DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A CRITIC. I AM A FAN
Not to sound like a hater (I am a big fan of the MCU), I have waited until enough people have watched this movie to talk about it. In the United States of America, the movie is no. 2 on the all time box office and is no. 10 internationally. Clearly the movie is a hit and has engaged quite a lot of people.
Africa embraced it for it was destined to place the continent on the map and make it popular (I guess some American kids are trying out the African accent to look cool). Africans donned traditional attires (made in China) and raided their local cinemas after which they threw parties with Wakanda Forever themes. We were really excited about this movie.
Question: Is the Black Panther movie really that good? Or is it just hype?
I say, it is all hype. The black panther movie is simply another Marvel Movie and not among the great ones. The movie does not make my top five MCU movies (excluding Infinity War) which include Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, Ragnarok, Winter Soldier and Civil War. It is not a mind blowing movie. The only conversation it has brewed among the community of great Ugandan Marvel fans was how it failed to live up to the hype. And for the others, their argument does not go beyond how it brings up the status of black people. Racial bias
While Ryan Coogler exceeded in addressing issues of leadership, he failed in making a superhero movie. Apart from the Korea scene, T’Challa did not do any heroic things in the entire movie. It was all filled with unsatisfying culture norms and daddy issues.
Black Panther had only one interesting action scene - that is the chase in South Korea, anything else was distasteful at best. When I watched the trailers, I expected a lot from the cultural fight for Kingship but I have to say it is simply bland. The skills T’Challa has, even without the abilities of the Black Panther are superior to individuals like Black Widow and Hawkeye. One would expect the level of fast-paced hand-to-hand combat like the one we witnessed in Winter Soldier only this time, with a short Shaka Zulu like spear. But what I saw, was something in between Moses Golola and Buganda Kingdom’s Ekigwo
Then there was the end fight/war/battle. Get an open field, during summer (which is the whole year in Uganda) and place a handful of individuals there to fight each other. Stand on the side and look at your creation. Tell me if it is good. I believe this scene is very plain. There was no effort put into it at all. This being Africa, one would expect armies with multitudes crashing into each other like the Battle of the Bastards in jungles sooo scary Chuck Norris would avoid them (where were the jungles? Put a pin in this jungle thing). I honestly expected war chants, so scary and loud, Thanos would think twice before coming to earth. I cannot describe it very well but there is something off with this scene. It was messy and random in a bad way. The Black Panther rounding up a number of Border tribe members on his own (not in a one move technological way, but old fashioned punches,scratches and kicks) before taking on KillMonger would have been better.
The action, however, is just a bonus to my main argument. My biggest problem is that Black Panther the movie is not African. It is African American. Simply put, the movie is an African story addressing African American issues. Marvel gave the helm of Black Panther to Ryan Coogler (because he is black) who did what every African American with a name and status is doing right now. Activism against racial discrimination. For this to happen, it had to be African American.
Do not get me wrong, our brothers and sisters out there in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Far East Asia suffer from racial discrimination everyday. It affects them mentally and emotionally, and sometimes, physically ( kids have been shot in the U.S by police officers). So, racial inequality, however much we do not feel or face it in most of Sub - Saharan Africa (the situation is not good in South Africa), is a pain and should be addressed as much as it can.
However, Black Panther is an African (made by Americans) platform not American. A stage set to showcase Africa. African American problems, however serious they are, are not African. The movie should have shown our pride and shame, joy and suffering, and - if it must - address African issues. The character Eric Killmonger kept talking about Wakanda’s brothers and sisters out there (there was that one mention of Africa). Most of the reference was towards racial discrimination in the United States and not the Civil wars, rebellions, terrorist groups, diseases, poor health care, poverty, economic oppression, social injustices, poor governance, and the other multitudes of problems Africa is facing right now. We needed this more than they did.
Do you want to know how African American Black Panther is? The movie sort of reflects the W.E.B. DuBois vs. Marcus Garvey misunderstanding. Two Pan Africanists who did not agree on how Black people “out there” should have empowered themselves. DuBois was all about racial uplifts.This would enable that Black people gain the same status as white folk with ideas like barrier-breaking, civil rights and black intellectual achievement. Garvey on the other hand, proposed that African Americans should return to Africa so that they can live as part of a majority population. You could say, Killmonger represented Garvey. It does not get more African American like a history lesson.
There are many African American movies out there. Many of these address the issue of racial inequality in the world. However, these movies do not gain the traction African Americans need to sufficiently get their message across. From the get go, Black Panther was a promising hit. I think they saw it as an opportunity. They forgot they were fighting oppression as they oppressed African problems. “Make something of Marvel’s Luke Cage”, I would advise them.
Why does Wakanda look like the USA in summer? Apart from the obvious highly advanced city within Wakanda, I expected jungles or just a massive jungle. Tell me you did not get goosebumps when you first saw Wakanda in Civil War. It looked like a tropical rainforest. In the comics, the jungles with trees that rival Thor in age are the reason as to why people cannot find the “El Dorado”. But that last fight is in a place that rivaled Central park in New York (that is too soft for an African)
Accents. The British have a problem with American actors being given British roles in movies. They blasted Robert downey Jr. for his role as Sherlock in Sherlock Holmes. I do not mind issues to do with accents and i do not think a lot of Africans do. However, the African accents seem to push non-Africans to speak slower than normal in a constipated way with a bark at the beginning of every statement. My advise, employ a lot of African extras. They can get the Americans and British to get used and comfortable with an African accent. Also give a couple of the major roles to African actors. I think the character Zuri (not Shuri) should have been done by an African.
The music was on point. However I expected more of… Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba Sithi uhm ingonyama bracing the entire movie. The local sounds of Africa can assist with intense, happy, active or even horrific moments of a movie. Just ask the Nigerians. I appreciate that a couple of songs were performed by Africans but they did African American genres (Hip Hop) rather than AfroPop or native sounds. Nonetheless, there was that one indigenous theme.
Truth be told the critics lied to us. And I almost understand. The same thing happened with the Wonder Woman movie who’s ending no one wants to accept is horrible. When it comes to groups that are rising up against oppression, critics seem to soften up. I think it is fear. Careers can end just because you said something against the Black Panther movie and a twitter militia of Black Lives Matter individuals feel offended by it. Critics are playing it safe and this is not fair to all those other movies that are carefully scrutinized for any problem and heavily criticised (and by this I mean BvS). Between Black Panther and BvS, I go for BvS no matter what. And BvS had its issues. The critics did not lie
However, the biggest lie the critics told about the Black Panther movie was the villain level of Killmonger. Some claimed he was better or may be better than Loki in Avengers. Lies I tell you. Lies. Loki owned Avengers from the beginning to the end while killmonger hides behind another impressive MCU villain, Ulysses Klaue. They say he planned it all from the beginning but we never get to see that genesis (reminds me of the “magic” spine healing Tech. The reason people call it magic is that it is never explained or shown). Killmonger’s ambition is not big enough to even rival Ultron in Age of Ultron. Infact, Killmonger is simply a show off child with daddy issues.
Other lies included “wow” moments and exploration of the African culture (that is not full exploration). In the African culture (most especially for a country that has not experienced foreign influence) there are roles in society. Soldiers/warriors/protectors don’t dance. That is the job of entertainers. And the African dancing... well, you have not seen energy until you see an African dance. Energy was missing. Most importantly the exploration of African culture in the movie is limited to the fight for kingship. And that is it. Finished. Do not forget the war chants, that is culture too.
A South Sudanese (I Kanda cannot name him because you may find me Dedi) told me that the Black Panther in Civil War is a better Black Panther. I agree, everything seemed different. The accents, the fighting and the pride. T’Challa in Civil War made you laugh by being serious. In Black Panther, he had to be funny to make you laugh. The close combat fights in civil were beyond amazing and remember he had limited time in that movie.
Another person, a friend of mine, said, “ I think they just wanted to make money.”
The all black thing the movie did was amazing and that is what sold this movie. An almost all black cast in a blockbuster? It has never happened before. We all hoped it would work out. And It did. But that does not make the movie great.
That said, the movie was not as horrible as I may make it sound. The humour was there and the impressive technology did wonders. The characters of Shuri and M’Baku are my favorite. That story at the beginning was just on point (everything about it was on point). The problem is the movie was soo African American and the heroism was limited.
For those who will refuse criticism like the fans and makers of Wonder Woman it is really sad. Criticism builds. I write this article so that the next movie is bigger and better.