By now you've almost certainly heard the hype around "Black Panther." I'll add to it: It's worth seeing. It's not a perfect movie, but it's an important one.
The Afrofuturism is cool, and the fictional African state of Wakanda is adeptly realised. But it's also got a glacial first act and few standout characters (Letitia Wright as Black Panther's sister Shuri is most definitely the MVP). But hey, whatever. Subjectivity and all that. It's good, go see it, but keep this in mind: "Black Panther" is the least interesting thing about "Black Panther." It's a social phenomenon first and a film second.
Growing up a person of colour, I'd be lying if I said I cared or even noticed the colour of people on my TV as a young 'un. But representation has proven to mean the world to many. Did you know the Jennifer Lawrence-led "Hunger Games" franchise led to an uptick in young women taking up archery? Sick!
So "Black Panther" being the first film in Marvel's storied Cinematic Universe to be fronted by a black character is a big deal. Then factor in an almost entirely black cast led by a black director and the deal gets even bigger. What about an African state for once being portrayed as a beacon of technology and wonder? This deal is basically as good as it gets for Africans around the world who may feel underrepresented or misrepresented in film and TV.
There's a reason this video of black school kids in Atlanta losing their mind after being told they're seeing the movie made many a netizen's day.
Plus, with a worldwide first-weekend box office of over $350 million, "Black Panther" has shown Hollywood that, duh, movies led by black actors and actresses can draw huge audiences and make money.
So yes, "Black Panther," the world is rooting for you.
What really interests me, though, are the reactions of people who have actually seen the movie. Specifically, the palpable awkwardness that comes from not being all that impressed by it.
Clearly, many loved "Black Panther," including CNET critic Rich Trenholm, whoMy co-worker Eric Franklin has . I wasn't unimpressed, just less impressed. I thought Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger was a thoughtfully created villain, but not the Joker-level instant icon some have claimed him to be. The dialogue, especially toward the end, sometimes felt clumsy. And again, man, that first act. It relies too much on audiences being wowed by the movie's aesthetic, but doesn't do enough to make you care about its characters.
I watched the movie in a group of 10, and at least half were super into it. But three of us (including me) found it to just be a good superhero movie, nothing more. Somehow, this is controversial.
One of my friends almost fell asleep in the first act -- a fact he relayed in shamed, hushed tones. Over the weekend, I talked to a friend who had been harbouring a secret indifference to the movie, but felt that publicly criticising it would somehow be inappropriate. On Monday, I talked to another journalist about it. "I've deleted so many tweets about that movie," he said.
No one wants to be the guy who's critical of "Black Panther."
The point is not that some people were underwhelmed by "Black Panther." It's that to some, it's morally questionable to be underwhelmed by "Black Panther."
There are a lot of ridiculous, out-there stories surrounding the public reaction to "Black Panther." There were tweets in which white people asked when it was appropriate for them to see the movie. And, sadly, there was the expected trolling, with fake reports of white people being assaulted in cinemas by black moviegoers.
Somehow, it seems people feel criticising the CGI or acting in "Black Panther" makes them no better than internet trolls faking assault stories just to spoil the party.
But (and it feels crazy to have to say this) it's OK to point out faults in a movie. "Black Panther" may be about more than just "Black Panther," but criticizing the movie doesn't mean you're criticizing the movement.
Just don't be a jerk about it.
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