acknowledge which concepts have indeed been cross-pollinated. The Marvel movie universe has shown us aircraft capable of vanishing behind cloaking technology. But in the comics, Wonder Woman flew an invisible plane long before any of that. Of course, such a concept is deemed too corny and unrealistic for the Amazing Amazon these days, since they've made her able to fly like Superman (at least in the comics). And now, up on the big screen, the Black Panther takes what they've made Wonder Woman discard, and Marvel has essentially made it WORK. It's not corny at all because of how they set up their world. There's a lesson for DC/WB in this. Have better faith in your superhero properties, and be less ashamed so that you strip them down instead of reinforcing them.
- This is an amazing cast. While Chadwick Boseman once again shines as King T'Challa/Black Panther, each of his co-stars and supporting players performs with a pride and exhilarated flair that is almost palpable. Sterling K. Brown, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya, and Forest Whitaker are wondrous. Andy Serkis is a gleeful villain, even more fun than before. And Martin Freeman is fantastic.
I was greatly impressed by the casting of the actors chosen to play younger versions of key characters. The resemblances are uncannily believable, which is unusual in cinema, and so appreciated. It helped that, at least in one instance, the actor chosen happens to be the true-life son of the actor with whom he shared his character.
As for Letitia Wright... Well... Please see the comment posted below.
And Lupita Nyong'o absolutely lit up the screen. With her regal bearing in certain shots, and her proud prance... Let's just say that the lady has elevated herself into my "Too. Much. Woman." category. Congratulations. I'll need a minute to recover. .....
Talk amongst yourselves...
I'll give you a topic: A Charley Horse has nothing to do with Charley OR horses. Discuss.
- I like that this film has heart, and a feel-good message. They don't shy away from making a social statement, however, they avoid anything too heavy-handed. I appreciate that they eschewed the typical superhero movie finale that has destruction raining from the heavens. That deal is already played out.
And I absolutely LOVE the reasonably happy and healthy dynamic between immediate family in this movie, particularly the sincere affection shared by siblings T'Challa and Shuri (Letitia Wright). I was extremely pleased to see the great John Kani again, whose screen presence is once more so dignified, powerful, and resonant.
- The music is a nice change of pace. I like it, but I think it could have been even more distinctive. The fact that I'm unable to discern or recall a signature motif for the Black Panther may either be by design, or it may indicate a failure on their part or mine.
- I really enjoyed the 007-ish flavor of a certain sequence, as it sparked in my mind such delicious potential for this Black Panther character going forward, whether on screen or in print. Chances are, this was merely a momentary diversion. But darn, if this brother didn't come off slick in that super-spy milieu!
- Some of the beats are too predictable. Of course, this can be attributable to the type and amount of films I have seen and studied. It does seem that, as time goes on, a cinephile may be penalized for paying too close attention, and for having too good a memory. After all, with the paucity of diverse stories to tell, tales are inevitably recycled throughout history. So it is that I recognize an unfortunate resorting to "formula" in this film's third act.
- As much as I liked the villains here, I still think they could have used more "garlic." This could be a glitch in the casting, chiefly with Jordan. But even so, he did a very good job. M'Baku (played by Winston Duke) might also have benefited from a different actor's portrayal, one with a more menacing screen presence than Duke. As it is, I never once feared M'Baku as I should have. On the other hand, Duke did manage some welcome comic relief in the appropriate scenes.
- Yet again, another movie suffers from what I call, O.A.D.E. (Overly-Ambitious Digital Effects). As previewed in an advance clip, the CGI figures in some scenes are far too obvious, performing stunts that are cringe-worthy, lacking sufficient weight and natural movement.
And I would have nixed the rhinos entirely, CGI or otherwise. That was a very dumb idea.
- I felt the pacing was a tad uneven in some parts, with editing choices at times making things feel too rushed, while at other times dragging.
Okay, I reckon that about does it. Any further impressions tend to come by their own schedule as my mind continues to digest the new input. As it stands now, my review is a most favorable one. Kudos to Marvel, to Ryan Coogler, to Kevin Feige, and to the rest of this film's production team! I look forward to BLACK PANTHER 2, and to his next appearance in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.
Thanks so much for reading! Go and see for yourself, because, as always....
Your Mileage May Vary!