I had no interest in watching “Black Panther.” Normally, I don’t see Hollywood superhero movies. It has been a long time since I really liked one. (“Spider-Man 2,” 2004).
My best friend saw “Black Panther” last week and told me it is worth seeing. My wife saw it and told me that I’d find it interesting.
So, I gave in and watched “Black Panther.” I was right the first time when I had no interest.
I feel old and out of touch saying this, but I doubt that I’ll ever understand the appeal of 21st Century action flicks.
When I was a kid, action movies were fairly lousy, but at least they took place in the real world: with real cars, real fists, and real stuntmen performing real acts of heroism that are at least slightly plausible.
Now action flicks are nothing more than cartoons: computer-generated images of masked comic book characters performing impossible feats of acrobatics. And I’m supposed to care? About what? A bunch of 0s and 1s?
The last time “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler and co-star Michael B. Jordan teamed up, they made the 2015 Rocky sequel “Creed.”
“Creed” had characters I deeply cared about and the fight scenes took place on real sets with real human beings. “Creed” is an emotionally powerful four-star classic. “Black Panther” can’t come close.
“Black Panther” is about the fantastic fictional country of Wakanda. Wakanda is the only African country that has never been colonized. Coogler’s point that colonization is always bad for those being colonized is well-taken.
In addition to being inventive and industrious, Wakandans have the good fortune of living in a region rich in the rare metal Vibranium. Vibranium is used in their infrastructure, weapons, and even medicine.
The hero of “Black Panther” is new King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). He is an enlightened, restrained monarch. He resists pressure from humanitarians to allow refugees into Wakanda. And he resists pressure from expansionists to use Wakanda’s superior weaponry to dictate how other countries behave.
The villain of “Black Panther” is rival Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). He is driven by righteous fury to use Wakandan power to overthrow white empires and create a new world run by dark-skinned peoples.
The first three quarters of “Black Panther” is pretty solid. I absolutely hate the final act.
The climactic one on one battle between T’Challa and Erik is just plain boring. To my eyes, it looked like a pair of poorly-lit cat cartoons flying all over the place and preposterously punching in midair.
It wasn’t even good by cartoon fighting standards. I was more emotionally invested when Popeye fought Bluto. I was more emotionally invested when Peter Griffin fought that big chicken.
The ending of “Black Panther” is infuriating and depressing. I was rooting for King T’Challa because he was humble and anti-colonialism. Then, suddenly, he pulls an ugly 180 and sets up shop in Oakland, California – with a new mission to help African-Americans be more like Wakandans.
Wait…what?! Wakanda was blessed with a magical metal and it just had a hideous civil war. Meanwhile, American blacks have been dealt a horrible hand by history and they have made immense contributions to world culture and art. Wakandans should be learning from Americans, it seems to me; not the other way around.
The heroic king suddenly transformed into T’Challa Kipling: a cultural colonizer suffering from Non-White Man’s Burden. Is self-righteous paternalism less obnoxious when it is coming from people who share your skin color? Ryan Coogler thinks so. To me, it was a sad ending to a mediocre movie.
“Black Panther” is just another Hollywood superhero movie. I don’t understand who would rather see average “Black Panther” than amazing “Creed.”
According to the box office, 9 out of 10 people would rather see “Black Panther.”
Oh, well. I’m the 10th. And I’m right.