A beautiful tribute to Chadwick Boseman…but not much else.
Marvel and Ryan Coogler had other plans. The Royal family of Wakanda had other plans. Namor had his own plans. Marvel’s story for Namor was obviously supposed play out in a different way. This film is unique, because it’s the first example I can think of where the characters AND film makers are dealing with the sudden death of a loved one at the same time. Death is a part of life. It’s a shaping force. It’s not pretty. It doesn’t usually leave a happy ending in its wake. I think this is the best we could have hoped for from the characters in the film AND the film makers. Cheers to Marvel for not recasting. Don’t fight against death. Accept it, and be thankful for what you have.
I'm still processing how I feel about the movie as a story. I also felt it was overlong with a confusing reliance on its McGuffin, a machine and the Vibranium it can detect, to propel not just the story but complex motivations of its characters. I felt like Martin Freeman's character needed to be cut long ago. Riri Williams as a character was good, but felt shoe horned to create conflict where one didn't seem to exist.
But. This movie did something so astoundingly well that I am having trouble not letting it eclipse all my judgment. I have my own bias here since I am Mexican-American, but the way this movie changed the representation game for not just Hispanics in Hollywood, but mesoamerican indigenous cultures that represent our ancestry? My jaw dropped at the stunning images and the care used in depicting them. Their blue skin was shed in favor of beautiful natural brown tones when navigating their home underwater. The depiction of their writing, jewelry, and cuisine felt lovingly portrayed. The music! And another Black Panther villain who isn't really wrong, just at odds with our protagonist.
I've always been on the side of more representation, and was a fan of previous hispanic voices in the MCU like Pena, Saldana, Dawson, and more recently Isaac and Hayek. But Huerta's Namor (and the extended cast's Talokan) really felt like it might move the needle.
If there's any reservation with this aspect of the movie it might be that it feels like the best place to showcase these new voices is maybe in a stand-alone film and not in the middle of a movie that holds such a special place for Black and African-American folks, but as Shuri visually realizes at the climax of the movie - our stories are so similar and our diasporas are more similar than they are different that it is awful for us to fight against each other instead of uniting against our shared oppressors.
I thought the film had some fantastic moments and scenes, but the movie didn't gel together well. When they were writing the screenplay, they were like, "We have this great scene and this amazing action scene on a massive boat.." They put a lot of work into those scenes but didn't spend enough time working on the scenes in between.
So overall the film disappointed me. The first Black Panther film stood on its own when it came out, while this felt like a film that was forced to have parts of the MCU pushed into it, like what happened to Iron Man 2. Phase 4 has been a massive disappointment, with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings being the only standout film of this phase.
It was an unenviable position for the filmmakers following Boseman's death. How to chart the road forward when you lose the beloved main actor for one of your breakout characters who was definitely to remain a major player in some shape or form for your future slate of interconnected films?
So it had to morph into a eulogy for Boseman. I appreciated the quiet bookends - the silent opening Marvel Studios logo and the personal, reflective ending. But in between, they still had to integrate new characters, new threats and new threads for upcoming entries. Alas, it all became overstuffed, overlong and missed the mark.
The initial teaser for the film garnered a stronger reaction from me than the final product - snippets of reflective Wakandans, some nice underwater imagery, and Bassett delivering the sole piece of emotive dialogue, all to the backing tones of Tems' No Woman No Cry cover...
I don't always agree with your reviews, but this lines up with my own feelings 100% down the line. As the film was playing, I mostly enjoyed it and was never bored. But the moment we would get to what felt like where each plot point was leading to, my brain said, "Wait.. all that was just for THAT?" and I immediately started reverse-engineering what would have been better pathways to the same destinations that didn't meander and feel so haphazard.
If the end goal is to have Wakanda and Talocan at some sort of uneasy truce heading into the next wave of MCU films, first, you jettison Riri Williams. Fun, but you tell the same story faster and with more impact if you aren't servicing a backdoor pilot for Ironheart. Second, jettison almost all the Ross and Val stuff. Dragged the movie to a screeching halt every time they were on screen. They added nothing a single hologram voicemail couldn't have accomplished.
The big battle at the end was superfluous and not as cool as the trailer. So much slaughter and then ultimately they just say, "okay. let's stop." The level of violence prior to that just doesn't feel like it would come to so easy an end in the way it did.
I don't know what the ultimate best version of this film is, but I think you spend more time with the Wakandan people and the Talocan people and make all of them people you care about and don't want to see go to war with each other. It didn't feel like a tragedy when the battle started.
I just wish these movies didn't feel like they had to make a billion dollars minimum, and that the only way to do that is with obligatory giant CGI action sequences at the end of the films.
I definitely agree with your take, Dave. I was bored most of the movie and honestly felt like I was watching a DC movie. I also didn’t care for how weak Wakanda felt compared to Namor and his people. We have seen Wakanda’s people be fierce warriors time and again and in this movie it felt like only main characters could do anything. And even they were largely ineffectual.
I loved so many parts of the movie but I agree with your take. If Coogler could have just focused the story on grief and colonialism it would have been a much stronger movie. I felt like they didn’t go deep enough on each and the other elements of the plot were distractions. Although it’s hard to honestly address colonialism when the movie is produced by a conglomerate like Disney.
Agree with everything here. The plot is incoherent and it's yet another Marvel film that tries to wrap everything up with a bloodless CGI battle.
I saw BP:WF yesterday. Then your email came through with this post - it feel like you read my mind and eerily echoed my reactions to the film. One other thing - I saw the reveal of the mid-credits scene coming from the start of the film. That's not a good thing (why Shuri was the last to know is a big question - I'm pretty sure M'Baku knew given that T'Challa asked him to promise T'Challa a number of things in relation to T'Challa's family when T'Challa knew he was dying).
Namor's depiction (along with that of his "country" Talokan) is amazing (as is the actor portraying him). Angela Bassett is a Queen. I'd love a movie about her two regencies - the one during the Snap and the years prior to when this movie starts. While I would have loved a movie showing how Wakanda coped with half of their population returning after the Snap (including their King and Princess), sadly, that will just not be possible.
I agree with your take. I also felt that it had too much slow-mo action scenes, and a lot of the CG stood out as looking just plain bad (or at least unnatural movement).
Fully agree with your take. The film had interesting themes and characters but it somehow didn’t pack a punch. At the end of it, I left the theater feeling unsatisfied. I don’t regret watching it, but at the same time I have no interest in watching it again, like the top tier Marvel movies.
I agree with it being a slog, it’s an unfortunate thing to try and create after what happened out in the real world, but now both movies spend the first hour dealing with grief of losing their black Panther. It felt like the previous black Panther loss wasn’t that great in comparison to how this film treats it.