With all the hype surrounding Infinity War right now you’d be forgiven for saying that we’re horribly behind in “what the kids are into now,” but, I’m hardly the biggest fan of super-hero movies. Truth be told, if I had to choose a side, I’d probably err on the side of “there’s too many of them.” That being said though, I’m not necessarily against them either. Out of all the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, I think I’ve probably seen at least half of them. Some of them I found quite entertaining, others I found quite formulaic and dull. But with the superhero movie business being as big as it is these days, and coupled with a massive amount of media attention, Black Panther was hard to avoid.
So there are two things that I’ll address in this review; the film itself, and the hype surrounding it.
Let’s look at the film. So, as someone who is neither a fan nor necessarily a hater, I’d say that Black Panther is a very solid, serviceable superhero movie. It’s well made, the characters are mostly pretty sound, and the story is decent enough, if not a bit predictable. I think the film’s strengths are the cultures and lore of Wakanda. The idea of a land hidden away in secrecy that has developed its own culture and technology is really interesting and I am genuinely interested in seeing more of Wakanda and its people. I thought the most interesting character by far was Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue. Klaue was a mix of humorous, violent, personable, and insane, and I think the writers missed a trick in not involving him deeper into the story. The movie’s main antagonist, Erik Killmonger, on the other hand, felt a bit two-dimensional. Killmonger’s story is basically that of a jealous kid who wants to avenge his father’s death who died at the hands of his own brother- the king of Wakanda. It’s not necessarily a bad story, but to me it felt like the writers hadn’t fleshed out his character any further than that.
Aside from a few uninteresting characters, I’d say the movie’s other weakest point was its story. As I mentioned, the story of an orphaned exile seeking revenge isn’t a bad idea, it’s just that it’s a pretty predictable one. I thought the idea of Killmonger forcing change upon Wakanda was good, but his ascension to the Wakandan throne felt very rushed, and they just wanted to get to the third act and the big action blow-off as quickly as possible. Wakanda’s support and arming of downtrodden black communities all over the world could’ve been a great story arc for the entire Black Panther series, with the reemergence of T’Challa and his supporters happening in the upcoming sequel.
Now let’s get into the other half of this review – the hype.
With all the hype and politicizing of this movie, it was very hard not to go into this film without high expectations, and if anything, it’s probably why my assessment of Black Panther might come off a little downbeat. Needless to say, the levels of hype and media attention this film received were off the charts. Should we believe the hype? Were all the comments and attention on the film justified? As a movie, I would say no. Black Panther is not a bad film, but it’s not a particularly great one in my opinion. As a major stepping stone towards diversity in Hollywood blockbusters, I’d say, yes, all the commentary and media attention surrounding it is probably justified. I say probably because after all, what would I really know? If you want to truly gauge this movie’s effect on non-white audiences, you should probably ask an 8-year-old Ghanaian boy, not a middle-aged white guy like me. I do genuinely suspect there are probably quite a few aspiring new actors among the schools of Accra as a result of this movie.
In any case, would I watch Black Panther again? Probably not. Would I be interested in a sequel? Yes. Is it worthy of being Rotten Tomatoes’ best movie of all-time? Definitely not. Overall, I’d say Black Panther is a solid 6 out of 10. A fun, but predictable superhero movie that is average in its plot, but above average in its ambitions.