Thursday, April 26, 2018

Countdown to Avengers 3: Black Panther

Can you believe that we’re doing a third installment of Countdown to Avengers? It seems like it was only yesterday that we teamed up with Nerd Lunch and Cavalcade of Awesome to tackle all the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films (and then some) that lead up to The Avengers. Believe it or not, we’re back, and now we’ve got Jay from Life Vs. Film along for the ride as well. 


And now we've come to the end. We're looking at the last film before Infinity War. That's right, Infinity War is out THIS WEEK so Jay and I are looking at the phenomenal Black Panther. Let's go back to Wakanda! Mandatory spoiler warning!

This is getting pretty ridiculous. The MCU movies are starting to change the fabric of society. I'm sure Marvel would have made four Black Panthers by now if they knew it would have been such a cultural, critical, and financial success. Black Panther serving as the final standalone film before Infinity War is an interesting choice (coincidence?). The isolated Wakanda opening up to the rest of the world is kind of a metaphor for the MCU opening up and connecting its various characters even more than they already have.

? via IMP Awards
Black Panther follows one of the newer recruits of the MCU, King T'Challa, (Chadwick Boseman) as he tries to fill the shoes of his recently departed father. T'Challa's trying to balance everything that's happening in Wakanda and fully take on the mantle of king when his long lost cousin Erik "Killmonger" Stevens (Anthony B. Jordan) comes along with plans to start a worldwide revolution.

So there's no way I can say Black Panther is a bad film. Simply due to the talent on display and behind the scenes, Black Panther is a very, very good movie. However, it's not my personal favorite MCU film for various reasons. A reason that springs to mind: the whole maglev vibranium train fight at the end sort of seemed taken out of a crummy X-Men movie.

A broader criticism I have for the film is about its villains. Or rather, how they relate to Black Panther. Kilmonger was killed off - bad move. It'd be like if they killed Loki in the first Thor movie (which I guess they sort of did and brought him back so it's possible Kilmonger could return).

It's revealed that T'Challa's father essentially killed his own brother and left his son on his own in America. I felt like this was a big controversy but wasn't handled as such. T'Challa didn't really seem to want to fix or even address this injustice. After he had essentially killed Kilmonger he thought about saving him. You would have thought there would have been one instance of T'Challa saying, "Hey, what my dad did was wrong, I want to fix this." I also don't get killing off Klaue (Andy Serkis). You killed both awesome Black Panther villains. Why? Also, I was kind of hoping T'Challa would have a cool scene where he had to prove himself and survive after his initial fight with Kilmonger. But M'Baku's (Winston Duke) people just kind of save him. And we don't even see that! They just reveal that he's alive.

Like any MCU film there are connections to other Marvel movies. Even though Black Panther is sort of an insulated film (it's literally taking place in a hidden, isolated country) we have some connective tissue. Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) plays a big role in the movie so that's a bit of a connection to Civil War. We also get to see - in a post credits scene - that Bucky (Sebastian Stan) has come out of his self-imposed cryogenic hibernation at the end of Civil War and seems to be doing better...under the care of Shuri (Letitia Wright), no less.

It's always fun to speculate how a stand alone character will fit in with the rest of the Avengers. In this case, we've already seen Black Panther side by side with a lot of the other Avengers, but it was pretty limited (even though his role was not) and in the context of fighting. I've really tried to avoid trailers for Infinity War but it looks like a large part of the movie is set in Wakanda and Black Panther is taking on a leader role. I'm looking forward to some sort of interaction between Black Panther and Bucky. The last time we saw them together they were trying to kill each other. I think Black Panther has the potential to lead the Avengers in future films. I'm not sure if that's happened before or if it's canon, but that would be cool.

Extra Thoughts from Jay:

Every time I think the title Black Panther, I can't help but flip it in my head to Plaque Bantha, so I keep imagining a film about a giant woolly horned beast from Star Wars desperately needing to see his dentist, but I highly doubt that film would be one of the top 10 highest grossing films of all time internationally, which Black Panther now is. In fact, within the MCU it's only currently being beaten by the two Avengers movies, making it the highest grossing standalone character film, which is pretty damn impressive given I'd never even heard of the eponymous character before Captain America: Civil War.

It's clear from the Infinity War trailers that the events - or at least, the locations - of Black Panther are integral to the future of the Avengers, with Wakanda presumably being the location of the Soul Stone. This decision must have been made prior to Black Panther's release, so I'm guessing Kevin Feige and the rest of the Marvel team are all giving themselves pretty smug pats on the back given how successful Black Panther was, and how many guaranteed ticket sales that'll grant them for Infinity War. Those back-pats are entirely deserved though, as BP is an awesome movie. It features many of the best antagonists of the franchise so far in the forms of Andy Serkis' Klaue, Winston Duke's M'Baku and of course Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger, has some awesome action - I cannot wait to see the casino fight and ensuing chase again - incredible production design, supporting characters, music, visuals, dammit, everything is just great. To date it's the only Marvel film that I've only seen once, but that's going to change pretty damn soon, I assure you.


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