Black Panther Does Not Live Up to Its Hype

The IMAX theater was packed with fans excited to see Black Panther— so much so that it was almost impossible to find a seat, and the line to buy tickets was trailing out of the door, even longer than the line for The Last Jedi. Luckily, I had bought my tickets early, so I got to skip the line.  Mood raiser one.

The friends I had met up with were all talking about the amazing reviews, at the time a 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.  Mood raiser two.

About twenty minutes before the film started, they opened the doors and let us into the theater. We sat down, continuing to talk starry-eyed about how cool the trailers, costume designs and director and Michael B. Jordan (who plays the villain). There was an energy in the theater. Clapping, yelling, whistling.  Mood raiser three.

And then the movie started…

I fell asleep halfway through, until I was bumped awake by the kids sitting next to me. I was only out for a minute, and the scene wasn’t important, like many scenes in this movie, but I still fell asleep.  The plodding plot, boring camera movements, lifeless directing, overly preachy political message, and lack of stakes all bored me. Black Panther — for all its hype — turned out to be one of the worst movies I have seen in awhile.  

The plot moves along as such: T’Challa (Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman) becomes King of Wakanda, an isolated and technologically advanced African nation. After becoming king, however, T’Challa’s rule is challenged by an outsider, Erik Killmonger, who is a victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistakes. He wants to take over to rid Wakanda of “white colonialist” influences and return it to its traditional roots  The plot has the structure of a Greek or Roman epic, such as those of Odysseus or Aeneas, but it lacks the same action or life.

The writing and directing was handled by Ryan Coogler. His previous two movies, Creed and Fruitvale Station, were both great. But for some reason, the directing in this movie is bland.  Some of the shots don’t make sense. Most of the cinematography is boring. Nothing really pops direction-wise.  I remember nothing really making me go, “Wow!”

So, why is this movie the on its way to being the highest grossing movie of all time? The plot is risky in that it tackles racial issues. The costume design also is generally really good. The brightly colored costumes contrast with the typical brown and silver these futuristic movies tend to have. Some of the backgrounds are beautiful, even if they are mostly CGI.  

The main actors also are top-notch, even if their roles lack depth. T’Challa (Black Panther) is played by Chadwick Boseman. Since we don’t know his origin story, there is no character development, especially since he is seen the least of any character in the movie. Jordan, who I really love, manages to bring a level of swagger to his role as antagonist, but he is a one-dimensional character. I never felt for him. Overall, he comes off more of a mouthpiece for ideology than as a complex character.  

The film has good ideas; they just never go beyond surface level.

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