*. Near the beginning of Black Panther there’s a scene where T’Challa’s jet crosses a barrier into the fantasy realm of Wakanda and the new king says “This never gets old.”
*. The line struck me as merely hopeful. For me, at least, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has gotten very old. In the past I’ve referred to these movies as MarvelCrap, but they’re not all bad. Overall they tend to be very well (and very expensively) produced. They are slick entertainment. But they do get old.
*. Is Black Panther very different? It was certainly marketed as something different, and the marketing worked with audiences and with critics. Even by Marvel’s impossibly high standards for box office the film was a huge success. But creatively?
*. I liked the story better than most MCU entries. The villain of the piece, Killmonger, was authentic and relatable with a compelling back story. His plan for world domination was dull, and his conflict with T’Challa seemed like a replay of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but at least he wasn’t trying to open a gateway to another universe. I was getting sick of that.
*. The cast is excellent, highlighted by the young leads Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright. With a good script and a good cast they couldn’t go far wrong, and they didn’t.
*. There were a few negatives. For one thing, it comes in at a heavy two hours and fifteen minutes that isn’t made any lighter by the predictability and odd lack of humour. Most of the MCU movies include a few laugh lines and wisecracks, but Black Panther is mostly played straight. I counted only a couple of lighter moments.
*. The CGI also seemed generic and underwhelming. Nothing we haven’t seen a hundred times before. I suspect this may be the real problem Marvel is going to face moving forward. Where does CGI go from here? I don’t see where it has many more tricks up its sleeve. Meanwhile, the stampede of armored rhinos was just ridiculous. Where did they even come from?
*. I wonder if they got that tree full of black panthers from Paul Schrader’s Cat People. Now that would be funny!
*. Given how it was made into such a cultural moment I feel like I should say something more about this one but I just don’t feel up to it. This seemed to me to be a better than average Marvel movie, but that wasn’t enough to make up for how tired I am of the genre now and how stuck it has become in convention. Put another way, I thought it was pretty good but I almost didn’t finish watching it. This has gotten old.
Your phrase from the Deadpool 2 review “superhero nonsense with bad language, lots of violence, and endless knowing asides” says most of it for me about the Marvel film canon. Ant Man, the last one I watched, had sprinklings of hip LA gang patois that the screenwriter probably picked up in a seminar on “writing naturalistically for an urban audience.” The scariest thing about Ant Man was the digital age-regression of Michael Douglas back to his Gordon Gecko look in the opening scene. Talk about Uncanny Valley.
I want to say “I don’t watch these movies” but unfortunately quite a few have slipped into my awareness. Below is a quick recap:
Toby McGuire Spider-Man 1-3
Jessica Alba FF 1-2
Eric Bana Hulk
Iron Man 1-2
Thor (breakthrough into our universe blah blah)
Dr. Strange (uggh)
Avoided: all reboots of above, Cap America, Avengers, Panther, Daredevil, Deadpools
Our overlap on the Marvel films is pretty close to exact, except that I saw the first couple of Avengers movies and haven’t seen any of the Fantastic Four films. I heard they were really bad, and I was never a big fan of the comic books.
I actually didn’t mind Ant Man and Deadpool. I got a few chuckles out of them. I don’t think any of these movies are going to last though, and it’s truly remarkable how totally they dominate the box office. So completely, in fact, that all the other studios are desperately trying to imitate the Disney/Marvel template with their various universes. There was a book I read this past year on the subject that was pretty good: The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies by Ben Fritz.
At some point I’m sure this all has to burn itself out so we can move on to the next big thing, but I’m not sure when that’s going to happen. They can’t keep rebooting these things every few years forever.