Black Panther pounced onto movie screens last weekend with ferocity.
Most people gave nothing but the most glowing and raving reviews, such as the fabulous Jamie Broadnax of Black Girl Nerds. “It’s everything I’ve ever desired in a live-action version of this popular superhero and yet so much more,” she beams.
Some, however, like Armond White from The National Review had less positive criticisms. He seemed hard pressed to find something good about the film at all, and even scoffed about the “media’s enthusiasm for this bland action flick.” He continues expressing his distaste, “The problem isn’t one particular movie, but the celebration of the illusion of ‘progress.’”
Of course, this is a movie, and movies are made by people, and as we already know, there is no person or movie that is perfect. Currently, the film has a 97% rating from Rotten Tomatoes with a 77% score from general audiences.
Let’s start out with 10 stars and examine the elements to see if this movie is for YOU. I’ll go easy on spoilers, so it doesn’t affect the enjoyment of those who still want to watch it for the first time. Let’s jump into this full geek!
10 Stars: **********
1. The Acting
The acting was phenomenal, and not over the top like a Key and Peele sketch (which is still phenomenal comedy). Some complain about Chadwick Boseman’s wooden acting in the same way my wife scoffs at the acting of Clark Gregg when he portrays Phil Coulson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but they are in a leadership role, which requires their characters to show strength and grace under fire, despite tragic pasts. Even then, Boseman totally balances this with his emotional struggles with glorious ease. However, if you don’t like to see leaders attempting to hide their anguish, then this might cause you to dock a star off in your book.
9 Stars: *********
Even so, you can’t deny that this man is expressive when he needs to be.
Costar, Michael B. Jordan’s work was full of range with no sense of restraint. His default setting is “Somebody’s about to get their ass whooped,” resting face.
He brings charisma and passion to a fully developed character that thankfully steps away from egomaniacs hellbent on world domination for the sake of being power hungry. Even Andy Serkis brought a delightful, chaotic, glee to his mayhem. I’ve yet to see much criticism on their acting. Plus, I still can’t get over how buff Andy Serkis got.
No critique of this movie would be complete without mentioning the strong female characters. Every one of them is a powerful warrior in their own right, delivering their well-written dialogue (according to many) with fierce whimsy.
Even the very few lines that Angela Bassett speaks never leave us without the idea of her regalness that rivals that of Judy Dench’s queenly roles. The love interest, Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o isn’t even terribly sappy, either. Danai Gurira’s Okoye is able to make quips better than any male counterparts in the movie, while still having looks that can stop a rhino, literally. Letitia Wright brings the funniest lines and delivers them well, but some criticize the campy jokes that negatively affect the pacing. If you value smoother pacing, this may be a negative for you. She also demonstrates so much technical prowess that many are now claiming she is the smartest person in the MCU, and we never lose sight that she can still knock you out with intimidating rage if need be. Jamie Broadnax points out that Shuri takes up the Black Panther mantle, in the comics. This portrayal does not make me doubt it.
2. The Effects
CGI is still an element many a debate. I suffer from ADHD, so I do notice strange mishaps at times that throw me off, but my mind (at least most of it) was still immersed in the story. No CGI has ever been perfect, but some may take a star off for this.
8 Stars: ********
3: Character Motivations and Themes
The character motivations are believable and heartfelt. They bring us important themes we are dealing with today, which may be something others criticize it for. Armond White didn’t seem to appreciate the blacksploitation, and went further to mention the idealized “spears” with such lines as, “Don’t scare me like that, colonizer!” and “Another broken white boy for us to fix.” Race is, unfortunately, an issue in our world, but I will mention it very little here because neither of those seems to be reverse racism because nothing negative was said about either one, and it adds some expositional hints about one of the after the credits clips. All of this may even be too preachy, political, and somewhat toe the line of racism at some points for some people. If other races were inserted in those lines, it might have been triggering so this may be why some take yet another star off their rating, especially since it reminds them of the real world all too much with lines like, “In troubled times, wise men build bridges while fools build walls.” My daughter, our graphic designer, actually had to point this out to me later, because I didn’t have my political hat on at the time. That is indeed a sick burn, though.
7 Stars: *******
For me, it was powerful and awe-inspiring. The greatest villains are heroes in their own mind, and this villain actually ends up imparting some wisdom to T’Challa by the end, completing a theme of actively doing the right thing for the world, rather than closing yourself off to the rest of the world.
4. Art Design
The set and costume designs fused old world African culture and art with futurist styles in amazing breathtaking views, and the camera framing and angles were on point to help establish just the right nuance of mood. As an art teacher, I was in a heavenly delight of Afrofuturist wonder. For more of the African cultures that were used in this film, I highly recommend HomeTeam History’s video on Youtube, especially if you are a fan of art or African culture.
Much of the designs were brought to us by CGI, and that can put a damper on your experience if not done properly. If it did, you may find a fault in their stars (yeah, pun intended).
6 Stars: ******
It’s a Marvel movie, so we have similar fast-paced scenes. Even though the action scene to exposition ratio was a little light, the comedy and drama were enough to hold my attention and lose track of the fact that this movie has a runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes, but just as the pacing and humor on The Last Jedi was criticized, this too had some jabs by some audience members. Devil’s Advocrits gives details on their YouTube review about why some may find internet meme jokes jarring after some solemn ceremonial scenes. They also mention that some of the same reveal elements are repeated when an outsider ends up in Wakanda, which could have been avoided by removing much of those elements at the beginning and putting them there. I agree. Their actual opinions are given at the end of the video, though, so watch until the end. If you find such pacing awkward, then your review may look like a meteor shower.
5 Stars: *****
6. Fight Choreography
They used a mix of fighting styles, but a lot of the fight scenes were primarily African Martial arts, which not only brings us something fresh but lends authenticity to these 3-dimensional characters. Check out Youtube’s, Comics Explained video for an in-depth look at the different fighting arts used in the movie.
Some criticisms developed on this subject anyway. “The plotting is predictable and the action sequences for the most part unengaging. Black Panther is a major disappointment,” said Vicky Roach of The Daily Telegraph and other news sites. Sure, I did know which fights were going to be won and which were going to be lost, and if that’s the case with you, that may be what causes falling stars on your review.
4 Stars: ****
Predictability can be a problem, especially when you understand the formula of the monomyth. Yes, you knew I’d mention it, I also teach mythology, and this movie follows Joseph Campbell’s Heroes Journey almost entire to the letter, which is why I knew which fights would be lost. If you’d like to be able to better predict plot points of movies, watch this Youtube video by CrashCourse Mythology. For others, this may be an issue that causes you to yawn a star off your rating.
3 Stars: ***
This ends up being close to the lowest of ratings you can find on Rotten Tomatoes, but I’m a mythology and art nerd, who loves comics, so to me, this film schooled the rest of the MCU on how to make a movie. I might take half a star off for CGI, and another half for repeated exposition.
9 Stars: *********
If you haven’t seen this movie, hopefully, this review will inform you on whether to catch it this weekend, or whether to wait for Netflix.