Black PantherPG¦ 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD
According to latest figures, there are 3.5 million superheroes created by Marvel, and that’s not even including side-kicks or baddies. OK, so that’s a number we’ve just made up, but with all of the comic book hero flicks that are knocking themselves out to appear on our screens, it feels an accurate estimate.
The current landscape of the MCU (that’s Marvel Cinematic Universe to you) is an interesting one. With all the big-hitters already bashing heads in their own franchises (Spidey, Thor, Captain America, iron Man, etc), as well as teaming up for group fighting japes (The Avengers, Marvel are now looking at slightly less popular heroes on their roster of good guys. We’ve had Doctor Strange and Ant-Man, and now meet Black Panther.
Even if you look extremely closely on a world map, you won’t find the nation of Wakanda. Thanks to African tribes some years back finding a rare metal, Vibranium, discovered in a fallen meteor, they have managed to not only become advanced in technology, but also to utilise this tech to cloak them from the rest of the world.
With the passing of the king, his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is promoted to the throne. Not only does he have the responsibility of ruling his people, he also takes on the mantle of becoming the new Black Panther – a hero with extraordinary gifts.
But as we all know by now, with great power comes someone keen to take it from you. With his father murdered by the old king, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordon) seeks revenge, and not only wants to take it out on T’challa, but to take his throne away from him too, at any cost.
It’s so refreshing to watch a superhero flick where you know near to nothing of the main protagonist. It’s ironic then that director Ryan Coogler spends only the first five minutes in explaining this character’s origin story. Considering that we’ve had at least two Spider-Man origin films, he’s certainly being breezy with the character’s creation.
What he does focus on, sadly, are two fairly generic story plots. One focusing on the theft of a mystical African artefact by a music loving baddie (played perfectly by Andy Serkis, and not a CGI Andy Serkis, the actual Andy Serkis!); the other, a challenge to his throne. Neither offers anything by way of surprises or ingenuity.
These two stories are also let down by the way they are told. Coogler struggles to create a solid identity for either his hero or his story, borrowing heavily from the likes of James Bond and Star Wars in a number of scenes. On top of that, there are few stand-out set pieces, and the film drags its paws in places. It’s also a niggle that when Boseman dons the suit, which covers him completely, it’s obvious that the computers take over and animate his moves, making it more cartoony and less organic, as is sadly the way with recent Spidey performances.
There are undoubtedly some vibrant performances on show though, most notably from the scene-stealing Winston Duke as M’Baku, who was woefully under-used, as well as Brit Letitia Wright, playing the Q inspired Shuri.
With one story that the film fully commits to, it’s difficult to say of this is a story that needed to be told. What’s clear is that it could have been told a hell of a lot better. Although not fans of the origins story, it feels that going in to more detail with Black Panther’s, would have been more pertinent in this case.
If Black Panther has taught us one, thing it’s this: Marvel will continue to bombard us with these films until we’re all dead, and not all of them can be directed by Taika Waititi, more’s the pity.
So next time - and as sure as the moon is made out of cheese there will be a next time - what’s needed is less meowing and definitely more bite.