Dateline v. Black Panther


Black Panther (2018)

Rated PG-13: For Violence

Running Time: 135 minutes (2 hours and 15 minutes)

Genre/s: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Superhero

Released on February 14, 2017 (PH Release Date; Available for Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

"Black Panther" Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Writers: Joe Robert Cole and Ryan Coogler

Director: Ryan Coogler

  • Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa / Black Panther
  • Michael B. Jordan as N'Jadaka / Erik "Killmonger" Stevens
  • Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia
  • Danai Gurira as Okoye
  • Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross
  • Daniel Kaluuya as W'Kabi
  • Letitia Wright as Shuri
  • Winston Duke as M'Baku
  • Angela Basett as Ramonda
  • Forest Whitaker as Zuri
  • Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen! The first ever black superhero movie to make it to the billionth dollar mark! Critics are hailing it as the best Marvel Cinematic Universe entry yet. Are they right, or are they wrong?

The defendant has been accused of not living-up to the hype due to a variety of shortcomings. With God's grace, we will truthfully determine if the latest film in the MCU cannon is a masterpiece, or just a passable time when watching it on Netflix when it gets out. Welcome back to Dateline Movies, and this is the case for Dateline v. Black Panther.

Remember, Wakanda does hold a large pool of secrets, and this post is no exception. Spoilers ahead, everyone!

What is the movie about?

Prince T'Challa, played by Boseman (Message from the King) is now the newly appointed ruler and protector of the isolationist superpower nation of Wakanda. As the Black Panther, he is charged with the duties of protecting the Wakandans from dangerous people like the notorious Ulysses Klaue, played by Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes), as well as the most valuable mineral in existence, which they have underneath their lands: Vibranium. In his quest in safekeeping his beloved homeland, T'Challa is accompanied by the world's smartest teenager Shuri, played by Wright (Ready Player One), his mother Ramonda, played by Basett (American Horror Story), the head of the security team Dora Milaje, played by Gurira (The Walking Dead), his best friend and confidante W'Kabi, played by Kaluuya (Get Out), and the the elder Zuri, played by Whitaker (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).

When a new threat emerges in the form of former black-ops mercenary Erik Stevens, played by Jordan (FANT4STIC), and another opponent rises, the leader of the neighboring Jabari Tribe M'Baku, played by Duke (Person of Interest), T'Challa is forced to risk it all, and join forces with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross, played by Freeman (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot), to save Wakanda, and the rest of the world from a potential revolution! However, T'Challa finds that it truly is impossible for a good man to be a king.

The Defense:
  • Kendrick Lamar producing the soundtrack is just what the doctor ordered.
I am currently at that phase in my life when all I ever listen to is hiphop music, so yes, I do have some bias that leans towards the works of Kendrick Lamar. However, you do not have to be someone who is completely addicted to raps to admire the movie's cool soundtrack. With Lamar's creative music direction, he gathers a large assortment of diverse talented individuals, ranging from SZA, The Weeknd, Khalid, Zacari, and so much more, with the aid of scorer Ludwig Göransson, and in the end, he crafts one of, if not, the finest film-inspired soundtracks in recent memory. Although only three songs were actually featured in the movie itself, including "Pray For Me" by Lamar and The Weeknd, "Opps" by Vine Staples and Yugen Blakrok, and the heavily replayed "All The Stars" by Lamar and SZA, the rest of the soundtrack is available on Spotify for you to enjoy, which you should. The songs have superb production value, are catchy, and while certainly not groundbreaking in a lyrical sense, nor is it that type of track list for the youngsters, "Black Panther: The Album From And Inspired By" is awesome!

  • Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger might just be one of the most intriguing M.C.U. villains yet.
The movie is surprisingly filled with a huge amount of cliches, and Michael B. Jordan's turn as T'Challa previously lost cousin, the megalomaniacal Killmonger, is one of the biggest walking banalities in all of the entirety of the flick. On the surface, Killmoger is just your typical fatherless orphan turned evil protagonist wannabe counterpart. If you just watched the movie on a single viewing, Killmonger is just pretty much that. However, director Ryan Coogler, and co-screenwriter Joe Robert Cole's heavy application of symbolism, which  is heavily scattered all throughout  the movie, Killmonger has a lot more going for him. 

One of the best uses of symbolism in the movie is Killmonger's trip to the ancestral plane, wherein instead of being greeted by the wonderful, heaven-like plane of existence that T'Challa visited to seek his father T'Chaka's, played by John Kani (Coriolanus) counsel, he returns to the place where Killmonger's own father, N'Jobu, played by Sterling K. Brown (Brown and Boseman both appeared in Marshall) was killed. At first, it is just a reflection on how deep Killmonger's childhood traumas go, in typical comicbook movie style, but upon closer inspection, you realize that he is just a lost child at heart. 

When you think about it, Killmonger is actually a tragic hero from another perspective. Think about it. A secret society vows to keep their civilization a myth in the eyes of the world, decides to kill the father of the "hero", who in our case is Killmonger, after said father just wants to help out those who were left unaided by their gifted nation. Said "hero" then decides to gather all of his strength to fulfill his father's dream, only to be opposed by the new "villain", the son of N'Jobu's killer, T'Challa. I honestly did not see Killmonger as this type of villain, but after watching this video, which pretty much summed-up my previously discussed points, I might as well just call him as a "thinking man's villain". I can say that Killmonger is one of the best rogues in all of the franchise, which hopefully could include Thanos, played by Josh Brolin (Deadpool 2), once Avengers: Infinity War comes. 

  • Some of the action scenes are remarkable, especially those "Trial" parts.

A lot of people would despise me for this, but to be honest, a lot of the actions in Black Panther are not that great. I even actually expected it to be on-par with the two last Captain America movies, given that we just saw the T'Challa fight other Avengers in C.G.I.-less scenes. We will go further into that later on, but for now, I will give credit where credit is due. And that credit belongs to a handful of the two action scenes wherein T'Challa has to fight M'Baku, then Killmonger for the throne. This video helped me realize that C.G.I. is probably not Black Panther's best suit, and on close inspection, that department clearly needed a little work. But when you remove the computerized imagery, the results are somewhat effective, as the realism that surrounds these two scenes amplify the thrills.

Two of the C.G.I.-heavy scenes are mildly effective, mostly due to some theatrics inserted, and these include T'Challa, Shuri and Okoye's pursuit of Ulysses Klaue in South Korea, and the climactic battle sequence between T'Challa and his friends, against the Killmoger regiment. Personally, I love the South Korea car chase scene because of just how awesome the way "Opps" by Vince Staples and Yugen Blakrok blend perfectly with Klaue's attempts at escape, and I still remember getting a few goosebumps upon seeing that sequence. The final fight is arguably fun, because of the cast members' dynamics, but it is mostly just disposable fun.

  • The social commentary is thought-provoking and timely.
It is the year 2018, and it would not be a 2010s flick if there was no social commentary included in the screenplay. In case you were not paying attention to the growing trend of multimedia correctness, several modern movies have taken it upon themselves to subtly share their insights and criticisms in the most creative ways. Sadly enough, most attempts at doing so would usually come off as either preachy or just plain pretentious. This is, however, not the case for Black PantherConsidering that there is a growing need to address various racial concerns, it is fitting for one of the few black superhero films to take a few jabs on politics.

The central theme of the film is very much similar to the ones we regularly see on X-Men movies, which I like to call as "The Magneto Conflict". It is represented by a simple question, "Us or them?" In the film, T'Challa, the Professor X substitute, tries to stop Killmonger, who is also named "Erik" like Magneto, from reigniting a war between Wakandans, after believing that Wakanda is neglecting their potential in saving their African brethren from further oppression, and the rest of the world. However, while it plays-out in a fashion that you would expect, Black Panther goes the extra mile in changing the perspective of the conflict, which in this case, is from the eyes of the people who watch idly. Black Panther explores how far Wakanda can go in order to keep their secrets safe from third parties, leading to the audience to question if Wakanda should even be helping, or just remain hidden in fear that bad guys can take advantage of their advancements.

One specific scene that discussed this topic rather well is a brief exchange between T'Challa and Nakia, wherein they discuss as to whether or not Wakanda should be providing technology and aid for people outside of their nation. Aside from being a perfect scene for character development for the both of them, it is a brief yet brilliant question ponderer for the audience. Shuri's short yet funny comments on describing Everett K. Ross as a "colonizer" is both hilarious and insightful, as this also shows how Wakanda is initially reluctant in aiding others due to past disagreements. 

In addition to racism, and in a more visual sense, the film somewhat does a critique on how women are normally portrayed in media. This is done through the magnificent costumes. This is just a slight observation, but I have to say, I do admire the crew for making the costumes appropriate for the occasion, instead of making a sexualized set of costumes.

  • Top-tier performances from the cast help bring the mystifying world of Black Panther to life.
I think it is about time that we thank casting director Sarah Halley Finn, because if it were not for her, then we would not have had Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak) as Loki, and most especially Robert Downey Jr. (Wonder Boys) as Iron Man. Once more, Finn does it again, because the casting for Black Panther is on-point.

Chadwick Boseman takes it home again as the titular hero, and for me, Boseman outdid himself when his character confronted his predecessors in the ancestral plane, lambasting them for their decisions to stick to the shadows. Frequent Ryan Coogler collaborator Michael B. Jordan absolutely nails it here, successfully redeeming himself from the stench of the horrible FANT4STIC, and his last line, "... bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, 'cause they knew that death is better than bondage." is every bit heartbreaking thanks to his performance. Letitia Wright established herself as a scene-stealer by delivering some of the funniest scenes in the film, and a true film highlight. Andy Serkis, tragically wasted here, portrays Klaue with an appealing amount of villainous camp, and we just love it. Martin Freeman, while just playing a by-the-numbers secret agent character, is ever the more charming. Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira effortlessly perform as two of the best new heroines of cinema, and I do hope their characters get further expanded stories soon, and Winston Duke and Daniel Kaluuya do decent jobs in their respective roles, especially Duke, who showed-off his comedic side as a seemingly savage, vegetarian, ape-themed ruler.
The Proseution:
  • A huge chunk of the film suffers from an assortment of cliches.
Black Panther continues the winning streak of the franchise, after previous predecessors already setting the bar even higher. However, as great as the film is, numerous tropes plague this movie worse than a viral strain during an outbreak. There is a great amount of depth provided for the story, and there is no questioning that part. But it is just that everything is oh so predictable, and I am not only saying that because I might have stumbled upon some spoilers all across the Internet. For instance, the central narrative is a Shakespearean narrative about a king being dethroned by an unknown blood relative, who then fights back after being defeated at their first battle (basically Thor: Ragnarok without the reflexive sense of humor). Heck, I even accidentally spoiled the entire theater by telling my dad that the kid at the very beginning, who saw the Wakandan ships taking-off, is Michael B. Jordan's character, only younger. I did not even read anything about that, mind you, except for some prior comicbook knowledge. And while Nakia and Okoye are decent characters in their own right, they are just cliches. One is the love interest you totally expected would get back together with the hero, and one is the conflicted aide. The actors did great though in making these characters interesting.

  • Andy Serkis' Ulysses Klaue is killed-off unceremoniously.
Andy Serkis, classy actor and performance-capture extraordinaire, portraying one of the most important characters in the Black Panther mythos, and the hero's arch-nemesis, as well as a practically immortal supervillain in the comics, and practically Wakanda's most fearsome, recurring enemy. With a character as important as this maniacal gentleman, and an actor who has proven to be capable of bringing said character to the big screen with ease, you would at least expect Ulysses Klaue to walk away somewhat unscathed, given that he is not immortal in a way here. If not, at least have him die in an epic final battle against T'Challa.

Surprise, surprise, it is basically Star Wars: The Last Jedi all over again, with yet another Andy Serkis, who played Snoke in the aforementioned film, role being wasted to forward the plot. In this case, Klaue gets shot in the head by Killmonger about halfway through the film. The end. No more Klaue. Wow, Marvel Studios really should work on their villain problem more. While I do admit that it is a necessity for Killmonger to advance his plans, killing off a character this essential to the main character is basically removing Loki from Thor's stories. I guess about a quarter of everything that made the South Korea scenes awesome, from the characters oddball comments like his "I made it rain" remark, to his sinister presence, is down the drain.

Also, the studios killed him off without even bothering to share his Soundcloud link. Darn. For all we know that mixtape of his might have been something on par with Kendrick Lamar's "good kid, m.A.A.d. city".

  • A few of its more comedic elements do not exactly work.

This might sound particularly "nitpicky" of me, but let us face it, Marvel is really inserting a little way too much comedy on all of their movies, although they do try to limit those these days. For Black Panther, some of its comedy-related scenes feel awkwardly bolted on. This is mostly notable in one scene, which is when Shuri and T'Challa discuss about the newly upgraded suit. At some points, it is annoying, and Shuri's "What are those?" joke, while quite intriguing as it also establishes the setting of the film (a few days after Captain America: Civil War, in 2016), feels extremely outdated, although it serves its purpose. The "I never freeze" scene, while actually pretty cool, especially when it is played for ironic laughs, feels oddly placed. And M'Baku's interruption on the climactic family reunion, where he tells them to get it over with, might bother some with its sudden tone short from serious to comedic. However, as I usually say, these scenes in particular are not at all bad, but they do disrupt the tone consistency, and lucky for us, Shuri's other scenes and other moments, even these ones when put into consideration, help deliver some lightheartedness for an actually mature flick.

  • Much of the C.G.I. feels terribly unconvincing for an M.C.U. film.
Lastly, we now go to the biggest detractor for the movie, which you might have guessed by now is the messy C.G.I. Normally, C.G.I. would not be too much of a problem for me as long as it is A.) decent to look at, even if it might look cartoonish at some points, and B.) makes sense plot-wise and further establishes the atmosphere. The golden rule of C.G.I. is obviously A., and unfortunately, Black Panther fails to fulfill requirement letter A.

This is the reason as to why I found much of the C.G.I.-heavy fights as almost ineffective in entertaining me, and this mostly applies to the final battle, even if it is fun to watch. Everything just feels so unrealistic in that sequence, from the technological shields of the Border Tribe, to the two Panther Habit-wearing characters clashing with kinetic blasts at the underground Vibranium transport system, delivering a very vague looking, and very unconvincing battle. This eventually results in the stakes being non-existent, rendering this incredibly important scene boring. The worst part about this is that both T'Challa and Killmonger are obviously substituted with computer-rendered models when they fell to the underground levels. It feels more like a video game more than a live-action movie, and heck, I can compare this to the equally bad C.G.I. from Justice League, but at least this movie did not have to digitize a mustache shave. I think it really would have been better if they minimized T'Challa's usage of kinetic blasts, as the stakes of him beating-up his own countrymen would be higher.

The Ruling: Not Guilty!

While not the best M.C.U. film, Black Panther succeeds in being a very important thoughtful film, with great performances, soundtrack, and themes, but murky C.G.I. and the amount of cliches can be distracting for moviegoers.

And there you have it, our official review of Black Panther. How do you think T'Challa and the rest of his friends and allies could possibly help the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy defeat Thanos? Let us know in the comments, and for your information, I am betting that they cannot, at all, stand toe-to-toe with the Mad Titan. Oops. Possible spoilers.

Also, you might have noticed that we have not been posting that much lately, mostly due to me facing various academic struggles. Since it is already summer vacation, do expect for some new content, and one of our upcoming posts is something that you might find interesting. Some sort of an ode to this beautiful disaster of a school year of ours.

Of course, before you leave, do check-out the three main singles for the Black Panther movie, two of which are featured in the film, and the one is ... well ... a little bit ruined by Future's verse, but is made masterful by Jay Rock's and Kendrick Lamar's respective verses. No offense, Mr. Future. I know you did your best here. I also do recommend listening to "Redemption" by Zacari and Babes Wodumo, one of my personal favorite from the soundtrack. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!


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