Friday, 30 March 2018

Review: Black Panther (second-pass)

Black Panther (second-pass / 2D / SPOILERS)
Cert: 12A / 134 mins / Dir. Ryan Coogler / Trailer

Perhaps only I could spend half a review wringing my hands about trying to be A Good Liberal™, while at the same time taking seven weeks to re-watch the most culturally-significant Marvel Cinematic Universe film to date. And it only stands out because I'll usually give these movies a second-pass in a week of them being released. But no, I'd spent the time between mid-February and the end of March looking at the listings and saying 'oh good, it's still on next week - I'll catch it then'. What can I tell you? I've had a lot of absolute filler to see in the meanwhile.

But on the plus-side, I've also had plenty of time to let my initial viewing of Ryan Coogler's Black Panther bed-in. And the good news is that the film is every bit as grin-inducing and awe-inspiring as it was the first time. Perfectly cast and brilliantly directed, what stands out is how effortless everyone makes this look (more often than not, the sign of gargantuan amounts of effort). More politically complex than other MCU entries both on-screen and off, some films in the series seem to fade slightly as they're superseded and sequelled; not so much ageing badly but becoming almost quaint in comparison with newer fare. But like Captain America's first outing, this could be could be one of the movies which gets better with each viewing.

But what I, personally, enjoyed the most about Black Panther is that it features the best and most brazen homage to The Phantom Menace you'll see this year (and quite possibly, ever).

To wit…

i. A Prelude To War...

Knowing a decisive battle is imminent and that they're outnumbered, our rag-tag heroic group goes to see the gruff, disinterested leader of an isolationist clan to ask for vital help in repelling an invading force. The leader doesn't want to get involved in what he sees as 'external' politics, but is eventually swayed by realising that co-operation is the key to larger victory.*1.

Black Panther / The Phantom Menace - A prelude to war…

ii. Death Of The Mentor…

A convention of The Hero's Journey, our protagonist sees their elder and mentor - the last connection with the status of being a student - struck down before them, by a foe they too will have to face. It's at this point that the hero has to branch out on their own, only able to rely on what they've learned, and develop it for the fight ahead.

Black Panther / The Phantom Menace - Death Of The Mentor…

iii. On The Ground…

The finale begins. Out on the grassy plains, tensions erupt in a clash featuring a mix of melee weapons and energy-shields. culminating in a moment where the aggressors suddenly and unanimously cease their attack.

Black Panther / The Phantom Menace - On the ground…

iv. In The Air…

Meanwhile, a slightly meek and surprisingly-gifted pilot, proves his worth in an impromptu mission that sees him taking out enemy fighters (and in a craft which was previously unknown to him) and landing that one crucial shot, just in the nick of time.

Black Panther / The Phantom Menace - In the air…

v. …and Blade-to-Blade

The climactic duel between the hero and antagonist takes place away from the ground and air battles, in an underground industrial complex where the combatants get separated mid-fight by an intermittent energy shield.

Black Panther / The Phantom Menace - …and Blade-to-blade.

The Phantom Menace is great.
I know it, Ryan Coogler knows it*2.

…whose side do you want to be on?

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
The Marvel films.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Well, tonight's crowd thought so.
Seven weeks into its run, and with Ready Player One, Tomb Raider and Pacific Rim: Uprising playing in the same building, and Black Panther was still packed out

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
At the soonest opportunity, yes.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Maybe best so far, but you know everyone involved is on an upward trajectory here.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
No, because you're going to think it's great as well.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I'm not hearing one.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: What, apart from the film featuring Maz Kanata, Saw Gerrera, Supreme Leader Snoke and having an hour-long Phantom Menace tribute?
Well okay, the as-yet-unnamed Rebel pilot (Mr. 'God speed, Rebels!') of the doomed medical frigate 'Anodyne' from out of The Last Jedi is in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Although to be fair, while TPM's Padmé convinces Boss Nass to help on-the-spot, Nakia and Ramonda's plea to M'Baku is met with continued petulant neutrality. When M'Baku and his army do appear at a crucial moment during the ground-assault, that's closer in tone to Han Solo's return in the battle of Yavin from A New Hope. [ BACK ]

*2 By this point, some of you may be thinking "oh, so if it's a film you happen to love then it's 'an homage', but if it's a film you think is rubbish then it's 'a shameless rip-off'?'". Yes. Yes, that's almost exactly how that works. Thank you for noticing. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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