6/10 While in no way deserving of the Best Picture nomination it received (a purely political decision), 2018’s “Black Panther” (8/10) was a great film that I truly enjoyed and came at a time when Marvel was on top of the world and pre-pandemic. A lot has changed in just four years from the China Virus changing the entire planet to Marvel creating its worst phase to date with phase 4 and the death of Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman. I do feel bad for co-writer/director Ryan Coogler for having to essentially throw his original script out after Boseman’s passing and have even less time to re-work the movie to meet their release date. While a lot of this sequel works well and a lot of the criticisms of it I’ve found to be rather silly, it does fail to live up to the original film and certainly has its share of problems. Before I get to the flaws, let’s focus on what works. The acting across the board was fantastic and I would be happy to see Angela Bassett (Ramonda) get an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress as she truly stands out here. I am a big fan of Letitia Wright (Shuri) and she continues to impress me. A lot of the direction works very well as the movie looks incredibly slick and polished. Underwater visuals are hard to pull off without looking super cheesy and a lot of progress has been made since “Aquaman” came out in 2018. The underwater visuals look fantastic, although I am sure they will ill in comparison to another underwater film featuring blue people coming out very soon coughAvatar2cough. Despite some complaints from other critics I generally trust, I actually enjoyed Namor (Tenoch Huerta) as the villain and found his motivations to be clear, even if his complete over-escalation seemed pretty foolish from a strategic standpoint. Seeing his underwater world was beautiful and the people who inhabit it. Despite being two and a half hours, I was entertained the entire time and found the pacing to be fine. They handle Boseman’s death incredibly respectfully and pay tribute to him as best they could have. Most of the action scenes work well and I am happy with who they chose to be the next Black Panther. The ending credits song “Lift Me Up” by Rihanna is beautiful and a strong candidate for a Best Original Song Oscar nomination. As for what doesn’t work, I will start off by saying that the biggest reason Marvel’s phase 4 has been a disaster overall is that all of the movies stand alone and feel so episodic, only existing to remind us these characters exist and setting up future characters, instead of having an overarching, larger story to build towards like the first three phases setting up for the ultimate battle with Thanos. This movie suffers from that too as it barely connects to the overall MCU universe and it forces in a new character, not because she is super relevant to the plot, but because she needs to be introduced for her future Disney+ show. Speaking of which, that brings me to the worst part of this entire movie…Dominique Thorne as Riri AKA Ironheart. Since Iron Man has been dead for years now, he must be replaced (or Riplaced) with a more woke, diverse and therefore better person to fill his shoes. Riri is 19 years old and already smarter than Tony Stark was yet her character is insanely annoying, forced and a chore to spend time with. The fact that this Mary Sue is getting an entire Disney+ show makes me feel like another “She-Hulk” quality level of show is coming soon. Not only did I not buy her character, but they treated her as the most important person on Earth and none of it worked. A plot point revolves around Namor wanting Riri dead because she made a device that can track down vibranium for a…get this…school project (cue massive eye roll). How did Namor know it was Riri who built it and not an entire team of people? Why is she referred to as a scientist and not a college student? Since she already built one, wouldn’t it be safe to assume she has detailed plans/blue prints and even if she died, they could use her plans or the device itself to just build more? None of it makes any sense so don’t think too hard. Namor’s people do a kind of siren call where people lose control and just walk into the ocean or off of tall buildings but of course this power doesn’t work on any main characters, only nameless, faceless background characters. At one point Namor attacks Wakanda and instead of wisely sending his entire army and catching Wakanda off guard, after a smaller attack, he gives them an entire week to prepare and plan for his next attack which is perhaps the dumbest military strategy I’ve ever seen. As much as the score, visual effects and action work, they each have a minor problem attached to them. The score from Oscar winner Ludwig Göransson (who won his sole Oscar for the first “Black Panther”) is solid but is not nearly as strong or memorable as the first “Black Panther” score was. While most of the visuals worked well, we see some elephants early on in the movie that look clearly CGI. While developments with CGI and things like de-aging have come a long way, I’ve yet to ever see a movie with convincing CGI animals and this is no exception. While the action is overall strong, a car chase scene has most of the streets totally clear of any cars, which makes the chase feel incredibly staged and unnatural. Finally, the mid credits scene was completely underwhelming and a big disappointment, especially considering that there was only one scene after the credits, as opposed to the normal two. Overall while there are elements to admire and this is certainly better than other phase 4 offerings like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”, “Eternals”, “Thor: Love and Thunder”, etc. this is still a downgrade from the original film, won’t receive nearly as many Oscar nominations as the first film did (if any) and doesn’t particularly have me excited for Marvel’s phase 5.
   
#CallMeByYourNamor / #MyCherieNamor / #WakandaTheWayOfWater / #ShuriYouCantBeSerious / #Riritarded / #TheWrightChoiceForTheNewBlackPanther

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