Darke Reviews | Black Panther (2018)

SPOILER FREE AS ALWAYS

Talking to my best friend before the movie I said this would either be the shortest review of the year or the longest. Lets see what it turns out to be. Now before we get into the meat of things, lets go through the usual intro. Over the past nearly 30 years I have watched almost every single comic book movie in theatres. Big deal right? So have a lot of other fan boys and fan girls; but none, not one has had so many people of colour present. Not a single one.

You cannot discuss this movie without discussing the cultural impact that has been building like a train going full steam down a mountain rail. Like a few other of my peers in the review industry I am not going to dig too deep into that – because it is not my place as a white woman to talk about how important this movie is to the people who are getting real representation on screen in such a massive way, unless I am specifically asked to do so. What I am going to say is that there was a young woman next to me, a student at ASU. When the movie ended her hands were flat to her cheeks, her jaw open with tears of joy in her eyes. She turned to me and told me how she has watched every Marvel movie since she was in high school. She watched them all again in preparation for this. She apologized for geeking out a few times, but I encouraged her to share what she was feeling.

“This is the most beautiful movie I have ever seen.” When we were all leaving, she turned to another movie goer and told them this was the best day of her life and she was going to see this three more times with her friends. My friend and I were discussing the movie in the parking lot of the theatre, something we haven’t done in awhile, and about ten minutes later she comes out and she’s so excited. She has so much joy and is sharing it with a friend on the phone. She waves to us with the biggest, brightest, and most honest smile I have seen in a long time.

This is important. This movie is important. Her story and how she feels seeing this is important.

If you want an actual review I will give it of course.

The movie was written by Joe Robert Cole (American Crime Story) and Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station). Coogler also directs. The choice of Oakland for an opening scene doesn’t go over my head from the writer and director of AFI’s movie of the year for 2014 Fruitvale Station, a movie that the Grand Jury of sundance deemed winner of the Dramatic category for  “For its skillful realization, its devastating emotional impact and its moral and social urgency.” This wasn’t just a one off for him. He showed that on a small tight story he could deliver this impact, now with a big budget Marvel movie he does it again. He doesn’t bother with too much subtext and makes it text. I’m ok with that. If there’s any weakness to the script its some of the dialogue for Michael B. Jordan is a little too on the nose and a little too broadstroke, but in the hands of both Jordan and our director they make it work and still hit home in more ways that one. There’s a magnificent bridge between Act II and III that should not work as well as it does, but is beautiful.

I will simply say every actor is perfect. No one under delivers. No one feels weaker than they should. No one is stupid. No one should be cut. There’s not a wasted or phoned in performance. All of them need mention so here we go:

  • Chadwick Boseman – T’Challa / Black Panther
  • Michael B. Jordan – Erik Killmonger
  • Lupita Nyong’o – Nakia
  • Danai Gurira – Okoye
  • Daniel Kaluuya – W’Kabi
  • Letitia Wright – Shuri
  • Winston Duke – M’Baku
  • Angela freakin Bassett – Ramonda

All of them were amazing, however, Danai Gurira (All Eyez On Me, The Walking Dead) and Letitia Wright (Humans, and the upcoming Ready Player One) steal every single scene they are in without question. Bassett is regal as ever and reminding me how much the first X-men movie screwed up not casting her as Storm. Winston Duke is a physical presence in the movie that exuded both his own sense of nobility, power, and even humor. I would talk about our three principle actors, but again – there’s not much more to say other than how impressive they were.

At two hours and fourteen minutes, I cannot for the life of me think what they could cut without some measure of sacrifice. Not a plotline, beat, or moment felt out of place. The downside of this of course is the movie is packed to the gills and from time to time the scene cuts and changes were a bit abrupt. Some of the CG and compositing were a touch on the weak side for me, but at the same time no corners were cut here. The money was thrown at this movie, deservedly so, and every dollar is on screen. The colours, the vibrancy, the music, the sound are all beyond compare.

TL;DR

Wakanda Forever

This movie is up to its hype. It is beautiful, powerful, and meaningful. Everyone should see it. I am buying it. I will see it again without hesitation. You should see it on the big screen with a sound system that shakes you.

This is now in my top 5 Marvel movies, I am debating where still, but it deserves that place. If this doesn’t make my top 5 of 2018 I will be surprised.

Now stop reading and go watch it!

 

Darke Reviews | Captain America : Civil War (2016)

I really wanted to get this in last night so it would be available for those of you who read this, I also had a desperate need to sleep so I could function at work today. Last night I saw the second of two movies this year of at least three that cover the topic of “What oversite do these super powered beings need?”. Last night I saw the second of two movies this year where two ostensible allies turn on each other to create what should be an epic fight. Last night I saw the second of two movies that have a clash of ideologies and attempt to boil these down to their simplistic terms for wide consumption in an average 2 hour and 29 minute run time. Last night I saw the second of two films where experienced directors and writers try to add new characters to a complex universe of existing characters in a way that should feel seamless and invisible to the audience. Last night I saw what is both intense and diversive source material translated to the screen for (again) a second time.

Last night I saw Civil War, but should you?

Let’s face it most of you have already seen it or plan to see it and may only be reading this to satisfy curiosity or to verify your own thoughts. So be it. So let me put this up front before the detail, before the TL;DR…

This is my third favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe film, behind The Avengers and Winter Soldier. This needs to be said before I go into the details…you will see why shortly. Also, there may be someone in the 100 of you who read this that say “oh she hates DC” after the lambasting I gave Batman V Superman.

False

Nearly all of my comic collection is DC, or DC Vertigo. I have all of the DC Animated Universe films. I prefer the DC characters to the Marvel ones time after time. DC has more iconic characters to me, more Legendary characters to me. The Marvel universe tends to make things more human more often than not in my experience with it, even when it gets silly. Yet time and time and time again, the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies trump DC. I really don’t know what is going on over at WB Cinematics department, but they really need to stop. Stop and look at why they fail critically and create movies that people are divisive on how good they are. For the most part Marvel movies go from a solid “meh” to “oh my god what awesomeness have my eyes witnessed.” The weakest Marvel movies are forgettable, with only one having a touch of divisive hate growing within it (Ultron). DC’s last two outings into the Cinematic have ranged from “die in a slow fire surrounded by the screams of those you have inflicted this upon” to “that was awesome.”

This is important to discuss as we get into this review as these two films (BvS/Civil War) have very similar themes with vastly different executions and levels of success. This is going to be difficult without spoilers, so bear with me.

The movie was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, both of whom are responsible for (in the best way) Captain America: The First Avenger, The Winter Soldier, and now this. The directors, Joe and Anthony Russo of the critically hailed Civil War were brought back as well. They handled, perhaps as well as it can be, the subject matter of – Do heroes need oversite? Who is right to judge them or even control them? Who are they responsible for and accountable to. While I have issues with the *how* the questions were handled and the evidence presented, I am not entirely certain it could be done better. They let the characters debate it, they let the time be spent within this film to have a conversation on the culmination of the other films. This is good storytelling people. With few exceptions the storytelling here is an absolute logical progression from Iron Man to Civil War. The writers and directors made wise choices where they did not have forced hands, and I can see those moments too, and I am pressed to tell you what could have been excised from the films running time.

Even the addition of the new character T’Challa, aka The Black Panther was handled in a way that let me buy his decision making. It was brief yet concise enough that in 5 minutes I got him. I got his world view just enough to sate me for this film and what story it needed without me going “that makes no sense.” If anything a flaw is the villain of the piece, Helmut Zemo. He’s forgettable. I suppose that is justified as well let’s face it, no one cares. They want the fight at the airport. It could have been an opportunity to create or utilize someone who could be used for sometime, even in Agents of Shield. Marvel does fail at this topic each film that doesn’t contain Loki. Memorable, effective villains.

Acting wise, everyone is wearing a comfortable hat and glove. You get them and understand them, even newer characters such as Paul Bettany’s Vision, Elizabeth Olson as the Scarlet Witch, and Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, and the return of William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross. Every performance, and I do mean every, has the right weight. The right emotion. The right levity. It’s all right.  Chadwick Boseman (42, Get On Up) absolutely nails T’Challa and I can’t wait for his reported standalone film.  Each actor lets you come along with them an why they make the decisions they do. Scripts and direction can only take you so far. the actors bring you the rest of the way.

From a technical aspect.

LESS

SHAKY

CAM

I remember watching the fights in Winter Soldier. I loved them. I remember watching Scar Jo in Iron Man 2 and Avengers and loved it. I wanted to watch some of the fights here and couldn’t due to excessive camera movement and cuts when you have actors who can actually do these things. It was not Paul Greengrass/Found Footage bad, but it was bad in the first fight. The transitions were….rough. Cinema Sins is going to have a field day with those. They were music video kinda rough.

All of that aside.

Holy. Hell. Fighting in Act III? Yes. Please. More. This is everything we wanted and more. DC take notes. Preferably in a way you can understand later. Hire someone to hold them for you. This is how you do it. They were energetic. They were fun. They were even visceral at times. They were near perfect.

TL;DR?

This movie is absolutely the reverse of Batman V Superman. I have issues, significant ones, with one or two beats of the film. Overall though the movie is incredible. It is solid and well done throughout. It runs a bit long, but again I don’t know where to trim aside from the insertion of one character which *looks and feels* shoehorned in. I can tell this was added after and while the character is good, the introduction is very very off and looks it. I did smile at a lampshade though.

The movie is serious when it needs to be. It HAS HUMOUR when it needs it. Good humor too. It isn’t dark and dreary. It touches dark themes but keeps it all touchable and not too boring.

Should you see it?

Yes. A dozen times yes.

Will I buy it on BluRay?

It’s too early to pre order, or I would have.

Will I see it again?

Actually…maybe? There’s some things I want to see if I judged too harshly.

 

Congrats Hollywood, you have a Blockbuster that deserves it and kicks off the summer very very nicely.