8/10 Is “Black Panther” a culturally impactful film that progresses America and changes cinema as we know it? No. Reports of it being a potential Best Picture nominee this year and changing the culture are completely overblown. However, is “Black Panther” a great movie that you should drop what you are doing and see if you haven’t already? Absolutely. Marvel films have sadly been more miss than hits lately (they went 1 for 3 in 2017) but this is a great way to start off 2018 and gets me even more excited than I already was for “Infinity War”. There are minor problems that hold this film back from being some Best Picture worthy game changing movie that people drinking the Marvel Kool-Aid claim it to be. Like many Marvel films, the villain is rather forgettable. His motivations are really well done but he is a hypocrite with many of his beliefs which is somewhat baffling and his final fight scene with Black Panther is very anti-climactic. Speaking of anti-climactic, the film doesn’t feel like a three act film. The second and third acts blend together to where there is no real rising tension, climax and then closing moments. The fight scenes that are here are entertaining and well done but a lot of other Marvel films have had much more action or action much better executed. Another problem besides the villain that Marvel has had is the forced humor/comedy. Luckily, there isn’t that much humor in this film but what few attempts there are at humor definitely fail. Particularly the couple moments from Andy Serkis, whose great character doesn’t have much to do here. The marketing of the soundtrack (which doesn’t hurt the film but still warrants being called out) is also a slight problem. They marketed this movie and soundtrack to be heavy on the Kendrick Lamar songs but besides the end credits, you probably hear about 15 seconds of his music, which is dishonest of the marketing department. There are also a couple elements of the CGI that look a lot like CGI and not real, as well as Disney’s masturbatory reference to Disneyland, which is annoying product placement for itself. Daniel Kaluuya’s (“Get Out”) character is also all over the place in terms of loyalty and motivation, making him one of the weakest characters in the film. All that being said, most of these problems (minus the villain) are relatively minor and don’t greatly detract from the overall enjoyment and quality of the film. There is a lot to like here. The story and plot are really well done and I love that they had the balls to kill off some characters, the acting across the board is solid (Chadwick Boseman has come a long way since “Gods of Egypt”), the score by Ludwig Goransson (he did a super underrated score for the TV show “Community”) is fantastic and engaging, the world building, costume design and production design are Oscar worthy and those technical achievements I could see being recognized by the Academy. With the exception of the poor cinematography in the opening fight scene in the jungle, the entire rest of the cinematography throughout the film is fantastic and the vast majority of the CGI looks terrific. I like that the film touches on some political elements without getting too preachy or in your face about it. Also a special shout out to Letitia Wright, whom plays Black Panther’s sister and is one of the most enjoyable, fun characters in the film. Overall, the film is not perfect and has some issues but this Marvel film really sets itself apart from the countless superhero films, feels like a breath of fresh air and seamlessly connects to the overall MCU by including Martin Freeman’s character in a larger role. This is a film worth watching and owning and if you are a fan of superheroes or just solid films, do yourself a favor and take a trip to Wakanda.
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