Black Panther (2018)

Different films inspire different reactions (shocking, I know). That instant gut feeling you have no conscious control over, that just enters your head when you leave a film. Sometimes it’s “that was good”, sometimes it’s “that ending was a real letdown”, my reaction to this can be summed up in just one word:

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Finally! FINALLY, we get a black lead in a mainstream comic book movie of extremely high quality. FINALLY, Marvel has a “personal connection to the hero” villain that really works (and isn’t Loki). FINALLY, a Marvel movie has a great soundtrack, as opposed to a great compilation album. Similar to Wonder Woman last year, this film NEEDED to succeed, and it needed to do so unquestionably. If this was anything less than a massive success then it would have been deemed a failure, and people would have said “well this just proves no films should ever have a black lead”. Thankfully it’s a massive hit, unarguably so.

There’s a reason this film has been a hit: it’s really really good. The script is sound, the characters are all fully formed, there’s none of that “but that character is just a stereotype”, even the minor characters have arcs and motivations. The villain, in particular, is superb. Fantastically written, and blessed with one of the best performances of the year so far (and considering that this is when the “Oscar movies” are released in UK that says a lot). His motivations make sense, you can see why he’s doing what he does. Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis also do well in their roles of Tolkein White Guys.

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With Moonlight, Get Out, and now this, there seems to be a real renaissance for mainstream, critically acclaimed black cinema. I usually dislike that term as it tends to just mean “films where the main character is black”. These films are different though, they explore concepts and issues which are specifically black, they’re films where if the main characters weren’t black the stories would be completely different. It helps that this has been brilliantly researched. There are countless nods to African culture throughout, some obvious (the clothing and jewellery), some really subtle (the hair). Yup, even the hair tells a f*cking story in this, EVERYTHING has been meticulously planned and executed.

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I wasn’t joking about the hair

One disappointment is that it doesn’t really continue the overall MCU story arc they have going on. If this film came out earlier this wouldn’t be an issue at all, but this is the final film before Infinity War. Actually, they’ve completely screwed up the order of this phase. It should have been:

  1. Civil War
  2. Guardians Of The Galaxy
  3. Black Panther
  4. Doctor Strange
  5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  6. Thor: Ragnarok

This way it slowly sets up the background arc of Thanos gradually becoming a threat, then you have the comedic calm of Spider-Man working as a breather before the chaotic storm of Infinity War. It also introduces the idea of magic later on, which cuts out a lot of “why doesn’t this guy help?”. Also, Guardians would make a great contrast if it came after Civil War. You’d have the story of a team falling apart, and then one about a team gradually getting bigger. This also meant that the fact the soul stone wasn’t in Black Panther isn’t as disappointing to audiences as it is at the moment. It also means the ending of Thor has an actual “holy shit, things are going to get serious really quickly”. As opposed to now, where it’s “holy shit, things are going to get serious in the film after the next one”. See, this film was so good one of the only things I can criticise is the running order of the series. It’s like criticising an album by saying the songs should have been in a different order. Go see this film, then buy it when it comes out.

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