Look, how do you think I feel?
No one wanted it this way. Marvel didn’t want to make a Black Panther without Chadwick Boseman, we the audience didn’t want a Black Panther movie without Chadwick Boseman and I certainly don’t want to give a bad review to a Black Panther movie without Chadwick Boseman.
His loss was first and foremost a human tragedy and if this movie succeeds at anything it’s in bringing across just the sheer, crushing grief of everyone involved in this. It’s not a fun time. It should not be a fun time.
Is it a good movie? I’m sorry, no it’s not.
But, it has good moments and I’ll be sure to highlight those.
It also has plenty of flaws and, well, I’ll be mentioning those too. But rest assured, I will feel like a complete asshole.
The movie opens with its strongest two scenes with Shuri working flat out in her lab to re-create the heart shaped herb to save T’Challa. Queen Ramonda enters the lab and tells her that her brother is gone.
I mentioned back in the Civil War review that, counter-intuitively, sometimes off-screen deaths are the most effective and I think that’s very true here. T’Challa’s funeral procession through the streets of Birnin Zana is beautiful and mesmerising. It’s excellent.
Unfortunately, this is the high water mark of the movie and we haven’t even got to the titles yet.
Alright, a year later Ramonda has become Queen Regnant of Wakanda, thereby skipping the scene of Angela Basset standing in a lake and beating Winston Drake half to death with a stick for the right to rule. The movie I’m imagining in my head is way better, and that’s never a good sign. Anyway, Ramonda is addressing the United Nations in Switzerland (apparently the UN has branches, like Arby’s). We continue this series’ tradition of diplomats just treating the Wakandans like snooty deans in an eighties slobs versus snobs comedy, chiding Ramonda for not sharing Wakanda’s vibranium. In response she brings in some captured mercenaries who recently tried and failed to rob a Wakandan power facility only to get their nuts handed to them by the Dora Milaje. And who was this nation engaging in shady illegal neo-colonialism in Africa? Would you believe, France?! I know.
Crazy! What wild fantasies will those mad dream-weavers at Marvel come up with next? Who could ever have predictied…
Meanwhile, the Americans have sensibly decided that if they can’t get vibranium from the Wakandans they’ll just find their own, under the sea. They use their fancy new vibranium detector to find some on the sea floor, but their exploration team gets got by some mysterious blue fish people.
Back in Wakanda, Ramonda drags Shuri away from her lab to perform a ritual to mourn T’Challa. But, they are interrupted by…(deep, weary sigh) Namor.
Okay. I have a confession to make. I hate water based superheroes. Atlantis as a concept leaves me completely cold. I think stories set underwater are dumb.
And yet, and yet, I fucking love Namor the Sub-Mariner. He’s technically Marvel’s oldest superhero. He’s as OG as it gets. He is a complete and utter prick and I love him. And this movie, somehow, thought that doing In-Nameor-Only here was going to fly. Well, he doesn’t fly. Or at least, he doesn’t fly in a way that doesn’t look fake as hell (damn the CGI in this is rough).
Let me be clear. This is not Namor:
THIS is Namor:
Okay, technically it’s Mr Nimbus from Rick and Morty but it’s probably the most faithful rendering of the character we’re ever going to get. Namor is supposed to be fucking crackling with the power of a bisexual god. When Namor is the room, the question is not “will he fuck my wife?” the question is “when will he fuck my wife and if I’m a good boy will Daddy let me clean up after?”
Namor in this movie doesn’t have sex with anyone’s wife. At all. That’s like Captain America not having the shield. It’s bullshit. It’s all bullshit! This movie did not understand the greatness of Namor the Sub-Mariner and it will go to movie Hell for that! Movie Hell I say!
Oh God. What are they going to do to Doctor Doom?
Anyway…this slab of sexless haddock tells Ramonda that, because Wakanda is out of the closet, his own Vibranium-rich nation, Talokan, is having to fend off greedy surface dwellers. He says that they’re using new vibranium detecting tech to find Talokan’s stash so he wants the Wakandans to find the scientist who designed the machine because…that will…you know how when you kill a scientist everything they ever invented vanishes? Yeah. Anyway, he wants the Wakandans to do that for him or else he’ll attack Wakanda. It makes no sense and it’s contrived as fuck. Ah well, at least it’s comics accurate. Comic Namor would definitely bully another nation in doing his dirty work for him.
Ramonda convenes the council of Wakanda which brings in the movie’s MVP: M’Baku. Winston Duke just kills every scene he’s in, he’s a riot. The council wants to give in to Namor’s demands and hand over the American scientist to him and M’Baku (who is the best) very sensibly points out that giving in to Namor will only encourage the blighter and instead suggests the obvious course of action: kill this Namor and reveal that he was actually Trevor Slattery all along, doing a piss-poor impersonation of the ACTUAL Namor. But instead, Ramonda sends Okoye on a mission to find the American scientist.
So…I hate this. This is terrible.
First, as M’Baku explicitly points out, Namor threatened Wakanda and Wakanda (supposedly a major global power), just agreed to launch a hostile action against another global power after a threat from a half naked fish man. And secondly, it makes Ramonda look hypocritical as fuck. France invading Wakanda to steal some metal? Unforgiveable! Wakanda invading America to kidnap a human being and deliver her to certain death? Well, they’re just protecting their interests.
So they visit Everett Ross and guilt trip him into giving them the location of the American scientist and, out of loyalty to T’Challa, he gives this incredibly sensitive information to some foreign agents. He pleads with them not to let anyone know he’s done this because, y’know, treason and Okoye dismissively says “we will be very careful”.
Spoilers. They will not be very careful.
They travel to MIT and meet the scientist, college student Riri Williams who needs to FUCKING ENUNCIATE. Jesus, I don’t know if the actor just wasn’t miked up properly but goddamn. So, here’s where everyone’s motives just become completely inscrutable. Ramonda, upon learning that Riri is just a kid, orders Okoye and Shuri to bring her to Wakanda for her protection, even though the US government is coming to ask her to build them a new vibranium detector which will mean a) she’s set for life and b) is probably going to be doing just fine in the security department.
This sets off a chase between the Wakandans and the FBI that gets interrupted by the Talokans who attack them on a bridge beside a canal.
There’s a weirdly inert fight scene with awful green screen and minimal music and the Talocans defeat Okoye and make off with Riri and Shuri.
So, we know get an excellent scene where Okoye briefs the Wakandan council on what happened and we get to see Angela Bassett shake some dust off the ceiling with some old-school capital-A Acting. And Danai Garira’s stunned, tearful reaction is very good. Plaudits all round. Anyway, Ramonda has clearly been sitting on some grudges because she lambastes Okoye for betraying T’Challa in the last movie and now losing her daughter and strips her of her rank and kicks her out of the Dora Milaje.
Ramonda goes to Haiti where Nakia has been living as a teacher since the Blip and recruits her to find Talokan and gently chides her for missing T’Challa’s funeral.
Actually, fuck, I’ve just realised that T’Challa was blipped. Wakanda had to mourn the death of the king twice. Actually, three times counting T’Chaka. Four times if you’re a Killmonger loyalist it’s been rough for the Wakandan royals, is what I’m saying.
Meanwhile, Namor fills Shuri in on his backstory and the history of Talokan. Short version, they’re Mayans who retreated under the sea using magic to escape the Spanish. He then shows her the magnificence of Talokan:
Well, props for accuracy I guess. A city under the sea would be murky and underlit and pretty unimpressive. That said:
That’s the DCEU’s Atlantis. Which looks more visually interesting?
This is where we’re at folks, I’m drawing unfavourable comparisons between Marvel and the DCEU. Surely the end times are nigh.
Namor proposes an alliance with Wakanda against the rest of the world. I…think it’s supposed to be played seductive. Like, Shuri will be so hot for this guy she’s willing to turn against the rest of the human race but…nah.
Nakia manages to rescue Shuri and Riri and brings them to Wakanda and Namor retaliates with a tidal wave attack that kills Ramonda, who drowns saving Riri’s life. The Wakandans flee to the Jabari mountains, because is it even a Black Panther movie if M’Baku doesn’t save everyone’s ass?
Shuri throws herself into replicating the heart-shaped herb and takes it. However, instead of seeing her ancestors she sees:
Goddamn Michael B. Jordan is so fucking good in this role. He says that Shuri chose him to appear to her because she wants revenge. Horrified, Shuri wakes up and refuses to tell Nakia what she saw. Instead, she dons a new Black Panther suit and rallies all of Wakanda’s remaining forces to strike back at Talokan, reinstating Okoye and giving her a new power suit.
They all set off on a Wakandan navel vessel.
There’s a big green screen fight, Shuri and Namor battle, she’s about to kill him but her mother visits her in a vision and she spares the big haddock. The war is over and Okoye returns to America where she rescues Ross, who was arrested for helping the Wakandans. And she greets him by saying “The coloniser in chains? Now I’ve seen everything.”
I can pretty much promise I will never watch this movie again, and it’s not because it’s the worst movie in the MCU. Given the death of their star and Covid it’s actually pretty remarkable this film made it over the finish line.
But…it’s bleak as hell. It’s a punishing watch. It feels like the day after a funeral.
A war between Wakanda and Atlantis should shake the very world. This just feels small and drab.
Our Heroic Heroes: 11/25
Yeah, Boseman’s absence is a big gaping hole in the heart of this thing.
Our Nefarious Villain: 05/25
The biggest waste of a fantastic character since Black Widow botched Taskmaster.
Our Plucky Sidekicks: 14/25
By the end of this, I was honestly wishing M’Baku had been made the new Black Panther.
Shuri visits Nakia in Haiti and is introduced to her nephew…Prince T’Challa.
And the audience went…
Any names of comic book characters clunkily worked into dialogue that no one would ever say in real life?
“A Spanish man of faith cursed me as he died by my hand. He called me El Niño sin Amor, “the Child without Love”. And I took my name from there, Namor.”
Are there X-Men yet?
Um…yes? Yes? Technically? Namor is acknowledged onscreen as a mutant and the character has been a member of the X-men so…yeah. Bit anticlimactic really.
FINAL SCORE: 40%
NEXT UPDATE: 30 March 2023
NEXT TIME: Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb…
I enjoyed this move a lot more than I expected to. Yes, it sucks T’Challa is gone, and it’s really unfair in some ways. But for something I expected to be DOA, I was pleasantly surprised with what we got. I’m especially happy that the movie is very humor-light, given how the MCU seems to be overdosing on it as of late (Love and Thunder and She-Hulk are really bad examples imo).
I really like how the climax gave a really good reason for the hero to not kill the villain that isn’t just “this is wrong and you will feel bad if you do” kind. The political stuff between Talokan and Wakanda is interesting, and the character development for everyone is really neat. I know you talked about M’Baku a lot, but I really liked where Shuri goes as a character too.
And honestly, I’m really glad they didn’t adapt comic Namor’s sex pest stuff to the big screen. I know the MCU has problems with depicting romance and sex well, but having that’s just trying to seduce other women 24/7 would just be…eugh. I also really like the character’s connection to Mesoamerican origins, and Tenoch Huerta’s performance. Regal and proud, but also shortsighted and tempermental.
Also, surprised you didn’t talk about Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine much. I know some people are iffy on her, but I think she’s a really neat anti-Nick Fury figure that I always want to see more of when she shows up.
I’ll level with you, I wrote this review in two days so it was a bit of a rush job. I…don’t have strong feelings on the Contessa one way or another. Dreyfus is fine.
Strange World also had a 40%. Do you think these are secretly the same movie?
Weird. And no. I could see what was happening in Strange World
I’m so far behind in the MCU it’s not even funny and honestly? The way it’s seemingly been going is just sapping my enthusiasm.
Like. The Avengers (2012) was the first superhero movie I ever saw. I grew up watching Avengers cartoons. My brothers and I saw every movie from GotG 2 to Endgame in theaters together. I genuinely did not realize how much these movies meant to me until they started weakening.
And that’s very, very annoying, to understate it.
Oh well. Anyway, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, and thanks for doing that series on the Taoiseach so when he visits the White House today I can impress my family by pronouncing it correctly.
Speaking of which, thoughts on Leo Varadkar?
If I did the list today, Leo would probably be second or third. Covid and Brexit, he played a blinder.
Oh, and La Shona Paraic to you too!
On the bright side next batmovie is a bat10/10 guaranteed.
Get out of my head, you
I’m *just* enough of a nerd that I recognize the name Riri Williams. She’s the teen genius who made her own suit of Stark-like armor and called herself Iron Heart. So it’s clear to me what they were setting up for here: a replacement for Tony as the MCU’s Main Tech Person.
Too bad it sounds like the movie stunk.
Oh, right, there was supposed to be an Ironheart series starting later this year (before Marvel pushed it back from “Fall 2023” to “Coming Soon”), so this was *definitely* setting that up.
On the one hand, I’m glad they made Riri more likable than her comics counterpart (seriously, look up how pissy she got when her teacher didn’t make it a “You can do this, you’re black” moment). On the other hand, I don’t really feel like her introduction was all that well done.
And that’s the tragedy of this picture, not a whole lot was well done because it has that Chadwick Boseman shaped hole in it. This was obviously a movie that was heavily rewritten to accommodate that loss and as much as I like the fact that we’re getting a Marvel film that breaks its usual trend and delves deeply into grief, that doesn’t mean all the other factors mesh well with it (gotta set up all those other projects down the line like Ironheart).
If your curious about the politics of this movie, well it was established back in Civil War and also showcased in Falcon and the Winter Soldier that Wakandans have a serious “We can show up and do whatever the hell we want” attitude that is only now starting to draw negative attention from the rest of the world. It’s honestly pretty messed up that they basically make Ross betray his country and the best that offered up is a last minute rescue and a bad quip.
I honestly don’t know how this would’ve turned out if we still had Chadwick or whether they decided to recast T’Challa. Better? Worse? The future of the MCU is a bit shaky right now and I can’t give a definitive answer.
Chadwick Boseman dying screwed up everything (both in and out of the MCU). This is probably the best we were gonna get without him.
I didn’t hate this one, but I will always mourn the much better movie it could have and should have been. Boseman’s death and the pandemic knocked it on its ass, and it just didn’t have enough good ideas and enthusiasm to get back to its feet.
I get the distinct feeling that no one really WANTED to make this movie, you know? No one had any passion for it after Boseman died. But you can’t NOT make a sequel to a global phenomenon like Black Panther, not with Daddy Disney writing the checks. No everyone sighed, made a pissy face, and did the best they could under the utterly doomed circumstances.
First person I know that did not like Namor, I thought there was some nice sexual tension with Shuri too that was pretty subtle, I can’t say I would want something like the Rick and Mortgy gif, but I guess you are more the expert on the character! But underwater kingdoms are the best! Here it’s meant to be mysterious so that explains the lighting. I would expect more if Namor gets his own film. Don’t understand the Spanish used in soundtrack however, this is Mayans and not Spanish. Too much English for Wakadans alone too.
Overall tonally too one note with depression. But I liked Shuri and glad she was the star.
Having not seen this film – BLACK PANTHER was very good, but it didn’t take a genius to realise that the second would not be able to match it – my only reaction to all this is to hope that (in the forthcoming review of the West/Ward Batman movie) there will be at least one joke about the reviewer going in with an expectation of being obliged to crawl a little bit (“DC, DC, we had some good times, don’t hold a few jokes against me!”).
Bonus points if, this being the Adam West Batman (aka the Absolute Best Batman, if you’re looking for a friend and not some Drama), Our Hero does nothing of the sort and is an absolute Class Act.
Catwoman, on the other hand, may be a Serious Concern (Especially if she doesn’t give you the safe word).
Also: Namor will certainly TRY to steal your wife, but thankfully wives have their own will and opinions about things (and Namor’s charms clearly end where his personality begins).
Okay, not having seen this movie but noticing a pattern…is it just me, or was 2022 a really, really, REALLY bad year for Disney? Specifically, it’s film division seems to have had a ton of bad luck. Most of the movies released were either A) box office bombs B) critically panned or C) had a whole bunch of production issues. Here’s a few examples:
Turning Red: Went straight to Disney Plus against the wishes of the crew working on it. That’s not even getting into the misogyny and racism from certain internet weirdos.
Bob’s Burgers Movie: Got great reviews, but not enough people went to see it and it did not make its money back.
Lightyear: Did…did anybody see this movie? Anyone? More importantly, did anybody WANT it? No wonder it under-performed.
Robert Zemeckis Pinocchio: Was supposed to be a theatrical release, but was released to streaming officially due to COVID but most likely because of tepid test audience response. Panned by critics.
Marvel Movies: Pretty sure the momentum for the franchise is dying. The impression I get from fans is that watching MCU stuff feels less like a fun time and more like homework. Not good.
Strange World: Bombed at the box office and met with an overwhelming “meh”.
Well that’s what you get for putting all your faith in nostalgia and “TOO BIG TO FAIL” economics.
You’re wrong! Nostalgia is coming! To bring us food! And water! And smite our enemies!