Great Characterisation Ruined By A Lacklustre Story
Although Black Panther stands out for its original setting, thematically relevant commentary on race and great visuals, it lacks emotional maturity with a tonally abrupt script that can’t resist throwing slapstick Marvel humour at the most inappropriate moments, albeit in smaller doses compared to recent films. With a villain switch midway through and a disappointingly short climactic fight, Black Panther certainly isn’t without its flaws. Having said all that, Black Panther is still an enjoyable superhero film and the ensemble of well written and decently motivated characters helps it stand out from the worst of the superhero films but this is a far cry from the illustrious heights films like Deadpool and Logan have achieved.
The story picks up after the events of Civil War with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the King of Wakanda, returning to his homeland only to be called into action by forces that threaten his throne. Mentally unstable Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) is the antagonist for the first half of the film and his charismatic instability makes him a dangerous foe. However, his role and screen time is cut short by vengeful Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who’s revenge-fuelled quest to avenge his father sees him crossing paths with T’Challa in a fight for the role of Black Panther and ruling Wakanda. Both villains are well fleshed out and their personas are realistically depicted and engaging throughout. It perhaps would have been nice for both villains to team up together, with Serkis in a supporting role to Killmonger, but this is more a personal wish rather than a deterrent to the film itself. Still, the actual plot line itself is pretty generic, following the fallen-hero-overcoming-all-odds trope to perfection. It’s just a shame that the lack of personality given to T’Challa himself makes him a bland hero at best and difficult to empathise with, especially given the excellent work done to flesh out the villains and supporting cast.
When it comes to the aesthetic, Black Panther is an amazing blockbuster of visual delights. The technologically advanced city is realistically depicted with awe-inspiring skyscrapers towering in the sky and a great blend of natural and artificial elements coming together to form the bulk of the city. The choreography and CGI effects in the action scenes are equally impressive although most of the big action takes place in two isolated set pieces – one near the start and one at the end of the film. The music accompanying the action is equally as engrossing, with plenty of tribal drums mixed with an upbeat hip-hop fused soundtrack that feels appropriate for Black Panther and the mood set in the film.
Still, it’s difficult to ignore the flaws inherent with this film. The changing villain, the painfully short climactic fight and a lack of personality for T’Challa make Black Panther a disappointing superhero flick. Despite the great characterisation and realistically depicted characters, Black Panther struggles to differentiate itself from other superhero films out there and in true Marvel fashion, the humour destroys any built up tension in the film. Black Panther isn’t the worst Marvel film to be released nor is it anywhere near the best. It sits comfortably in the middle of the pile somewhere with an equal amount of flaws as it does positives. It’s still worth watching of course to continue the endless Marvel universe building but is Black Panther a genre-defying, incredible masterpiece? No, but there’s still enough here to make it an enjoyable watch nonetheless.
Verdict - 7/10