This shows exactly what kind of “Marvel” fan I am: I waited until it was on Netflix. If it hadn’t come on Netflix, I probably still wouldn’t have watched it. Much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or Thor: The Dark World, or Iron Man: Whatever the one with the “Mandarin” guy was named.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to write this review/ It’s impossible to detangle this movie from the politics around in. Not because it was particularly political in and of itself, but because, much like Wonder Woman, social media and popular culture have made it so. I’m not saying that Black Panther was without it’s politics, only that it wasn’t a piece of propaganda which was probably my favorite part of it. .
And let me clarify: if you like Black Panther because you side with it’s politics, you are well within your rights. You can like any movie for any reason you want and neither I nor anyone else should waste our time trying to make you feel like you are shallow or otherwise a “bad fan” for it.
When I was a kid I loved the Lost in Space movie (yeah, the really bad one) because I had a huge crush on Matt LeBlanc. Also one of my number one reason for my love of The Bourne Identity (though this time is was Matt Damon, and I actually still love that movie. Those fight scenes!) I still think my love of those movies, and the way the shaped me into a Sci-Fi writer who’s known for her fast-paced action, was entirely valid. Let me put it this way, when it comes to good story telling, being biased is kinda the point. We love things, because we connect to them. Because we see something we enjoy, or maybe a part of ourselves in them.
However, there is a dangerous side to the blending of politics and art, and that is the fact that it’s hard to be able to say “I didn’t like it” and not feel like you are going to be painted as something… insidious.
Well, I didn’t like it. I didn’t hate it either. It was honestly just another Marvel film to me. It wasn’t particularly memorable, or quotable, or… anything really. I actually started listing the things I liked and didn’t like and ended up cutting all that off this blog post because, who has time for that?
The truth is, there were a small number of things that bothered me. Some were simple story elements, like the non-traditional use of the four act structure in an action movie that made the opening two acts drag. A very small amount were political or moral, such as the use of racial slurs and the fact that the villain’s plot wasn’t verbally denounced as genocide, only as a bad political move for the secluded utopia. Or there were some plot holes and contradictions, flat characters, unbelievable world building elements, etc.
There were a few really amazing things too. It was a gorgeous film (other than the final fight, I really felt like the CGI fell flat with the Rhinos and the Panther suites) with a non-traditional setting the really stands out in the MCU and lets you see something fresh. I’m getting sick of black and while “SHIELD” halls, and glass partitions. Really. The traditional Marvel humor was absent, as well. While I missed it at points, I feel like it was good to see a movie without it for once and it wasn’t without a few laughs. (we have enough characters with an identical set of dry humor) Also, some of the acting was incredible. Michael Jordan, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, and Winston Duke being stand outs. And the fight scenes were pretty great, though for the life of me I don’t understand why they AREN’T USING RANGED WEAPONS! COME ON MARVEL. Sorry. Hmmm. Okay. That’s a nerd thing. Seriously, despite being a bit unbelievable (people with guns don’t use swords and spears and glue-on claws. They care about staying alive, not looking cool on camera) they looked amazing. And yes, this is supposed to be a list of things I liked, but the superhero genre is starting to get on my nerves a bit.
But the most amazing thing about stories is that we are all coming at them from our own unique perspectives. We all have our own version of what a Utopia looks like. What a world “made right” should or shouldn’t involve. What is pretty or cool or entertaining. For better or for worse, those thoughts, opinions, an experiences are a part of you, and they effect what you find impactful and what you find entertaining.
There were a few moments in this movie that were genuinely powerful. A few gorgeous lines and some beautifully shot scenes. A few characters that really grabbed hold of me.
I want to say that politics shouldn’t matter. That a movie like this should be enjoyed for itself, for its story, without any added baggage. But that would take something away from the movie too. You see, those “politics” are a part of us. And they should no more be left at the door than any other part of our identity.
This is why it’s so important that there be so many different kinds of heroes. So many different kinds of utopias. So many different kinds of warriors. So many different battles that have to be fought. In the end what matters is that truth is at the heart of the story. And, though I do disagree with a few themes, I think that there was a healthy amount of truth for any audience.
So enjoy your stories, and form opinions. Even if they are not popular ones. We’ve yet to find one universal story (outside of, I would argue, the Bible) that will touch the heart of everyone. But truth is universal.