I walked into the Marvel’s Black Panther media preview with tempered expectations, having consciously avoided all the trailers and teasers released to date. My exposure to the Marvel marketing machine were limited to the first trailer and its second TV spot; I even avoided reading any reviews published online just so that I have a clear, unbiased perception of the movie. I wanted it to surprise me. I wanted to like it because I enjoyed it. I wanted to avoid ideologies and forced perspectives which may cloud my judgement. Now that I’ve seen it….

Bloody hell man. Black Panther was a darn good movie.

In Black Panther we are served with a Marvel comic book movie unlike any we have seen before yet remain familiar in the grand scheme of things. Just like how the gleamingly, regal Asgard was beautifully rendered in Thor: Ragnarok, so was Wakanda in Black Panther in its own unique, contemporary, realistic way. Never before on the silver screen have we seen technology seamlessly merge with traditional elements as seen in this movie. Functionality meets bleeding edge technology left, right and center while tribal and cultural elements blend in with out-of-this-world gadgets that puts Tony Stark’s workshop look like a child’s playpen.

The movie picks off almost immediately after Captain America: Civil War, as the newly crowned King T’Challa of the Wakanda kingdom ascend to the throne as the rightful ruler of his country following his father, King T’Chaka’s death as seen in Civil War. With great writing and pacing all around, the filmmakers touched some really interesting subjects, most notably the country’s stand in regards to international policies, and discusses about morality and how varying levels of interference affect the world around us. The movie advocates responsibility when wielding power ala Spider-man, but somewhat of an amplified version of “With great power comes great responsibility” – whence the ‘responsibility’ in question involves a far, technologically superior country which is capable of shaping the world as we know it.

The world (nation) building of Wakanda was executed flawlessly as viewers are served with an exposition early on, followed by the issues faced by the kingdom, which eerily reflects ongoing, real-life happenings. It’s obvious from the beginning that the filmmakers were trying to convey a message, but they did it in such subtle manner that it didn’t feel preachy at all.

Opposing views were equally presented, each concisely without waste of screen time, allowing viewers to form their own opinion on what T’Challa has to do next. The most politically-daring MCU movie to date, it toes the grey line in showing how naive and archaic yet justified certain ideologies are and how they may be misinterpreted in the modern world. This all weaves into the movie plot, which while predictable, was impeccably delivered, making a great example of how the folks in charge of the MCU know how to make a good story great.

The writing in Black Panther is one of MCU’s best to date that you could set the movie in South America or Asia for that matter (with appropriate changes to the cast’s ethnicity and relevant cultural details, of course) and it will still work. It just so happen that T’Challa is of African descent, and Wakanda is in Central Africa – that’s Black Panther’s country of origin anyway. All this talk about the movie being a representation of rising above oppression is baseless, self-serving and come from folks who have not seen the movie. Marvel’s Black Panther in essence explores more about how people in power, blinded by the security and comfort from sitting in their ivory towers refuse to adapt to change.

Black Panther also presented Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best villain to date in the form of Erik Killmonger, portrayed by the excellent Michael B. Jordan. His performance here pretty much absolves his forgettable depiction as Johnny Storm in 2015’s dud of a movie, Fantastic Four. Through Jordan, Killmonger’s background, ideologies and motivation were perfectly fleshed out and the audience will instantly be able to see the world from his eyes, why and how he intends to mould the world. A mirror opposite to T’Challa, you will learn to symphatize with his character, and even root for him as the movie carries on. I know I did.

With superb action scenes aplenty, our only gripe on the movie oddly resides here as well, as the shaky-cam and fight scenes were blindingly fast that we missed half of them. With so many things happening all over at the same time, a single viewing isn’t enough to capture all of the splendour presented on screen. And let’s not forget the soundtrack. Easily one of the more memorable compared to what we got in other MCU offerings, Black Panther is pleasing to the ears as it is to the eyes.

If Captain America: Winter Soldier was MCU’s take on a spy thriller while Spider-man: Homecoming a coming-of-age teenage movie, then Black Panther is a political family drama that has kick-ass action peppered throughout. While it doesn’t serve much in bridging and building a lead up between Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Infinity War movie, there are tons of Easter Eggs all over, one even possibly relating to Iron Man’s next suit.

We know from trailers that T’Challa will be involved in a huge battle set in African plains in Infinity War so perhaps this movie is also laying down the foundations that lead to that epic showdown. So keep your eyes peeled. And in case you are wondering, there are two post-movie scenes; one mid-credit and another at the very end so make sure to stick around til the lights go up as well.

TL; DR

Positives 

– Brilliant Wakanda tech showcase.

– MCU’s daring move in tackling weightier issues hardly addressed in their previous movies

– A great shift of view in the MCU world; away from the familiarity of New York & core Avengers characters

– Michael B Jordan’s Erik Killmonger is possibly MCU’s best bad guy to date (sorry Hela)

Negatives

– Predictable plot

Marvel’s Black Panther serves as a great insight into the character and addresses bold issues never previously attempted in the MCU. It shows that no matter how obscure a hero is (Black Panther is a C-list at best), good writing will make him relevant and work on screen. A thoroughly enjoyable film, Black Panther may very well occupy many comic book movie fans’ top-5 list.

SCORE : 90 /100


Marvel’s Black Panther opens in Malaysian cinemas 14th February 2018. We caught the movie on iMAX via press screening courtesy of The Walt Disney Company (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd

 

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