Written by Rohan Angus – Student Pages Entertainment Journalist
The 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe follows ‘T’Challa’ in his return to the technologically advanced African Nation of Wakanda, where he takes his first steps as King after the death of his father.
I used to be an avid comic-book-movie fan which was mainly inspired by Nolan’s near-flawless ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy, but as of late, the fluffy Disney/Marvel combination has slashed my eagerness making the instalments into the universe an increasingly tougher watch. For me, the films have become far too predictable as well as corny – both negatives are excruciatingly apparent in ‘Black Panther’ to points where my friends and I looked at each other in a collective cringe.
These cringeworthy moments come in the form of 3-year-old meme references which bruised the production with ill-fitting humour which at least to me, did not match the tone that should’ve twinned with the storyline. A lot of the issues I have with the film are intertwined and stems from Killmonger, one of the most interesting villains within the MCU. Otherwise known as Erik, the cousin of ‘T’Challa’ has a harrowing origin story which is the perfect material for creating an understandable desire to take the throne of Wakanda, and use their resources to control the world and assert order.
Based off his reasoning, I was almost routing for Michael B. Jordan’s character until he opened his mouth and spat out this awfully eye-roll deserving dialogue that made the promising ‘Killmonger’ feel very washed-down, and unconvincing to his mission. Though Jordan’s performance was not necessarily awful, I strongly feel like the villain would have worked better in a dark, gritty tone as oppose to this B-list gangster who relies on unfunny wit to assert himself. The villain is a prime example of how Marvel uses humour-focussed dialogue to up tune their stories and characters to be kid-friendly, which at least to me, makes the films rather forgettable.
There were other weak elements that made ‘Black Panther’ distasteful such as an overuse of CGI, as well as an underuse of what is a phenomenal Kendrick Lamar produced-soundtrack. Don’t quote me on this, but I only recall 2 or 3 songs being incorporated into the films action-sequences, albeit it made the standard Black SUV car-chase spectacular when combined with a Vince Staples track. The album is near an hour long and is fuelled by some of the best hip-hop artists today, so it does seem wasteful to not merge more of the songs into the production.
Despite these negatives, ‘Black Panther’ is still deserving of an above-average score as there was an applaudable costume design effort, commendable performances, as well as some great scenes which emphasised how powerful the African hero was. In terms of the great performances, the actresses on board stole the show for me – Danai Gurira (‘The Walking Dead’) was the stand-out as she delivered a very emotional and conflicted rendition of the skilled Wakandan bodyguard ‘Okoye’. The other most enjoyable character for me was Andy Serkis’ ‘Klaue’, who easily made himself known throughout his scenes.
‘Black Panther’ was always going to be enjoyable, such as every production within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Yet, the humour is becoming tiresome as it weakens the characters within these comic-book movies; ‘Killmonger’ could have been a sensational villain if he were illustrated in a sinister demeaner, but instead he was watered-down through silly quips making him a forgettable edition to the stack of MCU villains.
Follow Rohan at @rs_reviews