♦ Tripwire’s editor-in-chief JOEL MEADOWS reviews Marvel’s Black Panther, out in UK cinemas from today 12 February and in US cinemas from this Friday…
Director: Ryan Coogler
Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman
Unusually for a Marvel film, there is a lot riding on Black Panther. The first predominantly black superhero film, although Marvel’s Blade had a black protagonist back in 2000, directed by an African-American director. His first appearance in Captain America: Civil War was handled decently enough but we now have a film where he is the main attraction. Boseman was a good choice to play T’Challa as he definitely looks the part. But there is a problem for me with Black Panther.
The best Marvel films in recent years like Ant-Man and Thor: Ragnarok have a real sense of fun to them. They are happy to not take themselves too seriously and play with the form. Black Panther, despite what people have been reading into it, is at its heart just a very generic superhero film. Boseman, who was excellent in the James Brown biopic a few years ago, is pretty good in it and there are a few scenes where Coogler manages to show off some visual flair like the two challenges to T’Challa, which are fairly impressive set-pieces. But much of the film comes across as joyless and hectoring and at times self-important. Actors of some quality like Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett are just wasted here too.
There is no reason why you can’t address serious social issues in a genre movie. Get Out was a wonderful subversion of the horror genre, making serious points about the African-American experience. But a Marvel superhero film should be enjoyable and entertaining and that is where Black Panther falls down.
It will obviously do well at the box office but it is a shame that it wasn’t a better made film. Perhaps the inevitable sequel will be able to capture some of that Marvel essence a little better the second time around.